OMG! Here we are within the gates of the front grounds of Buckingham Palace, looking at the front of the Palace, as we walk through the main entrance into the main courtyard. We continue our walk through the entrance to the Palace, through the same doors that Will & Kate entered on their wedding day, after exiting their horse-driven carriage. That in itself is an amazing thought that added to the continued adrenaline rush that both Steve and I were feeling now. We went up the steps and through the Palace door into a beautiful room decorated with curio cabinets in each corner, filled with china dishes all with different patterns. Maybe just for show or possibly used for special occasions, only our imaginations knew the answer. We walked slowly as to take in every moment of this experience, looking at the pictures and furniture. We were then guided through a hallway and onto the terrace overlooking the entire garden. The same place that the Queen and the Royal Family will be standing in an hour’s time.
There were small wooden tables and chairs set out throughout the garden, so we headed for one not too far from the buffet marquis. We sat at a table that we shared with another couple. Steve went to get drinks for us. He returned with glasses of lemonade and water to begin with. We were sitting there taking in the ambiance and the sunshine and watching the arrival of the other guests who streamed in non-stop for the next hour. The military guests were dressed in full uniform. The civic leaders wore their traditional heavy gold chains, many of which were covered in jewels. The civic leaders are commonly referred to as “The Chain Gang.” Even their spouses and consorts wear gold chains.
The garden began to take on a whole new look. There were tables and chairs arranged all around. They seemed to disappear into the forty acres surrounding the Palace. Remember that Buckingham Palace and its forty-acre garden with its own lake is right smack in the centre of London. Yet it is its own little paradise with not a sound of the city to be heard. Only that of the two military bands taking turns playing selections of music during the afternoon.
As we sat surrounded by the other guests and dignitaries, Steve said that he felt as if we were in one of those classic paintings. I felt like Cinderella at The Ball. In other words, Steve and I felt as high as a kite and our feet didn’t touch the ground all day.
Before we knew it, it was tea time and the food was being served. We walked up and got into one of about forty lines. We were handed a rectangular, white china plate to place our food and drink on. The drink choices were hot tea, hot coffee and iced coffee, a rare drink for England. We both chose the iced coffee. Now for the food, it was a quintessential English Tea menu of smoked salmon and cream cheese on a mini cracker, finger sandwiches of egg salad, cucumber with cream cheese and the typical ham sandwich. The desserts were amazingly delicious and beautifully presented. Of course all were freshly handmade. There were mini raspberry tarts with cream, mini strawberry tarts with cream, mini lemon tarts, mini cream filled éclairs, mini Victoria sponge cake slices, mini fruit cake slices, and to top it all off the most incredible thick chocolate square with a gold crown stamp on top. Needless to say we were all in food heaven at this point.
While we were finishing our food, I noticed that people were beginning to crowd along the sides of the walkway to wait for the Queen to arrive. We rushed over to get as close as possible. The band began playing music and the Queen’s Guards marched out in preparation. Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, then entered the garden terrace. They were accompanied by other members of the Royal Family – Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge (William, the Duke of Cambridge was working and unable to attend), Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as other Royals. After the playing of the National Anthem, The Queen and Prince Phillip, together with the other members of the Royal Family, proceeded very slowly down through the two garden paths ending at the royal tent.
We stood along the path taken by the Queen. A number of people are chosen for her to speak with along the way. I was lucky enough to be standing next to one of those people. So I had the Queen standing next to me for a good three minutes while I watched her every move. Steve was watching me and said that my smile was ear to ear the whole time. I think that smile lasted the rest of the day. We then went to see Prince Phillip as he came down the other path toward the royal tent. Both the Queen and Prince Phillip look amazing for their age – 86 and almost 91 years old.
We went for a short walk around the immediate area hoping to find Kate. We ended up on the terrace where we met our friends from the entry queue. We enjoyed a spectacular view of the garden. Our friends pointed us towards the royal tent. As we stood looking into the royal tent from about fifty yards away, we saw Kate, the Queen and some of their other guests. Then we noticed where the path was that the royals would be exiting down and positioned ourselves right up front. A few minutes later they prepared to leave the tent. Before I knew it the Queen was just a foot away from me and she looked straight at me, as she slowly proceded towards the Palace. Just behind her was Kate and she looked at me and I said, “Kate, America Loves You,” and she looked at me and said, ”I love America.” That just made my day. We stood there until all of the Royal Family members left the royal tent.
It was time for Steve and I to take a stroll through the garden. The grounds are filled with a variety of beautiful trees, flowers, plants and its very own lake. We saw some statues and found a few hidden areas with benches allowing us to sit down and take in all of the beauty of this special garden, and also giving us incredible views of the Palace.
Although all attendees were told that there was no cameras allowed and no pictures to be taken, we were allowed to bring our mobile phone with its built in camera. After the Queen and the Royal Family left the garden party, everyone brought out their phones and were taking pictures of each other in the garden areas, around the lake and of Buckingham Palace from afar.
Then we went back to the food area for a cup of tea and one more chocolate square. We found a table facing the palace and sat down to enjoy our tea and chocolate. Amazingly no one rushed us out, so we sat for a while and continued to experience the feelings of the day.
Let’s not forget the weather as this plays a big part in any event taking place in England. It was picture-perfect weather with the sun shining, warm weather 75F, no rain with just a bit of overcast towards the end of the day. You could not have asked for anything more – consistently good weather all day – especially in England where you could have up to four seasons in one day.
As we were the first to arrive, we were one of the last to leave. Walking slowly through the palace door into one of the main rooms and out the main door onto the outer courtyard, pausing inside the gates to take a few more pictures to try and capture the moment before leaving.
We decided to walk back to the hotel instead of taking a taxi, which allowed us to stop in at The Buckingham Palace gift shop and buy a few mementos of the day.
Many of you asked how we got invited to the Queen’s Garden Party. Everyone is invited for a reason, for outstanding service. The military is allocated a number of tickets. The majority come from the many charities and societies across the UK for their service and volunteer work. The civic leaders and the clergy are well represented. As for Steve and myself, it was a joint effort. Steve was recognised for his work with the Royal Air Force and Ministry of Defence, and I was recognised for my volunteer and charity work for a number of organizations in the city of Lincoln.
The whole experience seemed surreal at times. We went to bed that night realizing that we were with the Queen at her house – Buckingham Palace – to have proper tea with her. Although there were 7000+ other guests there too, we felt as if it was more of an intimate gathering of a few friends joining us to have tea with the Queen.
Another incredible adventure on our journey of living in England.