A staple in the Royal calendar is the Garden Party. A tradition began by Queen Victoria in the 1860s, Her Majesty hosts a minimum of three parties each summer at Buckingham Palace, and one at Holyrood House in Edinburgh, The Queen’s Scottish palace. Victoria’s ‘breakfasts’ (essentially afternoon tea by another name) began to replace the debutantes presentation parties; since the 19th century, they have evolved, now being used to recognise those who in public service, whether it be charity work, youth organisations, or . Guests, of which there are around 30,000 each year in total, are treated with Buckingham Palace blend tea, cakes and a chance to talk to members of the Royal Family informally, in the gardens of The Queen’s London residence.
Guests begin to arrive in the garden from 3pm, with the party beginning an hour later; the Royal host is welcomed to the National Anthem, no doubt a stirring occasion in with the Royal Standard flying above the Palace. Each Royal takes a different ‘lane’ to greet guests, which ensures they circulate and speak with as many people as possible. People from all walks of life are invited to garden parties, on the recommendation of a large number of national organisations who submit lists on a pre-arranged quota. The government, Lord-Lieutenants, Civil Service, Armed Services, Diplomatic Corps, charities and societies are such examples of those who submit names, to give a range of people from differing backgrounds and fields of work. The Lord Chamberlain sends out the invitations. The Royals, having spoken with a great many people and learnt their stories, finally make their way to back of these lanes and into the tea tent, another opportunity to greet those invited. Two military bands also perform at the gathering, entertaining the guests for the afternoon. Refreshments come in the form of afternoon tea, served from long buffet tables in the tents. On average, 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake are consumed in one garden party, with 400 waiting staff to serve the guests. The National Anthem is played once more, at around 6.00 pm, denoting the end of the party. At Buckingham Palace, the Yeoman of the Guard, Gentlemen at Arms and Gentlemen Ushers are on duty, while at the Holyrood, the Royal Company of Archers and the High Constables of the Palace fill this role.
The Not Forgotten Association, a charity for war veterans of all ages, is given a special garden party each year. The Princess Royal is Patron of the organisation, though she does not always host the gathering. Permission is given by Her Majesty for extra garden parties to be held, for example, in honour of special celebrations for national organisations; these special parties have included the Territorial Army’s 100th anniversary, and the centenary of the British Red Cross’s Royal Charter. Other notable garden parties include one which The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh hosted a for couples sharing their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1997 – also the year of The Queen and Prince Philip’s 50th wedding anniversary. Coinciding with the Golden Jubilee, those born on 6th February 1952 (Accession Day) were invited to either Buckingham Palace or Holyrood Palace. Similarly, The Duke held garden parties for the 50th anniversary his youth scheme, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, in 2006.
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