Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Yesterday Anne and I had tea with the Queen…along with around 8,000 other people. We had been invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden party. There are 3 of these a year with a further one at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. It seemed that a whole range of people had been invited young and old, a few in uniforms, many with chains of office and quite a number of bishops, including the Archbishop of York.

The invitation said that gates opened at 3pm but when we arrived there was a very long queue of people dressed in their best snaking down the road alongside the palace. We explained to a few passing American tourists what was happening and they were very interested how it was possible to get an invitation. I told them that I was representing the Methodist Church, and one woman said she was a Methodist too so she hopes to get an invite in future years.

We walked straight through the Palace and in to the garden at the back. The garden feels more like a park, with trees and shrubs and a small lake at the bottom of the garden that has a woodland feel to it. It is very much a spring garden with little in the way of summer flowers other than a rose garden in one corner and some flowering shrubs around a tennis court, again tucked well away from the palace itself. The crowd of guests gathered on the central lawn, either side of which were two long tea tents, one for the majority of guests, serving the obligatory cucumber sandwiches (without crusts of course) and another split between the foreign embassy guests and the royal party itself. Two military bands, sat either side of the lawned area taking it in turn to play.

At 4pm the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Princes Anne arrived as the band struck up the National Anthem. The Queen and Prince Philip then walked through the garden towards the tea tent down two lanes that had been gently but firmly created with the help of a number of Yeoman of the Guard and Gentlemen at Arms, stopping to talk to people as they walked slowly along them. Unfortunately on the stroke of 4pm the heavens opened and umbrellas went up in force.

It had stopped raining when Prince Philip approached me and noticed the silver cross around my neck. He asked me whether I was a missionary, and I explained that I was the Vice President of the Methodist Conference and I would pass the cross on to my successor next year. He asked me where the President was, which clearly demonstrated the point I made in my address to Conference about the handicap we give to the lay representative of the Methodist Church by calling them Vice-President. I said David had been to the garden party last week but Prince Philip replied that he couldn’t remember seeing him.

At 5.45pm the royal party left and the crowds of guests slowly moved back through the palace and out in to the courtyard, again to the fascination of the viewing tourists. As we walked out we met a Methodist minister and his wife from the Isle of Wight who had also been invited. We’d all had a good day and had felt privileged to be invited.


Mr John Cooper said...

Dear Richard

Thank you for another informative, entertaining and insightful post.

Please do keep going with these updates.

warm regards


Lyttonpernel said...

I really look forward to reading your blogs. They are so interesting and varied. Heard you on Radio 4 yesterday, talking about swine flu and your blog here on the subject was so insightful.

I hope you were able to tell Prince Philip about how you combine your role as Vice President with your other roles - a man of many hats!