The Queen and Prince Philip hosted their first garden party of the year today at Buckingham Palace, and were joined by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Princess Beatrice, The Duke of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
The gates opened to invited guests at 2:30pm with the national anthem announcing the Royal arrival – and start of celebrations – at 4pm.
The parties are a way for the Sovereign and members of the Royal Family to recognise and reward the public service of individuals from all nationalities and walks of life for their positive contribution to their communities. The first Buckingham Palace garden party was held in 1860, during the reign of Queen Victoria. Every year Her Majesty hosts three parties at Buckingham Palace and one at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
Over 8,000 guests attended today’s event. While the military band played a selection of music, the Royal Family circulated around, in what are called ‘lanes’. Presentations were made at random, giving everyone present an equal chance of meeting The Queen, or another member of the family.
Today, The Queen opted for a light pink ensemble, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wore ice blue and Princess Beatrice chose navy.
Entry to the party is strictly by invitation only. Across the country, a long-established network of sponsors is used to invite guests. Sponsors include Lord-Lieutenants, Societies, Government Departments, Local Government, the Armed Forces, the Church and other Faiths. Each nominate particular individuals for invitation, to try to ensure that a representative cross-section of the country is present.
The Sovereign then arrived at the Royal Tea Tent, where she met further guests. During an average year, over 30,000 guests are able to enjoy a relaxed traditional summer afternoon in the gardens of either palace. At each party, around 20,000 sandwiches, 20,000 slices of cake and 27,000 cups of tea are consumed.
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) May 16, 2017
Attendees were permitted to freely eat, drink and stroll around the Palace gardens, with many taking what are considered contraband photos to remember the event.
The dress code for royal garden parties is often quite strict: gentlemen are required to wear morning dress or lounge suits, while women wear day dress, with hats or fascinators. Military uniforms are also common.
The Duchess of Cambridge was heard telling a guest that she was looking forward to her sister’s wedding on Saturday, but she was slightly worried about ‘how George and Charlotte will behave’, as the children have been chosen to be pageboy and bridesmaid to their aunt Pippa.
Catherine also said she would like to go back to Australia with her family on holiday.
Prince Philip joked with one guest, Peter Chapman-Andrews, who has recently stepped down as the director of the Royal Institute of Navigation, about retirement.
“We talked about the fact I’ve recently retired and he asked me what I was going to do now,” Chapman-Andrews explained. “And my wife said ‘as little as possible’ and we had a laugh at that.”