I still can’t quite believe it myself, that just a couple of weeks ago I was standing in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, at a Royal Garden Party with the Queen. That’s not something you get to say too often! So let’s get started, and go have a nosey around Elizabeth’s crib….
Three Royal Garden Parties are held at Buckingham Palace every year and around 4000 people attend each party. I’m not entirely sure how others obtained invitations, but in my case, the New Zealand High Commission have a ballot each year, so I put my name in never thinking I’d actually get picked. Luck was on my side it seems, and I received an email earlier in the year with the news and a whole load of security instructions.
The first and most important thing to do was choose a dress. What does one wear to a Royal Garden Party?! There is a dress code so my options were a dress, suit or national costume, and a hat or fascinator is compulsory.
I started my search earlier in the year, and pretty much hit the jackpot straight away with my dress. Scrolling through the ASOS website I came across this yellow dress on sale for £28.50! When it arrived I wasn’t sure if it was right for the occasion and almost sent it back, I was tempted to order a shorter day dress, but in the end my ASOS bargain turned out to be perfect for a Royal Garden Party. My silver heels, also from ASOS, were £23, my fascinator was around £25 on sale from House of Fraser, and the clutch and pashmina I ordered from Amazon. I’m all about a bargain!
I’d taken the day off work, but what I thought would be a leisurely morning, turned out to be manic, having squeezed in a meeting on the other side of town, leaving myself just 30 minutes to get ready. I jumped in a cab towards New Zealand House to collect the invitation, only to get stuck in the worst traffic, wailing down the phone at The Boy Next Door ‘I’m about to have kittens!!!’. We had until 2pm to arrived at NZ House, and there was no way my taxi was going to make it in time. The panic!!
Being the prompt type, TBND made it to NZ House before 2pm and went inside to explain the ‘stuck in traffic’ situation. During my commute a WhatsApp message popped up from him to let me know the woman at NZ House had told me not to worry at all if I was late. It’s times like those that I realise I’ve been in the UK for so long, and I’ve forgotten how laid back and reasonable Kiwis are! With traffic in gridlock, I ran/hobbled the rest of the way through the West End and through the doors of NZ House to a very welcoming Kiwi woman, who handed over our invitations and told us ‘Look for the snipers!’ and ‘Go to the portaloos near the bandstand, those are the posh ones, they even have carpet on the floor!’.
With my stress levels back somewhere near normal, we walked over to Pall Mall and towards Buckingham Palace, joining the verrrrrrrry long line to get inside.
After bags and tickets were checked we were finally in the front courtyard of Buckingham Palace.
Past the guards and under the arch, we made our way towards the palace doors.
Once inside, staff greeted us with a ‘Good afternoon madame/sir’ and we were ushered through to the back garden of the palace.
The Royal family were due to join the garden party at 4pm, so we stuck close by to the stairs to get a good view. The people watching was epic! All those tophats, tails and umbrellas felt like something out of a storybook.
The Queen (spot her in the green on the stairs!), Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla arrived at the top of the palace stairs, and the national anthem was played by the band.
Once they descended the stairs, circles of people were formed around them, and they were introduced to guests that were clearly more important than us! Still, we got a great view (kinda sounds like we were viewing animals at the zoo!), and it was a surreal moment to be so close to the Royal Family.
Everywhere we looked there was something interesting to see. Guests with amazing national costumes, and soldiers in red coats marching through the grounds.
One of the rules on the invitation was that you were not allowed to take photos, and mobile phones must be switched off.
But I guess rules are made to be broken sometimes right? Because EVERYONE was taking photos and videos, so we made the most of our Royal Garden Party opportunity and snapped away!
Photoshoot complete, we wandered over to the tent for afternoon tea.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the afternoon tea. I’d assumed you’d get one or two sandwiches and a small cake. It turns out I’d hugely underestimated the Queen’s hosting capabilities. There were a huge array of sandwiches and cakes to choose from, along with tea or iced coffee.
I’d ticked the ‘gluten intolerant’ box when sending in my details, but really didn’t have high hopes of being able to eat anything. So I was shocked to receive a whole platter of gluten free goodies! The cakes were amazing, in fact I’d go as far as saying they were better than any I’ve had at various afternoon teas in London hotels.
We passed by the Royal Tea Tent, where the Queen and special guests ate their cake and drank their tea.
And the Beef Eaters reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland.
My feet were killing me by this point, so we grabbed some tubs of ice cream and sat on the grass by the lake, soaking up both the sunshine and the simple fact we were sat on the Queens lawn!
Back on my aching feet, we took the opportunity to explore the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
The gardens are beautiful, and I imagine Wills and Harry had a pretty great time running around them during their childhood.
We took a memorable Google Maps screenshot of us inside the palace walls.
The grounds are extensive and there was something to see at every corner we turned, we could have spent forever exploring, but alas all good things come to an end and the Royal Garden Party was about to finish.
Walking back towards the palace, I was dreaming of the moment I could take off my high heels and throw on my Ugg Boots once I got home. I’d make a terrible Princess.
We’d not even left the garden and already we were making plans to stop at Tesco on the way home to grab some food. Back to reality with a thud. I wonder if the Queen has ever been to Tesco?
But before we head back out onto the streets of London, we took one more souvenir Google Maps snap inside the palace.
Our Royal moment was over, and what a moment it was. The whole afternoon exceeded our expectations. Without a doubt I’ll be entering the ballot again next year. As they say, you never know your luck in a big city, and at that moment, standing in the palace, I felt pretty damn lucky.