From Russia, a Royal Infatuation That Misses Its Mark

Augustina's misdirected missive. Her return address in Russia is blurred to protect her privacy.
Augustina's misdirected missive. Her return address in Russia is blurred to protect her privacy. (Prince William County Circuit Co - Prince William County Circuit Co)
By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 8, 2006

She wanted a prince and a palace.

But a young Russian college student who sent a letter meant for Prince William -- as in Prince William, future king of England -- royally missed the Zip code. Instead of arriving at Buckingham Palace, the letter reached the Prince William County courthouse in Manassas.

The envelope, which came with four postmarked Russian stamps, was addressed only to "William."

"I thought it was cute, like he was her personal friend," said Circuit Court Deputy Clerk Shari Starr, who opened the letter Monday.

Since then, it has passed through a few hands, though none British or royal. Yesterday it was in Wendy Jones's custody. The chief deputy clerk was looking for a way to get it to its intended destination.

"I just don't have the heart to throw it away," she said. "She's so sincere."

The letter begins: "Dear William, Hello! How are you?"

The writer, named only as Augustina, tells him she is from Kemerovo, describing it as "a small city where coal industry is widely developed." She is 20, and the letter wavers between mature concerns and teenage curiosities.

She writes that she worries about environmental pollution, is studying surgical hematology and finds a sense of freedom in nature. She expresses a curiosity about England and the United States.

Then the teenager peeks out: "Dear William I'd like to hear your point of view because I rate highly your looks." American translation: You are cute.

"What type of horses are most popular in England?"

"What type of activities or hobbies do you enjoy?"

"What type of movies, music books do you like? What type of food do you like?"

Court officials said the letter is the first of its kind for the courthouse, named for the county, which is named after Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Strange letters are a norm, they said, but few have traveled such a distance.

"They usually come from the prisons," Starr said.

This one, however, produced more than a few smiles and laughs as court employees pondered how the confusion happened. Was it a Google mishap? Did Augustina think the prince had a Virginia apartment? Did she really expect to get a reply?

"It's like leaving a letter in a bottle," Deputy Clerk Maria G. McCaleb said of the letter's long journey and mystery.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company