A Garden Party
By Fred Stubbs
Just after the start of 1994, my retirement year, a large envelope dropped through the letterbox. On the front was the oval stamp of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, Buckingham Palace; on the back was the Royal Arms printed in red. Inside was the gold-blocked invitation-card to a Garden Party — the full wording was as follows:
The Lord Chamberlain is
commanded by Her Majesty to invite
Mr and Mrs Fred Stubbs
to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace
on Tuesday 12 July 1994 from 4 to 6 pm
Morning Dress, Uniform or Lounge Suit
It seemed a long wait until July. However, the day did dawn and my wife and I put on our ‘best bib and tucker’ and made our way to Buckingham Palace (we had stayed at our son’s house in Luton so we didn’t have too far to travel). Whilst waiting for a taxi outside Kings Cross station, we palled-up with a young vicar (Oxford graduate!) and his wife — we just seemed to realise that we were all going to the same place, so we shared a taxi to the Palace.
As we arrived, the queue was just beginning to move. We joined and began to make our way slowly, through the well-known courtyard — not forgetting to give the onlookers a wave as we crossed. We passed through the main archway, which led us into a vast quadrangle where we met with other, similarly-dressed, people who were coming from other parts of the quadrangle. We then entered the Palace itself. Here our passes were taken from us by the Palace footmen, dressed in their fine livery. We climbed the main staircase and out into the Palace garden — really more like a park.
A military band was playing, the sun was very hot and lots of people (8,000) sitting at tables or strolling around in their finery — a splendid sight. In fact, there were two bands playing one at each end of the garden — one played while the other one rested. At 4pm the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh made their appearance at the top of the steps with the rest of the Royal Party. After the band played the National Anthem the Royal Party walked through a double row of people and a Guard of Honour, by the Beefeaters, to the Royal Tea-tent. The rest of us had our refreshments in another tea-tent which stretched the full length of one side of the garden.
In the tea-tent we collected our sandwiches (very small, without crusts), cake, pancake-like flat scones (very small), delicious ice-cream and a very, very small glass of juice — as it was very hot, 30 degrees centigrade, a pint of shandy would have been more welcome!). We sat next to the lake to eat, rest and enjoy the cool breeze coming from the lake.
The really splendid occasion, which was both enjoyable and interesting ,
came to an end at 6pm.