A prince of a guy, but no man of letters

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Jerry Zezima Newsday staffer Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The

It would not be classic British understatement to say that Prince Charles and I have a lot in common.

For one thing, as my wife, Sue, would attest, we both spend an inordinate amount of time on the throne.

For another, Charles and I are first-time grandfathers.

And now, it seems, we are pen pals.

That is why I was not surprised recently to receive a reply to the missive I sent to Charles earlier this year to congratulate him on being a new grandpa.

I said, in part, that our families have some amazing similarities, including the fact that his older son, William, and daughter-in-law, Kate, were married in England the day before my younger daughter, Lauren, and son-in-law Guillaume were married in France in 2011. And that my granddaughter, Chloe, and his grandson, George, while not born on the same day, each arrived at exactly 4:24 p.m., which means they are likely destined for each other. I even envisioned a royal wedding. I closed by saying that Charles will enjoy being a grandfather as much as I do and that we should set up a playdate for the kids.

Imagine my delight when I received an envelope by royal mail with a return address of Buckingham Palace.

I opened it to find a postcard with a photo of Charles and his lovely wife, Camilla. The caption read: "The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall leaving St. Mary's Hospital after meeting Prince George for the first time."

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The message, in serif italic typeface, read:

"The Prince of Wales was most touched that you took the trouble to write as you did on the birth of His Royal Highness's first grandchild, Prince George.

"His Royal Highness appreciated your kind words and sends you his warmest thanks and best wishes."

Frankly, I was a little disappointed. Since Charles and I are so close, I expected a handwritten note, or at least a personalized response, like the letter I received after I wrote to William and Kate to congratulate them on their wedding. The reply was written by Mrs. Claudia Holloway, head of correspondence for the royal family. She opened with "Dear Mr. Zezima," and wrote, in part, "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have asked me to send you their warmest thanks together with their belated congratulations to Lauren and Guillaume." She signed the letter with a distinctive flourish in royal blue ink.

I was, to use Prince Charles' words, most touched.

Not this time. I was, to put it mildly, most peeved.

But then I realized that the Prince of Wales must be too busy being a grandfather to send out handwritten notes or personalized responses.

If Charles is like me, he has been doing a lot of baby-sitting. This would entail holding his grandchild on his knee while watching sports (polo or cricket matches or maybe even soccer games) on TV. It would also entail the grand British tradition of doing your duty for God, country and, yes, baby. As I am sure Charles has found out, the changing of the guard takes on a whole new meaning when you're a grandfather.

Then there are projects such as the one I undertook the other night. I may be the least handy man in America (I don't imagine Charles is Mr. Fixit across the pond), but I did manage to put together a highchair without incident or bloodshed. I would advise Charles to follow the instructions carefully and not use language that would be considered a departure from the King's English.

So, no, I am not miffed at the Prince of Wales. In fact, I understand his time constraints completely. Still, if he wants more advice on how to be a good grandfather, all he has to do is write me a letter.

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