A couple of weeks ago I was asked by a waitress in a restaurant in Los Angeles why she had heard Princess Kate referred to as Mrs Cambridge. I didn’t have a very good answer. I explained that the woman in question was the Duchess of Cambridge, but she seemed to know that already. What she wanted to know was why she was called Mrs. I explained that she wasn’t really Mrs anyone, but that only deepened the lady’s confusion, a confusion explained partly by the fact that one party to the conversation – me – was only looking for the quickest route out of it, and this was scrambling the message.
Anyway, to complete the tableau it seems that Mrs Cambridge herself was engaged yesterday in a bit of pretend cryptography. She was opening the newly refurbished Hut 6 at Bletchley Park, mid way between Cambridge and Oxford and celebrated centre of British code breaking in World War II, where, as it happens, her paternal grandmother had been employed.
Hut 6 was where incoming transmissions from the German Enigma machines were decrypted. They were subsequently passed through to Hut 3, where they were translated and screened for intelligence.
Mrs Cambridge had a tour of the hut (which was near collapse when it received lottery funding for refurbishment). She went on record with a certain amout of polite interest, unfortunately not seconded by the ancient rump of employees whom she met (one of whom had worked with her grandmother).
“I didn’t recognise any of this” said Jane Fawcett, 93; “least of all the lights, we had proper lighting. We had great big lights hanging from the ceiling, then we had lights all around the wall. The floors were dirty and there were torn blinds.” Oh dear, so much for authenticity.