King Charles “enthralled” onlookers as he performed a trick to secure a place in The Magic Circle, illusionists have recalled.
The then-prince was put on the spot at the end of a night of entertainment in 1975 put on by some of the world’s greatest magicians when he was asked to perform a trick in public for the first time in his life.
The illusion he performed was a Cup and Balls routine hurriedly taught to the 20-something Charles by the once Flag Lieutenant of the future king’s great uncle and mentor Lord Mountbatten, the Telegraph reports.
Lt Robert de Pass first witnessed the trick being performed by a street magician in Cairo, Egypt, while the crew of British destroyer HMS Petard were enjoying shore leave towards the end of 1942.
An amateur magician at the time, Lt de Pass purchased a set of cups engraved with Egyptian-style figures from the street performer and kept them with him as he finished his war service and went on to be admitted to The Magic Circle in 1946.
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He performed with those cups for royalty across Europe, including the monarchs of Greece and Sweden.
But more than 30 years after watching the street magician mesmerise people in Cairo with the illusion, his next trick was to teach a Cup and Balls routine with the same equipment to Charles.
Robert’s son, Philip de Pass, says his father was despatched to Buckingham Palace to teach Charles a magic trick because Lord Mountbatten was keen for his nephew to become a member of the Inner Magic Circle.
Charles’ membership hinged on how skilfully he could perform the illusion at the end of a night of close-up conjuring performed by members of The Magic Circle for an intimate gathering of elites that included the then-prince.
The de Pass family story goes that Robert only had around 20 minutes to hand his wisdom down but left the cups and balls with Charles so that he could practise.
David Beckley was the joint editor of The Magic Circular, the society’s internal magazine, at the time.
He recalls performing for Charles’ group, saying: “Prince Charles was like a regular member of the audience, a punter. He listened to every word and laughed at the right time.”
But the biggest moment of the night came when Charles was brought on stage by President Francis White and Secretary John Salisse and presented with a membership certificate and its accompanying blue-ribboned medal.
However, the future monarch was told that a trick had to be performed in order for him to achieve the status.
The president asked Charles if he’d ever performed a trick in public to which the prince replied “never”.
Charles proceeded to perform the trick with de Pass’s three cups and balls, saying: “I understand this trick is so old it is engraved on the walls of the tombs of Egyptian kings. I hope to go there as I have never been to Egypt, and to study how it is done.”
A grinning Charles continued: “One of the great secrets of magic, so I am told, is to talk as much as one can, so as to divert attention.”
Charles brought laughter from his audience when, after requesting a wand, he tapped one of the cups with it causing it to collapse.
In his report for the December 1975 issue of The Magic Circular, Alan Snowden wrote: “His natural charm and personality enthralled as he continued his performance.”
In his book The Magic Circle: Performing Magic Through the Ages, Michael Bailey wrote: “The Prince wasn’t fazed by having to perform a notoriously difficult trick with little chance of rehearsal.
“The examiners weren’t likely to fail the future king but Robert (de Pass) proudly watched his royal pupil pass with flying colours.”