It was a rare display of genuine Royal affection. On a tour of Romania yesterday, the Prince of Wales spotted the son of a close friend, wrapped his arms around and gave him the biggest of hugs. Prince Charles beamed with joy. So too did the 11-year-old boy.
The child is Valentin Blacker, the son of an old Etonian and whose mother is a Romanian gipsy. William Blacker, 54, told The Telegraph yesterday that his son, who lives in a remote village in Transylvania, is not put off by Royal protocol in the way that children brought up in the UK might be.
“Valentin is not inhibited by the formalities that a British boy in awe of the royal family would have,” said Mr Blacker, “Theirs is a very touching relationship.”
The heir to the throne was on an official tour of Bucharest’s old town, as part of a nine-day tour of Europe, when he spotted Valentin among the invited guests. “It’s not the first time he’s hugged me,” explained Valentin afterwards.
The prince has known the schoolboy since he was a toddler and they frequently meet on the prince’s regular forays to Transylvania, where he has dedicated almost two decades to preserving its rich heritage and architecture.
“They get on very well,” said Mr Blacker, “Valentin is a very effervescent child. He is very full of life and Charles thinks that’s great. Charles finds it fascinating that he is half gipsy. Charles always says to him ‘when you are older you will have to take on all these jobs and look after all the old buildings’.
“Valentin is not shy or withdrawn and he talks to prince Charles in a very natural way. It’s very nice. He’s not afraid of hugging Prince Charles and vice versa.
“Valentin thinks Prince Charles is absolutely marvellous and rather exotic. Both of them think each other rather exotic. They have this very fun, easy relationship.”
Mr Blacker first ‘stumbled into’ Romania in 1990 just after the fall of Nicolae Ceacescu’s brutal, Communist regime and began living with the local Roma.
He initially fell in love with one young gipsy woman but later embarked on a relationship with her sister. In 2006, the couple had Valentin - Mr Blacker’s only child - although the unconventional relationship foundered after three years.
Mr Blacker subsequently wrote a best-selling and critically acclaimed book of his experiences - called Along the Enchanted Way - in which he described falling ‘under the spell’ of ‘Natalia’ before moving in with her sister ‘Marishka’, whose names he changed to protect their identities. In the book, Valentin is given the name Constantin.
Valentin has grown up in the village and now attends the local state secondary school in Sighisoara. Once a year for a month, he attends a Church of England school in the UK where his father lives part of the time. Valentin’s schooling is a far cry from Eton where Mr Blacker was educated.
“Valentin is well travelled but when he’s in Romania he is the same as all the other boys at school,” said Mr Blacker, “he doesn’t get any special treatment. He just mucks in. I have taught him all the important things which are speaking English, playing tennis and swimming.”
In 1996, Mr Blacker wrote a 20-page pamphlet, warning of the threat to Transylvania’s architecture and heritage, especially its famous fortified churches. Prince Charles requested a copy and embarked on his own passionate campaign to preserve rural Transylvania.
It inspired the prince to visit Romania for the first time in 1998 and since then he has bought a number of estates and houses and renovated them in keeping with local tradition.
Mr Blacker, who is chairman of the The Anglo Romanian Trust for Traditional Architecture, has most recently worked to revive the tradition of making hand-made terracotta tiles and in 2015 prince Charles opened the new kiln. Valentin was in attendance at the event.
Prince Charles likes to make much of his family connections to Romania’s most feared historical figure Vlad the Impaler, said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The Prince is reckoned to be related to Vlad through his great-grandmother Queen Mary, the consort of George V.
He has joked that Romania is “in his blood” and at a reception this week, he told local dignitaries he “has a stake in Romania”.