LONDON – Well-wishers waiting outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London might have been forgiven for thinking a town crier announcing the birth of the Prince of Cambridge had the royal seal of approval.
Bell in one hand, scroll in the other, Tony Appleton marked Monday’s royal birth by belting out an old-timey proclamation which began “Oyez, Oyez” and announced the arrival of “the first born of their royal highness, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.”
Mr. Appleton is in fact a crier, but in Romford, a commuter town just east of London, and in Bury St. Edmunds, a market town in southeastern England — not Buckingham Palace. In an interview, he said Wednesday that he simply showed up in costume after getting a tipoff from a British journalist that the Duchess of Cambridge, better known as Prince William’s wife Kate, had given birth.
“I’m a royalist. I love the royal family,” he said by telephone from Romford, but he acknowledged he had no official royal role. “I came unannounced.”
That didn’t stop him from playing a bizarre cameo role on leading U.S. newscasts in the media frenzy surrounding the baby’s birth, nor did it prevent confused American journalists from identifying him as a bona fide mouthpiece for Buckingham Palace.
“The royal crier delivering the royal news,” was how CNN’s Anderson Cooper described the scene. On Fox News, Stuart Varney told viewers that Mr. Appleton was “the town crier making the official announcement in a very loud voice, all in his full regalia.”
Another one who misidentified Mr. Appleton’s role was MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who issued a tongue-in-cheek correction on Tuesday.
“Hear Ye, Hear Ye … Ye Old Department of Corrections shall herewith be presented,” she told viewers. “We identified this man as the official town crier of London. Upon further review we now have the full story. His name is Tony Appleton. He is a town crier, but he is a town crier in … the town of Romford and Bury St. Edmunds. But he is not the official town crier of London, which is what I said.”
Buckingham Palace did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Mr. Appleton is a man of many talents. In addition to his town crier duties — which include leading parades and appearing at openings — he works as a toastmaster, a kind of master of ceremonies, at weddings, birthdays, and bar mitzvahs. He also owns a small nursing home in Romford.