Most people heading for hospital – be they 19 or 91 – would probably prefer not to have tea with 8,000 people en route. But yesterday afternoon, the Duke of Edinburgh was at the Queen’s side as they plunged into a traditional Buckingham Palace garden party with a cross-section of British life, from actor Benedict Cumberbatch to a group of Scottish Girl Guides.In perfect sunshine, to the clink of teacups and the gentle airs of the Band of the Coldstream Guards, it was very much business as usual.Certainly none of the guests – myself included – had the faintest idea the Duke might be en route to the London Clinic for up to a fortnight.Garden parties follow a time-honoured format and yesterday’s was no different. On the stroke of 4pm, the Queen and the Duke appeared through the doors on to the West Terrace with the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
Smiling: The Queen presents the Duke of Edinburgh with the Order of New Zealand award at Buckingham Palace in central London yesterday
The tea tent emptied, the crowds ground to a standstill and all 8,000 of us stood to attention for the national anthem.Then the royal team divided into different ‘lanes’ through the crowds, each one staked out by the Yeomen of the Guard in full Tudor rig. For a full sun-baked hour, the Queen, the duke and the Wessexes made snail-like progress through the throng – five deep in places and all eager for a handshake and a chat. It is a well-oiled machine.
The Gentlemen Ushers, retired gents from the Forces, pluck out a varied selection of guests and senior royal officials do the introductions.
Yesterday, as usual, the duke was accompanied by his private secretary, Brigadier Archie Miller-Bakewell, as he chatted to dozens of guests, among them a little group from the British Association of Dairy Farmers and a couple of alumni from his old Scottish school, Gordonstoun.
Arrival: On the stroke of 4pm, the Queen and the Duke appeared through the doors on to the West Terrace
It’s always a broad church in the Duke’s lane. Yesterday’s assembly included the British Gliding Association, the Burma Star Association, the Canada Club and the Surf Lifesaving Association of Great Britain.Also presented were a small contingent from Trinity House, which looks after every lighthouse in England and Wales. An assiduous past patron, the Duke was at one of their dinners just two nights earlier.As chatty and boisterous as ever, the Duke worked his way down the entire lane but even then there was no respite.
While many of us had long since sought a chair, a bit of shade, a plate of cucumber sandwiches (sans crust), a raspberry tartlet and a bit of Dundee cake – plus a cup of tea or a glass of the Palace’s famous iced coffee – the Queen and the Duke were then ushered into the Royal Tent.
Here, they remained on their feet for another 40 minutes, working their way through a VIP crowd.
Gathering: For a full sun-baked hour, the Queen, the duke and the Wessexes made snail-like progress through the throng - five deep in places and all eager for a handshake and a chat
Among those invited yesterday were the new Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife plus Cabinet ministers Danny Alexander, Justine Greening and Eric Pickles (with ‘Two Teas Pickles’ on the list, let’s hope they’d ordered in extra chocolate eclairs and scones).
Next door, in the Diplomatic Tent, a cross-section of High Commissioners and ambassadors swapped gossip and looked on while the Coldstream Guards moved on to Star Wars and Phantom of the Opera.
As chatty and boisterous as ever, the Duke worked his way down the entire lane but even then there was no respite
Finally, at 5.45, the duke escorted the Queen back through the gardens. As always, they paused to chat to the guests in wheelchairs who are always offered pride of place alongside the homeward path by the Palace swimming pool.And then the crowds slowly enjoyed one last meander round the gardens in the evening breeze.It might be a charming Edwardian idyll for the 8,000 guests but it is always hard work for the hosts. And the largest garden party of the season is yet to come next month – for up to 10,000 at Holyroodhouse. Let’s hope the duke is back on his feet in time for that. By then he will be 92. Would it be impertinent to offer him a chair?
- 2013/06/07(金) 12:45:32|