Afternoon Tea at Buckingham Palace
How did I get an invite?
On the 15th of May I was lucky enough to attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace. Each year the New Zealand High Commission is allocated a limited number of invitations for New Zealand citizens to attend and in February I found out that I was one of the lucky ones who would be going along with my cousin Bree who is over on a working holiday visa. Until I held the invite in my hand I didn’t quite believe it. Me a girl from Otautau would be having afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace! And the Lord Chamberlain had been commanded by Her Majesty to invite me.
Getting the Harris Tweed and candles to London
There was some effort involved in getting to the palace on time, starting with flight cancellations from Stornoway. But I had my Harris Tweed bag and hat made by Sandra at Modren so I at least looked the part. I had booked a make up trial with Bobbi Brown at Liberty London and had the most lovely make up artist who was as excited as us so she did a fabulous job with our make up. I later had some difficulty with my hat so I took the chance of popping into a hairdressers on the way to the palace and asking for some help. I joked that the Queen would surely not approve. The lovely Elizabeth at Headmasters kindly sat me down and secured the hat to my head so well it had to be cut off, my hair not the hat! Of course I had to take a candle with me. I have to thank Amanda at Define Style Consultancy who helped me with accessories and colours and all my pesky questions – including saying no I am not allowed to wear my hoodie and jeans.
What happens at a garden party?
The invite specified that women must wear a day dress with hat or uniform. Photographic ID was required to get past the heavily armed police at the Grosvenor Gate entrance. We avoided the grand entrance as the line was rather long. The gates opened at 3pm. We entered the palace gardens where two military bands were playing music alternatively. Music ranged from Adele to the Star Wars theme song. As we walked from the gardens towards the palace the excitement was building. It was just amazing! At 3.40pm the Yeoman (the Queen’s bodyguard) entered the palace and they certainly made their presence known. They did not stop marching even if people were in the way and just yelled out ‘get back’. You then had to stand in line with them and definitely not in front of. We got the front row! Talk about being in the right place at the right time, especially with 8000 people there. Think it helped that we stood next to a royal marine. He attracted the attention of many in a top hat.
The Royal family
At 4.00pm the National Anthem played to announce the arrival of the members of the royal family. Although slightly disappointed to hear that the Queen would not be in attendance everyone was so excited to catch a glimpse of who would be representing the royal family. Today it was the Duke and Duchess of Cornwell and Princess Anne. Standing just behind those lucky enough to be presented to the royal family we could hear each conversation and see the joy on Princes Charles’ face as he chatted with guests. They spent a lot of time moving through the guests and making the time to talk. They then went to the Royal Tent for their afternoon tea.
In the Main Tea Tent
It was then time for refreshments and we headed to the Main Tea Tent. So much food and they knew how to serve it fast. Obviously they have done this before. There are around 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cakes served. The iced coffee was delicious. People then took their plates and sat on the grass to enjoy. Waiters were quick in collecting used plates and making sure everything was running perfectly. Then individual pots of ice cream were given out – a choice of vanilla or strawberry. It was quite funny to see people walking around Buckingham Palace in bare feet holding their high heels. Lot’s of national dress and uniforms with the royal marine being my favourite of the day. I also now know what F.A.N.Y stands for thanks to comments on my Instagram stories on the day.
Back to reality
Then after 3 hours it was time to leave. We passed through the palace on our way back to reality. The red carpets, lots of gold, years of history and the palace staff saying goodbye. No photos were allowed in these areas. As we left via the grand entrance we merged back in with all the tourists that were watching and wondering. A lot of wise women had a flat pair of shoes in their handbags and quickly did a change. I on the other hand hobbled through Green Park to the tube and then on to a roof top bar to celebrate. Incredible to think of where we had just been and how amazing it had all been. And that is how a kiwi girl ending up going for afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace.
Do you have a garden party memory to share?