After a morning spent getting glam at Fenwick’s of Bond Street (nails by Nails Inc, hair by Bumble & Bumble and makeup by Charlotte Tilbury) I stepped into my gorgeous, floral Ted Baker dress, popped my fascinator in place, put on my grandmother’s vintage earrings and headed out the door. Royalty awaited!
Now, we could have entered Buckingham Palace through the main gates but I was too eager to wait in a line and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to run wild–I mean, glide gracefully and with dignity–through the normally private royal gardens behind the palace. So, instead of heading in the front door we went to the Hyde Park Corner gate in the northwest corner of the palace grounds and stepped into the royal world through a door that is kept closed 360-odd days of the year.
The palace gardens are in full bloom at the moment and my handsome date was extremely patient, happily obliging my every photo request. (If you don’t photograph the royal flowers, did you even really see them?!)
We emerged on to the main lawn which was already full to bursting with fellow party-goers and got the lay of the land. The primary tea tent was west, perpendicular to the rather grand Royal Tea Tent, and if you wanted a seat you probably should have started queuing at 9am that morning. It was fine though – I was too excited to sit still! – and we happily wandered around taking in the finely dressed ladies and gents. The clergy were especially well represented and we saw our neighbour, Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury as well as the former Archbishop (the one who officiated at Will & Kate’s wedding!) Rowan Williams.
We were quite near the tea tent when tea was officially served which meant we had minimal wait and the best pick of the sandwiches. Graham played it cool, picking and choosing from the options, whereas I loaded up, determined not to miss anything.
In no time at all we noticed people had started gathering around the Palace steps so I hurried over to secure a great spot to watch the royals arrive.
Everyone in the crowd was so lovely and several encouraged me to move ahead of them (#PerksOfBeingPetite) which meant I had a minimally restricted view. The royals arrived to the sound of a fanfare played by the military brass band and then we all stood for the national anthem.
As The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh led the way down the steps I was thrilled to see them veer left…towards me! They came to a stop no more than 8 feet away where there was a group of people that had been chosen to speak to them. Though I couldn’t hear every word I caught the odd few and just generally enjoyed seeing how smiley and happy they both were.
Once The Queen and Prince Philip had moved on I went in search of other royals, finding Princess Beatrice of York just behind where I had been standing.
My friend Tilda was also at the party with her family so we headed across the lawn to find her, pausing unexpectedly when we stumbled on…
The Duke of Kent (in the grey top hat and spotted tie):
Princess Anne the Princess Royal (in quite the yellow hat!):
Princess Michael of Kent (in the sunglasses):
Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex (in black morning coat):
Prince Michael of Kent (with the white beard):
Tilda’s family had arrived a bit later (creeping in just before Her Majesty!) so they went to get tea and I went looking for the holy grail, aka Kate and Wills.
The Cambridges had the second biggest crowd around them (after The Queen, of course!) so they weren’t as easy to see but I was glad to get a view of what they were wearing and to overhear a bit of them laughing and talking with the people chosen to meet them. Don’t you worry – I know my day will come!
Once the royals had finally made their way to the Royal Tea Tent we took the opportunity to get some more tea and sandwiches ourselves, rather than join the throng of people who were (I kid you not) standing and staring across the closed off field in front of the Royal Tea Tent. I felt so bad for the royal family and their guests inside who must have felt a bit like zoo animals!
The gardens and lake are beautiful and we got incredibly lucky with the dry, sunny weather – especially considering it poured with rain the day before and the day after! The atmosphere was really calm and happy with everyone offering to take everyone else’s picture so they had a complete record of the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Once the royals had taken tea they made their way back to the palace (William and Kate lagging behind everyone else as they did their best to say hello to as many people as possible) and things started to wind down just as the weather turned a bit cooler. We weren’t in any rush to leave so slowly made our way towards the palace so we could exit out the main gates (seeing as how we hadn’t entered through them).
The walk across the Buckingham Palace courtyard was purposefully slow as we savoured the chance to see (and photograph!) an area normally closed off to the public.
It was also so fun to see the famous balcony up close and walk behind the iron walls in front of the palace! The policemen on duty kept telling everyone to keep moving but I made a point of smiling at each of them and telling them to have a great night and suddenly they weren’t so concerned about me and we were able to snap some pics.
The last step through the gates was the hardest as I didn’t want to leave! We wandered along Green Park to catch a bus towards home (getting some rather interesting looks from commuters – what, you don’t see a girl in a fascinator every day?) making a stop for dinner. Though online reports claim that Garden Party guests consume thousands of sandwiches and cakes we didn’t actually have that many in the end so wanted something light. Just kidding – we went for a feast.
It was a fab end to a truly unforgettable day. The weather was perfect, the experience was perfect and I wouldn’t have changed a thing….well, maybe I would have liked an invite to the Royal Tea Tent. Reliable sources tell me The Queen was in fine form! 🙂
Looking to get out of London this weekend? I’ve got the perfect away day for you!
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of history and the British royal family and, in the UK, these two things combine beautifully in a number of historic royal residences…
When you get the opportunity to be part of something really special you don’t hesitate…you grab it with both hands!
For a devoted royal watcher like yours truly, one of the best parts about living in London is the royal history around every corner.