Royalists were left disappointed after a “secret” visit to Dewsbury by the Princess Royal.

Princess Anne attended a conference on restorative justice and criminal payback at Dewsbury Town Hall yesterday – but no-one could know until she had left.

The event, organised by Kirklees Council, was embargoed with an unusual media ban imposed. Normally journalists are free to cover Royal visits.

The precinct in front of Dewsbury Town Hall was virtually deserted as the Royal cavalcade with police motorbike out-riders swept in.

Deserted: The precinct outside Dewsbury Town Hall just five minutes before the Princess Royal's visit.
Deserted: The precinct outside Dewsbury Town Hall just five minutes before the Princess Royal's visit.
 

The Princess met dignitaries including the Mayor and Mayoress of Kirklees Clr Ken Smith and Christine Smith, chief executive Adrian Lythgo and West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson before climbing the steps and going in through the normally-gated main entrance.

A handful of curious passers-by, realising a VIP was in town, came over for a look.

One of them, Doreen Hawkins, 52, shouted: “Good morning, Ma’am!” as the Princess climbed the steps. “Morning,” she called back.

Doreen, of Thornhill, said the surprise visitor made her day and said: “I was just on my way to the secondhand market when I saw something going on.

“I love all the Royals especially Charles and William but it would have been nice to know she was coming.”

A neighbour, Kim Sullivan, 53, also in town by coincidence, said: “I saw all the bobbies and came over. I’m just down to pay some bills. It’s great to see her.”

From getting out of her Range Rover to greeting the dignitaries and entering the Town Hall the blink-and-you-miss-it visit took just one minute and 15 seconds.

Those oblivious to Royalty in their midst included Terry and Margaret Johnson, of Scout Hill.

Waiting for the Princess Royal in Dewsbury are Terry and Margaret Johnson with daughter Paula Hunt.
Waiting for the Princess Royal in Dewsbury are Terry and Margaret Johnson with daughter Paula Hunt.
 

Told who they had just missed Terry, 70, said: “That’s a shame. Dewsbury is usually in the news for all the wrong reasons and it would have been nice to tell people about it. What’s the big secret?”

Terry and Margaret, 68, were joined by daughter Paula Hunt, 41, and all three planted themselves on a bench outside the Town Hall to wait for an hour-and-a-half until the Princess emerged.

“I’m a pensioner. I’ve nothing else to do,” grinned Terry, as Margaret disappeared off to buy coffees and bacon sandwiches to sustain them through the wait.

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Terry. “The last time I saw Royalty in Dewsbury was 1954 when the Queen came.”

In a document from Kirklees Council’s press office headed in red: “PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL – Press release embargoed until 12 noon Friday 4th July” the media was invited to attend the Princess’s arrival – all one minute and 15 seconds of it.

The letter said “an area will be designated for press” – but only two journalists, including one from the Examiner, turned up to jostle for position.

The letter went on: “Once the arrival is over press will not (underlined) be allowed inside the building but the council are providing an official photographer who will be taking ‘working’ photographs for the duration of the event.

“A restricted number of these will be shared afterwards with the press for them to support their press release/own arrival photographs.”

A council official at the event told the Examiner the embargo and reporting ban had been insisted upon by the “Royal press office.”

However Buckingham Palace was mystified over the media ban and a Royal spokesman said: “This visit has been openly listed in the future engagements section on the Royal website for the last eight weeks.

“There are no restrictions on reporting on the event from the Royal Household.”

Kirklees Council said the event was “not a public Royal visit.”

In a statement a spokesman said: “We were delighted that the Princess Royal was able to visit Kirklees and see at first hand the excellent work of our partnerships in restorative justice and helping victims of crime.

“The Princess was extremely well informed, and had detailed discussions with us about our work, and restorative justice is something she clearly takes very seriously.

“This was not a public royal visit but a visit to Dewsbury as patron of the Restorative Justice Council, and was organised to allow her to meet those people making a big difference locally, as well as some of the victims of crime.

“We apologise to members of the public who would have liked to have seen the Princess but were not able to witness her visit on this occasion.”

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