Afternoon Tea with the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace
One Encounters A Former Monarch Near To The Gates!
Tea in the Gardens
A few years ago, my husband and I had tea with Her Majesty the Queen ~ in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. We were not alone with her, though ~ it was a royal garden party!
(I was reminded of this, when my daughter returned from Stratford Upon Avon, having seen the Queen open the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre.)
It was in Millennium year ~ 2000 ~ that we received our invitation.
It was because of my husband's work, as a director in the civil service, but our invitation ~ from the Lord Chamberlain ~ was addressed to me!
We were invited to the gardens of Buckingham Palace, on 25th July, from 4pm until 6pm.
We just hoped that it wouldn't rain!
How To Dress - and What Not to Bring
With our invitation, was an information sheet, with all of the dos and don'ts for the day.
It was for over-18s only.
Ladies had to wear a day dress, or uniform (without medals). A hat was obligatory.
Gentlemen had the choice of morning coat, lounge suit, or uniform (again, without medals).
National dress could also be worn.
We could not drive into the palace grounds, or stop our cars outside the palace
We could not bring, or use, a camera.
Only the two of us were allowed to attend ~ we could not bring guests.
Preparing for the Day
We had to travel to London, so we booked train tickets, with the intention of finding a taxi near Euston station.
My Mum was going to babysit, so the children would be ok.
Now, what to wear?!
My husband had decided upon a lounge suit. He has a number of these and had a new one ready at the time, so clothes were not a problem for him.
But for me, they most certainly were ~ as most women will understand.
We had to travel to London, so the clothes would have to be suitable for a train journey ~ albeit in First Class. (Well, it was a special occasion!) The outfit had to be smart and comfortable ~ including the shoes.
It took some time to find exactly the right combination, but I finally chose a navy blue dress, with navy shoes and handbag, teamed with a cream jacket and a cream hat.
I don't visit London very often ~ and I certainly don't get to see the Queen very often! (The last time had been when she visited Birmingham, for her 1977 Jubilee ~ and I just caught a glimpse of her hat as she drove by!)
I was really looking forward to this special day out.
The Journey To the Palace
I think we drove into Birmingham, by taxi, and then caught the train to Euston Station. We travelled First Class ~ a first for me!
I was very impressed by the service ~ and the lovely food!
We arrived in London in good time and, before leaving the station, I planned to pop into 'the ladies' to freshen up, check my hair, and finalise my preparations for visiting the palace.
I was to be sorely disappointed!
The ladies' toilets were closed and had been temporarily replaced by a small portacabin that was totally unsuitable for my needs. The day was no longer going so well!
But my husband came to the rescue, by remembering that a first class ticket permitted me to use the first class ladies' rest rooms ~ and very first class they were, too!
They were spacious and well decorated with large mirrors and comfy chairs ~ as well as the usual necessities.
I emerged feeling ready to meet my monarch.
A Taxi Ride Up The Mall
We caught another taxi from the station, which took us to The Mall.
The Mall was very, very busy ~ with tourists, locals and garden party visitors.
After a while, the car simply stopped moving, the road was so busy ~ and we decided to alight and walk the rest of the way.
It was further than expected, but nice, because we could drink in the lovely atmosphere, as we made our way towards the palace gates.
I did have a camera with me, in spite of the royal request, because I wanted photos outside the palace, if not within, so I took a few snaps as we walked.
Finally Buckingham Palace loomed ahead ~ and we entered through the gates, as all of the tourists looked on.
It was a very special moment. We were VIPs for the day!
The gravel made a satisfying crunch beneath our feet, as we crossed the huge driveway, towards the royal doors.
Buckingham Palace - Front View - David Iliff
Entering the Palace.
Nowadays, parts of Buckingham Palace are sometimes open to the public, but that was not the case when we visited, so entering the royal abode was a special and an unusual occurrence.
The guests queued excitedly in the Quadrangle.
There were two open doors, as I remember ~ one to the right of the building and one to the left. We chose ~ or perhaps were ushered towards ~ the doors to our left. We climbed the steps ~ and entered. This was quite an event!
And we had certainly chosen the right door, because, as we walked through to the terrace, we were flanked by Yeomen of the Guard. The others did not receive this special treatment, because we had decided to use the doors that the queen would soon be using!
I admired the beautiful drapes and furnishings ~ a lovely rich rose pink, I think they were ~ as we slowly made our way through two palatial rooms.
Soon we were out in the sunshine and on the Queen's terrace. From there we could walk down the steps and across the lawns to an array of seats that had been arranged for us.
Buckingham Palace - Queens Breakfast Room
Yeomen of the Guard
Yeomen Warders - 'Beefeaters'
I was not sure, as we entered the palace, whether we saw 'Yeomen of the Guard', or 'Yeoman Warders' (Beefeaters).
However, 'Wikipedia' helped me out ~ it must have been the Monarch's Bodyguard ~ the 'Yeomen of the Guard'. I should have realised this, because we had seen the Beefeaters on an earlier trip to London, when we visited the Tower!
Their uniforms are slightly different, and I do recall that the guardsmen, whom we saw that day at Buckingham Palace, were dressed in red.
'The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are a bodyguard of the British Monarch. The oldest British military corps still in existence, it was created by Henry VII in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. As a token of this venerability, the Yeomen still wear red and gold uniforms of Tudor style.'
'The Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London.'
Buckingham Palace - View From Gardens
Some Background Information
A quote from Wikipedia regarding the 'Mountbatten' name:
'Mountbatten-Windsor is the personal surname of some of the descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh under an ambiguously-worded Order-in-Council issued in 1960 ...'
'It differs from the official name of the British Royal Family or Royal House, which remains Windsor.'
'The Mountbatten surname derives from the German town of Battenberg, in Hesse. Prince Louis of Battenberg changed his surname to Mountbatten (its literal English translation) during the First World War at the request of King George V.'
' ... Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark ...... descends from the Battenberg family through his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg.'
Exploring the Royal Gardens and the Tea Tent!
We met, and chatted to, a number of very interesting people, as military bands played.
And while we chatted, we ate and we drank. There were refreshing cold drinks and, of course, plenty of English tea. We had tiny cucumber sandwiches and delicate smoked salmon and scrambled egg sandwiches.
There were lots of delicious cakes, including, I remember, miniature Battenbergs. (Very appropriate, since the Windsors used to be known as the Mountbattens ~ or Battenbergs! I understand that the Queen's surname is still Mountbatten-Windsor.)
The food was delicious and there was plenty for everyone ~ and there were a lot of guests!
We also explored the royal gardens.They are large and are lovely for a gentle stroll. I wished, several times, that I could take photographs.
'Meeting' Her Majesty
Of course, there were regular examples of a whispered: 'Is she here yet?' or 'Can you see her?', and we had not long been back in our seats, when we noticed some activity on the palace terrace.
A lady in yellow had appeared, who looked like she just might possibly be 'Her Majesty' ~ and then the bands began to play a familiar tune: 'God Save the Queen'.
Everyone rose, in unison, and began to sing our national anthem.
The Queen began her walkabout, accompanied by Prince Philip and their party.
As the Gentlemen at Arms stood guard, Her Majesty was introduced to some of her guests ~ but only a few ~ as most of us looked on.
It was a historic day, in a very historic setting ~ perfect for a history-lover like me!
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
More On The Queen
After a while, the Queen retired to the Royal Tea Tent, as the rest of us mingled, talked, partook of a little more refreshment, or walked on the lawns.
A little before six o'clock, the royal party left the gardens, and Her Majesty's guests took a last look around them and bade farewell to the Palace grounds.
Soon we were, once again, crunching most agreeably on gravel, and walking back out through those large golden gates.
The garden party was over.
But London beckoned.
We walked around for a while, before boarding our train back home. And, back in our comfortable first class seats, I was amazed to see the food that was being served!
There were tiny cucumber sandwiches and delicate smoked salmon and scrambled egg sandwiches ~ plus miniature battenberg cakes!!!
It was like a case of deja vu!
Buckingham Palace + Gardens 1897
Guests were given a brief description of the gardens, along with their invitations. Here are a few notes:
The gardens are almost 40 acres in size and contain a 3-acre lake.
"The north side occupies part of the original site of a mulberry garden laid out by James I in 1609."
Of the almost 200 trees in the gardens. Most are London plane.
In some parts of the garden, the grass is left to grow long, in order to encourage wildlife.
Many birds are drawn to the garden ~ and some extremely rare fungi grow there.
King George VI ('The King's Speech') and Queen Elizabeth (later known as 'The Queen Mother') planted a '170 metre long herbaceous border' in their grounds ~ and there are numerous other flowering plants and shrubs.