The Queen held one of her garden parties in honour of the WI centenary this July, she only throws 6 such parties a year so it felt really exciting. 8000 women were invited and each group was asked to hold a ballot to pick members . Our group held this in March and Laura Glendinning’s name was pulled out of the hat. All the other members names who wanted to go were sent to the Essex Federation. I think because we are a big group 4 further members were chosen at random.
June 2nd was the garden party day, the group, Laura, Christine Vinell, Helen Walley, Rachel Emmerson and Seyi Akiwowo met altogether at St James Park Station, where it was easy to spot lots of other WI women arriving in big hats and posh frocks, covered in coats and rain gear. Unfortunately the weather was not good! Luckily the rain did stay away but the wind kept going. . Emma Jones from the Leytonstone branch came with us, as she was the only one from that branch who was attending
As we approached Buckingham Palace you could see a long line of women, all dressed up, taking photos, there was lots of laughter and excitement and at 1.45 the queue started moving into the front of the palace. We had been told we couldn’t take photos but we checked this out early on, Rachel asked a Beefeater (yes a Beefeater!!) and he made it clear that they couldn’t stop us all but asked us to be discreet.
Walking out into the grounds was lovely, there is a vast terrace at the back leading onto the lawn, there was a massive marquee to the left this to collect our tea, there were further marquees for the Royal tea, the royals didn’t mix with us ordinary members! There seemed to be two factions within the garden, those who prioritised the tea and those that prioritised seeing the Royals. The Duchess of Cambridge – Camilla, Duchess of Wessex – Sofia and the Duchess of Gloucester – Brigitte, were the Royals that attended and they spent at least an hour mingling and chatting, we got a brief glimpse as they left the terrace.
We prioritised the tea!
The Tea – as we arrived there was lemon barley water handed out and there were two brass bands that played throughout. Of course everything was impeccably organised lots of people on hand to help. Tea was served at 3pm, the queues were too long, which was good as we were ready for a cuppa! Our very own Christine was the first to get served!
The menu was extensive*, and you were encouraged to have a try of everything – so we did! Really delicious sandwiches, cakes and canapés, followed by ice cream.
After tea we had a walk around the vast gardens, they include a lake, tennis courts, and rose garden. It was fantastic talking to everyone it felt as though we knew everyone because we all had the WI in common. As it drew towards 5pm the sun did come out, the wind did not die down and throughout the afternoon you could see women chasing after their hats across the lawn. The band played its last tune, the national anthem, and then we sang Jerusalem. It was a fabulous afternoon which will not be forgotten.