I was surprised and delighted to receive an invitation through the post to the Prince of Wales 70th Birthday patronage celebrations at Buckingham Palace Gardens on 22nd May 2018, the invite arrived by post from The Lord Chamberlain with the wording he was commanded by Her Majesty The Queen to invite me which made me smile I must say. The invite itself was on very fine stationary as you would probably expect from our royal family, even the envelope had a watermark! Inside the envelope as well as the invite itself were various instructions including travel and security details for the day.
On the day itself the weather could not have been better with beautiful sunshine, even the 30 minute train ride from my local station to Victoria train station and the short walk to the palace thereafter were a pleasure. There were around another two thousand people invited and we queued up outside the palace in our best clothes in a very calm and suppressed excitement British way! Two forms of ID were needed to get past the armed security on the front gate. Once inside and around the back of Buckingham Palace it was like walking through the gate of ‘The Secret Garden’, I was a tree surgeon and gardener by trade before taking up singing and was very impressed by the royal collection of trees and shrubs as well as the huge lake with its own island that sits at the bottom of the garden, it was also very interesting to learn of the history of the garden from James I in 1609 to George IV and our present Queen’s additions, the most surprising fact I learned was that during a survey by The London Natural History Society two species of fungi new to science were discovered.
The Garden Party itself was a real joy, from the live military band on the bandstand and the Yeoman of the Guard ‘Holding The Ground‘ to the pageantry and fine food – Huge tents were all ready for guests to take refreshments which consisted of an array of ‘crustless‘ sandwiches and sweet cakes and pastries each one better than the last, washed down with Earl Grey Tea.
After finishing my refreshments and waiting for the royal party to arrive it was a pleasure to chat to Dr Robert Winston about our mutual love of opera and our favourite productions and conductors who have graced The Royal Opera House stage (I hope he was able to get tickets for The Ring Cycle opening the 2018/19 Season). Another huge surprise while standing patiently on the sidelines was a meeting with The Duchess of Cornwall and a chat about her favourite ballet productions again at The Royal Opera House.
The afternoon was over far too soon and I couldn’t help but reflect on the train home of what my father would have thought of this boy from a Durham pit village at a garden party at Buckingham Palace with royalty!