In response to the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II, many people have been reminiscing in print, broadcast and internet media about their royal encounters. Former Chair of the Parish Council, and community mainstay, Ray Russell and his wife were invited to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in 2017. Here he has agreed to re-issue his tale of the occasion, originally printed in Linkup that summer.


It started with a conspiracy . The conspirators were my fellow Stapleford Abbotts Parish Councillors. They had entered my name into a ballot to attend a Buckingham Palace Garden Party. 

The first I knew was when I received a letter from the Essex Association of Local Councils saying that the application had been successful. Next, I received the official invitation from the Lord Chamberlain. The exact words were “The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by Her Majesty to invite Councillor and Mrs Raymond Russell to a Garden Party”. The date was for the 1st of June. 

This was only the start, because I then had the inevitable question – what shall I wear, with what hat? Anyway, the day arrived, it was sunny and warm. The black cab we ordered picked us up from home at 1.00pm, arriving outside the Palace at 2.00pm. At this point it was immediately noticeable by the attire who were the guests, and who were tourists. When we were admitted through security we walked across the main forecourt, and entered the Palace through an entrance under the famous balcony. This led us out into an open quadrangle. Then through another part, and out onto a terrace overlooking the garden. 

At this point I couldn’t believe it was us two standing there. In front was the beautifully manicured lawn, with magnificent trees, and a lake. By the way, the lawn isn’t grass, it is chamomile. To our amazement there were no restrictions on where to walk. So, a meander past herbaceous borders under the shade of either trees or large shrubs. This was very welcome as it was hot, especially in your best bib and tucker. 

It became apparent how tranquil it was, bearing in mind that the garden is an island surrounded by very heavy traffic on Grosvenor Place, Constitution Hill, and Hyde Park Corner. Two bands played alternatively, adding to the serene atmosphere. Food was served from a large marquee. There was a variety of choice, finger sandwiches with various fillings, and delicate cakes, with tea, coffee or fruit juice. 

At exactly 4.00pm the National Anthem announced the arrival of the Queen. She was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Kent, and Princess Alexandra. At this point the Queen and Prince Philip parted company, the Queen going through an avenue of guests on one side of the garden, the Prince doing the same on the other side. The Queen was escorted by Yeoman of the Guard in their fine ‘Beefeater’ uniforms. 

Whilst the Royal party had tea with honoured guests and diplomats the remainder of us were left to mingle. Cornish ice cream was served, another welcome interlude. Our time was used people watching, and it was apparent that all walks of life had been invited. All ranks from the armed forces and their wives, the police, members of the church, scout leaders, but mainly ordinary members of the general public. 

At 5.40pm the Queen and the Royal Party departed. On their way back to the palace they chatted to people confined to wheelchairs, this left a rather informal feel to the whole day. We left at 6.00pm to find our transport feeling proud to have been there, and very proud to be British. 

Many thanks - and appreciation - to the conspirators.

(c) Ray Russell 2017