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Tea with the Queen

A Wonderful Treat

Helen and I were so surprised and delighted to receive, out of the blue, an invitation to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

Of course Royal protocol has to be observed! The initial invitation came from the Lord Lieutenant’s Office. He was ‘minded to put our names forward. Would we accept?’ The Queen can’t invite directly, just in case we might want to say no! Say no!? We replied the same day!

Then, we were told, we must keep it quiet until the official invitation came through. And come it did – eventually. We began to wonder if it was all a joke! Nevertheless, the time was well spent, after all Helen had NOTHING to wear in her wardrobes(s)! Dress, hat, shoes, handbag. I’m not sure which was more painful, the endless shop visiting, or getting the credit card bill!

I was told in the official invitation that cassock was the appropriate dress for me. Dry cleaning doesn’t take long – or cost much!

We decided that rather than go down to London the same day, we would make a bit of a holiday of it. We had the chance to meet up with family and friends too. All helped to make the occasion even more special. On the day itself, we had been invited by our MP to spend the morning in the Houses of Parliament. We met Paul, and had a tour and a coffee with him. The beginning of a very special day.

Then back to our ‘digs’ (The wonderful Clergy House at St Matthew’s Westminster)

We then set off for The Palace, ready to enter at 3pm. After queueing for a short time for heightened security, we had our glimpse inside the garden. Its so big! And beautiful. So much to see.

Fr Andrew and Helen at Buckingham Palace

We were free to wander pretty much anywhere. Around the lake, through the shrubberies into wonderful hidden glades. Tea was served from an enormous marquee. Tea or iced coffee, delicious sandwiches, delicate and scrumptious cakes, all followed by ice-cream. Two military bands played alternately through the afternoon.

A wonderful atmosphere. We met several people we knew and made new friends too. Everyone was so happy – and why wouldn’t they be? Then at 4pm the National Anthem announced the arrival of the Queen together with other members of the Royal Family, including the Duke of course, with the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Kent.

They wandered freely amongst the crowds. Of course not everyone had a private conversation, but I think we were all spoken to in groups. Then at 5.50 (exactly!) the Royal party left and to end the day the National Anthem was played once again.

Everyone clapped and cheered. An informal thank you. Then we left, having a chance to walk through ground floor rooms and out through the Grand Entrance onto The Mall.

Then back to our room. What a wonderful day. One we shall never forget.

Thank you Your Majesty.

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