Experts are reminding the public to avoid physical contact with visiting British royals, as they have tiny barbs on their skin that can deliver a powerful toxin if they feel threatened.
NBA star LeBron James learned about this rare defense the hard way when, after a game in New York on Monday, the sweaty forward put his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge, prompting him to say “ouch” and step away, according to witnesses.
Christina Gibbons, a Cleveland housewife and prominent royalologist, says that while every British child learns early on about the toxic barbs (“Touch a dame, you’ll not be lame, but touch a lady, your blood is gravy,” as the old nursery rhyme goes), people in other countries are often unaware — a recipe for disaster when members of the Royal Family travel abroad.
“Painful blisters, rashes, dizziness and shortness of breath are the most common effects of touching a frightened royal,” Gibbons said. “And as we know from the Priest incident, touching a royal’s bare skin can almost lead to death.”
Jane Priest was a model who, upon spotting Prince Charles at beach near Perth, Australia in 1979, ran up to steal a kiss. Even though Charles backed away, saying, “No, I can’t touch you, I can’t touch you,” the brave 26-year-old just thought he was being coy, so she leapt on him. Within minutes, she was on the ground, writhing in pain and unable to breathe.
“I thought I was good as dead,” she recounted in 1991, still dealing with the neurological effects. “I’d been stung by box jellyfish, but this was ten times worse.”
Simon Goodwyn, one of the royal handlers, says that Americans often mistake the prohibition against touching the Royal Family as pure snobbiness, but it’s actually a question of safety.
“In reality, Her Majesty The Queen loves to touch, and to be touched,” Goodwyn said. “She’s a huge cuddle bunny, and if she could, she’d give a great big hug to every homeless person in the street who waves at her. It’s just that she can’t. It’s too risky.”