Garden Party, Buckingham Palace

Tuesday 23rd May 2017

Tea with the Queen is not something I’d ever envisaged, however, part of the package of being a Livery Master is an invitation to one of the three huge teas served at Buck House each season. You have a choice of dates and, assuming one works for you, are sent a pack of data in advance along with a parking permit should you need it. As each tea attracts somewhere in the region of 5000 people these days it can be a bit of a scrabble however you choose to get there.. We were informed that the doors would open at 3pm with HMQ attending from 4pm with Prince Philip. As we were going on to Pewterers’ Live afterwards, we elected to drive and arrived hatted, spatted and badged around 3.30pm and strode down The Mall with tourists snapping us as we passed. The weather was warm but very overcast and as a precaution I carried a brolly as it was definitely ‘in the air’. Having cleared security with a lot of other well-dressed types, we passed through the inner courtyard and into the palace proper and out the other side to be confronted by a huge swell of people waiting for HMQ to appear in front of us. Diverted to the right, we loitered near a very good band tent (one of two at opposite ends of the garden, they alternate music throughout). On the dot of 4pm the Royal party arrived and stood at the top of the steps for a minutes silence to commemorate the Manchester atrocity. After a minute, the National Anthem was played by the band near us and was followed by a round of applause as they passed down a carefully selected avenue of invitees selected to (possibly) meet Her Majesty. The next tune the band played was the 007 theme tune - impressively, moments before, the news of Sir Roger Moore's death had flashed across our iPhones and they'd responded instantaneously - did they remember the music?! Whilst this was going on the Mistress and myself took a tour of the 40 acres of manicured gardens – what a spectacular sight they were! A lovely summerhouse complete with novelty cane work corgi, discreetly obscured tennis courts, a rose garden etc., all well away from the famous lake where HMQ used to keep her flamingos. We could both have spent a lot longer enjoying them, but felt we ought to return and find a cuppa at some point! Coming round the back of the pond, we found ‘our’ tea service tent (there are three, one for the Royal Party, one for the Corps Diplomatique, and the rest of us) an enormous affair with tea and cake stations running the full length and lemonade at each end. It doesn’t take long to get served as it’s so efficient, but I rather wished I’d started a little earlier as shortly after we’d had some, they finished serving and ice creams were being circulated on trays. We bumped into two a couple of other masters (Wax Chandler; Engineer) whom we enjoyed a chat with, and had time to roam around soaking up the atmosphere. The Queen sits in a cordoned off tent with a crown atop of it until about 5.30 when she exits. At 6pm the National Anthem is played once more and that concludes the formal proceedings. By mid-afternoon the sun had broken through and it was warming up nicely, how the Victorians thought waistcoats and top hats were ever going to be cool summer wear I’ll never know, but we only removed said hats for the 1mins silence and the National Anthem. A little after six, still in company with the Master and Mistress Engineer, we shuffled out – we were halted by the steps to allow the congestion to be relieved and before we started again, one of the red-uniformed officers doing crowd control shouted ‘use the door on the right as well – it’s still red carpet with pots and paintings!’ which gave us a good laugh. We were held up again for the same reason in the front courtyard but finally broke free and strode down The Mall to the car with which we drove to Pewterers’ Hall – it took a good while to get out of the Mall, but once through Admiralty Arch it was plain sailing..

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