When I first heard about The Patron’s Lunch it sounded amazing. The opportunity to celebrate the Queen in a uniquely British way – with a giant street party on The Mall? Count me in!
Then I found out that 8,000 of the 10,000 tickets had already been allocated to the charities and organisations the Queen is patron of. This, of course, made complete sense but it meant there were really only 2,000 tickets available to the general public and you had to enter a ballot to try and get your hands on them. My visions of sharing sandwiches with the royals started to dwindle. Determined to give it my best shot though I entered…and got chosen!
In the lead-up to the event I devoured online articles about what was in the picnic hampers and which royals were rumoured to be attending and I pondered just what one wears to a picnic with royalty. But when I woke up on Sunday, June 12 the answer became blatantly obvious…a raincoat!
It had to be one of the wettest mornings we’ve had this year and with umbrellas strictly forbidden from the event my sartorial choices were all about protecting myself from the elements.
Once past security and finally attired in our official The Patron’s Lunch ponchos we wandered along the Mall to find our table which was in a prime location near Buckingham Palace.
We watched the parade go by the first time (it went again later in the day so the royals could watch it) and then used a break in the rain to dry our seats and settle down to enjoy our hamper of picnic goodies.
The food was delicious and we bonded with our neighbours over lunch. There’s something so unifying about all wearing the same thing!
As we finished eating an announcement was made that the royals would be coming out to say hello so I found a spot along the barriers to see everyone go by.
Six Range Rovers came out of the Palace and headed past me down The Mall where they stopped at different points to ensure that every visitor got a chance to meet and greet with a royal.
The Countess of Wessex, the Earl of Wessex and their daughter, Lady Louise, who was participating in her first official walkabout.^
Following the cars were the Duke of York and his daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie who walked out from Buckingham Palace to greet the crowds. An impressive feat considering the towering heels both girls were wearing!
Prince Andrew took the far side of the street and had the crowd in stitches as he made jokes and chatted with people. It was entertaining to watch as I waited for the Princesses to get to my section.
I got the chance to shake Princess Eugenie’s hand and speak briefly with her and it has to be said that both she and Beatrice are gorgeous in person – much taller and thinner than you’d expect and genuinely warm!
Poor Beatrice, the woman she was speaking to was asking where Kate was so she was looking down The Mall to try and spot her.^
As the princesses passed on I decided to head down The Mall to see which other royals I could spot.
I came across Prince Edward…
His daughter, Lady Louise…
(She’s in the tan trench coat with ruffles on the right next to the very tall gentleman who seemed to be her support person.)
I also saw Princess Anne…
And in a very rare walkabout participation, Anne’s husband, Timothy Laurence…
As I continued along I saw a huge swell in the crowds and knew I’d come to Will and Kate.
^This was a great moment – they needed to clear the royals as the Queen was about to come down The Mall but Kate was straggling because she was being so chatty with everyone so her Private Secretary, Rebecca Deacon, was literally pulling her towards the end going ‘Kate, we have to go. We have to GO!’
Cheers erupted as the Queen and Prince Philip made their way through the crowds in one of the state Range Rovers though it was taking a bit too long for some people’s liking as Prince Philip was seen rapping on the hood of the SUV and telling the driver to pick up the pace.
They arrived at the stage that had been set up near Admiralty Arch and William gave a speech praising the tireless work of his grandmother and thanking her for everything she’s done on behalf of the organisations present.
^The Queen rooting in her handbag for her notes – love it!
The Queen then made a short speech and had the crowd laughing when she referenced the never-ending birthday wishes saying, ‘How I shall feel if you still are singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in December remains to be seen.’
The royals then returned to their cars for the short trip back to Buckingham Palace where they took their seats in front of the statue of Queen Victoria to watch the parade.
The parade was designed to showcase the work and involvement over the decades of the Queen with the more than 600 charities and organisations of which she is Patron of.
As I said above, there were two runnings of the parade – the wet run and the dry run, as I refer to them – so the pictures are from both.
My favourite part of the parade was the model of Royal Yacht Britannia which led it. The yacht is very dear to the Queen and her face lit up when she saw it.
Can you spot the Queen in the photo above?
…No? Here’s a closer look:
The sea wind in her hair and a smile on her face. Love it!
Once the second parade finished we finished up lunch, grabbed a tea for the road…
(Is there anything more British than a long ‘queue’ for tea at a royal street party?!)
…and took one last wander along The Mall with hampers in hand.
An utterly brilliant day out despite the weather and an unforgettable opportunity to meet the royals. I’ve been to a few royal events since moving to the UK but never before have I seen the public given such unencumbered access to the family. Needless to say, I loved every second!