by Barry Pearce, Financial Adviser
The White Ensign Association is a charity providing guidance to all serving and former members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, their Reserves, and their families. Part of the charity’s remit is the provision of specialist advice, and I have the great privilege of being one of a small and trusted team of Financial Advisers helping to provide this service.
An unexpected honour
Earlier this year the charity’s patron, H.R.H. Prince Charles, invited representatives from the White Ensign Association to attend his 70th Birthday Charity Patronage Garden Party, to be held in May at Buckingham Palace. I was both honoured and delighted to be one of the nominated guests, along with my wife Marilyn.
An awe-inspiring setting
On the ‘big day’ our excitement (and nervousness!) grew as we queued outside Buckingham Palace gates with the other guests. The atmosphere was vibrant. There were lots of sightseers milling around Queen Victoria’s statue, all hoping to get a view of the newly married Duke and Duchess of Sussex who were also attending the event.
The gates eventually opened and we were allowed in, and it suddenly dawned on us that we were walking across the courtyard of one of the most famous buildings in the world! We made our way in hushed awe around to the back of the Palace and the fabulous gardens. A brass band was playing on a bandstand beside a huge marquee with rows of tables and chairs outside.
Barry and his wife Marilyn enjoying their afternoon at Buckingham Palace.
We had been queuing for an hour so we made a bee-line for the chairs to sit down and rest our weary feet. This gave us the chance to take in the amazing scene in front of us. It was like the biggest and best wedding you have ever been to. All the ladies were dressed beautifully, showing off countless types of imaginative headgear. The men were dressed in uniforms, morning suits or lounge suits (like myself). It was great to see so many types of uniform, including Gurkhas, Canadian Mounties and those of the UK Emergency Services.
The royal stars of the show
There were plenty of familiar faces mingling in the crowd and we spent a little time ‘people spotting’. Suddenly, there was an expectant hush. We saw a group of people coming out of the Palace towards the steps leading to the garden. There they were – Prince Charles; the Duchess of Cornwall; and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Prince Harry made a touching speech about his “Dear Pa”, despite being attacked by a bee at one point. Once the formalities were over, Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall started the walk to the Royal Tent. The 200-yard walk took nearly an hour, on account of them being introduced to one guest after another along the way.
We were treated to a choir singing songs relating to Charles’ position as the Prince of Wales, one of which was ‘Delilah’. There was more singing from another choir when Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall eventually reached the Royal Tent. They went inside with a hand-picked group of guests to sit down to afternoon tea. No doubt they needed a nice cup of tea after talking to so many people for the last hour! The band continued to play as we made our way back to our seats to our own delicious afternoon tea.
We sat and enjoyed the spectacle until the Royal couple made their (much quicker) way back to the palace. Then we decided to have a walk around the beautiful grounds, complete with lakes and woods. We were hugely impressed with the sheer size of these grounds, right in the middle of London.
Palace visit a day to remember
All too soon, it was time to go home and we made our way out of the palace grounds. It had been a wonderful day. The weather had been kind, the people fascinating, and we had spent the afternoon at a palace rubbing shoulders with royalty. All in all, it was an experience we will remember for the rest of our lives.