What happens at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party?

buckingham palace

Buckingham Palace (photo by jimmyharris CC-BY)

Garden parties at Buckingham Palace, the monarch’s office residence in London, are one of the highlights of the summer season. Specially invited guests from all walks of life have the chance that they may be introduced to Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, or other members of the Royal Family.

Garden parties have been held by the monarch since the 1860s in Queen Victoria’s reign.

Each year, three are held at Buckingham Palace, and one at Holyrood House, Edinburgh. Invitations are sent out by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. The guest list is very varied, but the main criteria is that they have contributed their time and energies to their organisations or societies. Guests will include representative of government, armed services, political parties, diplomatic guests, charity workers and individuals who have made some achievements for the benefit of the UK.

Special garden parties are sometimes organised for the celebration of special events such as the British Red Cross’s anniversary and The Territorial Army’s centenary, or the honour the work of charities such as the Not Forgotten Association, a war veteran charity.

On the afternoon, the guests assemble ready for the Queen. Most men dress in morning dress or lounge suits, or their uniforms, while women wear afternoon dress and hats. Some may wear their national costumes. The British weather can be a problem. Rain will dampen the guests, while on a very hot day, these clothes are not necessarily the best to wear in the heat.

Two military bands play while the guests have a chance to walk the gardens, which are not normally open to the public, and to take afternoon tea of sandwiches, cakes, tea, coffee or juice.

When the Queen arrives the National Anthem is played. Then the Queen and other members of the Royal Family circulate among the guests. The party finishes at the end of the afternoon.

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1 Comment

  • eiffel says:

    The social dynamic of the Queen’s garden parties interests me. There are hundreds of people there, if not thousands, many of whom surely want to speak with the Queen.

    Do they form an orderly line, waiting for their ten seconds with her? Or does the crowd gravitate towards wherever the Queen happens to be, in the hope of catching her eye? Or does the Queen surround herself with family and friends to insulate herself from the hoi polloi?

    My wife attended one many decades ago with her father, who was invited on account of him becoming an under-sheriff (whatever that is). She was a teenager at the time, and was oblivious to the group dynamics. And she didn’t see the Queen, not even in the distance.

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