Monarchy-The Royal Family at Work: On the Move

Previously on Monarchy: The Queen and Prince Philip visited America, with minimal embarrassment.

It’s time for one of the Queen’s annual garden parties, so we catch up with one of the guests: Pearl, an Irishwoman who’s been invited for her contributions to charity. She talks at length about how hard it was to find a hat to go with her dress. Another guest, Anne, talks about her hat as well. It’s all about hats right now. Anne’s going to the party with her colleague, Margaret, who’s treating herself to a spa day in advance of the party.

Meanwhile, at BP, preparations are underway and have been for months. We get to see the crew of ladies who are in charge of writing out the invitations, which sounds like a fairly boring job that they have to carry out in a basement. One of the ladies explains that the garden parties are to thank ordinary people for the things they do.

This party, according to the narrator, will have 8,000 guests and is taking place on a sweltering afternoon. The Queen takes a few minutes to enjoy some small talk with the ambulance crew that’ll be on hand to deal with fainting guests. I feel so sorry for the soldiers and members of the band who’ll have to wear those wool uniforms in that weather. The Queen comments that most of the guests who need help require it because they came unsuitably dressed and arrived too early and had to stand in the sun.

Pearl and her date, Gerry, arrive and stand at the end of the long, long line waiting to get in. In the garden, palace servants set out hundreds of pounds of cake and many gallons of tea. The tea tent and the treats all look lovely. The Queen wanders through, making sure everything’s shipshape.

The Yeomen of the Guard, who will be responsible for making sure nobody invades the Queen’s personal space during the party, get ready, decking themselves in their ceremonial uniforms, which must be torture to wear in hot weather, what with the layers and the stiff collar and all. The leader yells at everyone for not paying attention during the last party because they were too busy checking out the hot women. Heh.

Trivia time! Since the start of her reign, the Queen has hosted more than 2 million people at her garden parties.

Anne and Margaret arrive and ogle the Palace as they pass through to the garden. Pearl and Gerry have made it through as well, and while Gerry doesn’t seem all that impressed, Pearl sure is. The Yeomen herd the crowd so the Queen will have room to mingle. The Senior Gentleman Usher gets to work selecting 100 guests interesting enough to get to meet the Queen one-on-one.

The tea tent is opened and guests pour in, piling their plates with scones and cakes.

The Usher finds Pearl and tells her she’ll be meeting the Queen, which pleases her. He asks her a few questions about what she does and makes some notes to coach Her Majesty before putting Pearl and Gerry in position.

At four o’clock on the dot, the Queen arrives, accompanied by Prince Philip. The band plays the national anthem as she stands at the top of the steps up to the Palace. The song ends and the Queen gets to work. As she makes her way down the line of guests, the Usher coaches Pearl and Gerry on proper etiquette around royals. Thus prepared, they wait in their appointed spot. Margaret and Anne try to find a decent spot so they can have a look. At last, the Queen’s introduced to Pearl and Gerry. She chats with Pearl for a bit before moving on and leaving Pearl all star-struck.

After greeting the appointed guests, the Queen retreats to her own tent for tea before hitting up a VIP tent, where the diplomats get to hang out.

Now we get to follow the Queen on a trip to East Sussex. She’s greeted by the Lord Lieutenant at Brighton Station and then goes on a walkabout, sees some sights, meets some VIPs, and goes to a new children’s centre in a nearby suburb. There, she chats with some of the mums and watches the kids playing in a ball pit. She’s also given a cute art project the kids made, which shows her in a bunch of different hats made from construction paper and glitter.

The next official opening is at the new Arsenal Stadium, where the director’s all excited about getting to meet her. He’s got a jersey for Prince Philip and a silver statue to mark the occasion and everything. He also proudly shows off the guest book, which goes all the way back to 1932, when it was signed by Edward VIII, who abdicated and made Elizabeth’s father king, a job so stressful it probably contributed to his rather early death. Might not want to mention that to her, Director.

A few hours before the ceremony, however, he gets word that the Queen can’t make it because she’s injured her back. Canceling like this is not something she’s in the habit of doing, but things happen. Prince Philip will be coming on his own. He arrives on schedule, waves to the waiting crowd, makes a short speech and a few jokes to the players, media, and higher-ups waiting, then unveils the plaque that says the stadium was opened by the Queen. I wonder if they ended up replacing that? The director’s happy with how the whole thing went.

Now it’s time to follow Prince Charles and Camilla on a trip through Newcastle, where they visit a school and a hospital before heading into the countryside to check out an organic farm (organic farming being one of the Prince’s particular interests). The farmers—a husband and wife team—are a bit nervous, especially the wife, who’s also expected to serve the royal guests tea after their tour. Their kitchen is palatial—I’m jealous! There will also be a stop at a local pub so Charles can meet with some local farmers and talk about the business end of farming. The owner remembers some royal employee stopping by to check out the pub ahead of the visit and stressing a bit that it was so small. The proprietor, Tim, is a little worried about the reception Charles might get, because farmers in that area are having a rough time of it.

The Prince’s helicopter touches down at the farm and Charles and Camilla greet the farmers, who are giggling nervously. Camilla’s kind of cool, putting them at ease and joking about kids and how you can never seem to get them out of the house. They get their tour, even meeting a cow and steer named after them, which they find amusing, and then sit down for a really uncomfortable tea as the cameramen snap away. After tea, the farmers give them some beef and a batch of the wife’s homemade sloe gin. Awesome! The farmer husband thanks Charles for his support over the years and urges him to keep it up. Charles promises to do so.

There’s a crowd waiting at the pub, and the royals are running behind schedule. They finally arrive and do a walkabout, greeting some schoolchildren and the workers from the pub. Charles has a photo taken inside of him trying to pull a pint, unsuccessfully. All he gets is foam. Hee! He sits down with the farmers, and it’s not as antagonistic as Tim thought it would be. Camilla, meanwhile, meets with a local charity group.

Charles interviews that some people accuse him and the other royals of meddling, but he thinks it’s terribly wrong to go around the country and not try and do something where one can. I agree—what’re the royals supposed to do, just lock themselves in their castles and observe real life from a distance? I’d rather they get involved. If they didn’t, people would accuse them of being pointless and elitist. They kind of can’t win, can they?

As Charles and Camilla leave, Tim the pub proprietor enjoys a celebratory pint and says he thinks the visit went well.

Back at BP, the Queen and her private secretary make plans for her next regional visit—a tour of Bradford and Huddersfield.

Behind the Palace, in the Royal Mews, we get to see the Queen’s fleet of cars, which includes the State Bentley that will be used in the next tour. The chauffeur shows how the Bentley hood ornament screws off and is replaced with a Saint George ornament instead when the queen’s in the car. That’s kind of cool. There’s also space at the top for the royal standard.

In Bradford, the Queen arrives at a Hindu temple, where she gets a garland placed around her neck and takes a tour. Outside, a woman named Julia who’s generously referred to as a “royal watcher” (read: stalker) arrives with her kid and her mother to stake out places to check out the Queen. She lives in Sussex and traveled more than a day to see the Queen in Bradford. That’s…dedication. And why’s she dragging this poor kid along? He’s clearly not that into this, and even seems a bit mortified by his mother, not that I blame him. There’s something that seems rather off about this woman. She looks creepy to me. Maybe it’s the coke-bottle glasses or something, but she really does creep me out. And I’ll bet you anything the royal protection officers all know her by sight and keep a close eye on her whenever she shows up. She discusses at length where they should stand while the narrator explains that she’s followed the Queen all over the world for 23 years. Jesus! Stalker! There’s being interested in someone and then there’s following them all over the world for the greater portion of your life! Creepy!

The Queen unveils a plaque at the temple before leaving and climbing back into the Bentley for a trip to Bradford town square, where Julia’s waiting for her.  Julia makes her kid hand over a little bouquet, mostly to get a brief royal captive audience. The Queen’s polite but not exactly ecstatic to see this woman there (and she seems to recognize her). She moves on as soon as she reasonably can. Julia’s delighted by how long she got to talk to the Queen.

Lunch is at the local university, where they’re preparing a curry lunch for her. The Queen’s not terribly fond of spicy food, so they’re making the curries on the mild side for her. The Queen arrives, lassi is poured, food is served, and she seems to love everything. The host is happy.

After lunch, she’s off to Huddersfield town centre for a walkabout. One enthusiastic (but uncreepy) fan is dressed in a Union Jack tee shirt and putting up flag bunting on the crowd barriers. Aww. A nearby band plays Rule Britannia and he starts to sing along, even though he doesn’t know more than a couple of the words.

Oh, look, Julia’s here! Of course she is! And when someone politely asks over a loudspeaker that the adults allow some of the kids in the audience some room up front so they can actually see, she freaks out and acts like that was the most selfish, outrageous thing anyone’s ever asked her to do. Yes, Julia, God forbid some four-year-old should block your access to the Queen. What an awful woman. Off camera, I think her son asks her to stop being so godawful, but she won’t give up her spot.

The Queen arrives and Bunting Man approves of her outfit. Julia whips out a serious camera that probably set her back more than £1,000 and starts snapping away like she’s paparazzi or something. Bunting guy cutely gives the Queen flowers and some pictures he took for her. The Queen thanks him and hands the gifts off to an equerry, who will make sure they’re registered officially.

The Queen evidently feels bad about missing opening the Arsenal stadium, so she invites the team to tea at BP. The staff is drilled in the schedule and menu while the players are drilled in etiquette. As the players’ bus pulls up, the team’s manager jokes that they could get a good game going in the BP courtyard.

The team gets a private tour of the state apartments, given by a slightly star-struck Palace official. The players look a bit bored, if we’re being honest. I don’t think most of them are all that interested in the finer points of some of the Dutch paintings. They’re finally let loose on the tea and treats.

The Queen arrives, preceded by the corgis, which amuses me. She’s introduced to all the players and welcomes them to the Palace. Somewhere, someone’s mobile phone rings. Oops! Note to all: If you’re invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, turn off your damn phone! The players are happy to meet her majesty, and the Palace workers are happy to get to see some of the famous Arsenal players, in particular Thierry Henry.

We finish up with a Christmastime reception for ‘achievers’: people who have done something extraordinary during the year. Zara Phillips is there for her equestrian achievements, David Walliams is recognized for his cross-channel swim for charity (and be brought his mom as his date—aww!), and others are invited for charitable works, projects, etc. Smiling, as always, the Queen greets them all and chats a bit with her guests. Walliams admits to being a bit nervous about meeting her majesty and says he was quite star struck. His mother chimes in to say that the Queen’s a lovely woman, which is true. She’s also got a beautiful smile.

So there we have it, a few days in the public life of a working royal. Next time, we widen the royal circle and follow around William and Harry for a bit.

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