Who gets invited to Royal garden parties?
Each year the Lord Lieutenant is asked to nominate individuals who may wish to attend a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace. All persons nominated must be British citizens, resident in the United Kingdom and living within the Lieutenancy area of Bedfordshire. Those nominated are to be drawn from as wide a range as possible, and must not have previously attended one of Her Majesty's Garden Parties.
If you wish to nominate a member of your local community, please write to the Lieutenancy Office with the name of the person you wish to nominate, their correct and full postal address and state why you feel the individual should be considered. Nominations are received all year round, but the closing date for nominations in each particular year is 31st October. The Lord Lieutenant will consider the request and, if they feel the nomination is suitable, will write to the nominated individual asking if they would like to attend, the name of their guest and on which of the 3 dates they would like to receive an invitation.
Those nominated on the Lord Lieutenant list will receive an invitation which will be sent from the Lord Chamberlain's Office approximately 4 to 6 weeks prior to the date chosen.
The British Monarchy website offers further information on royal garden parties.
How many people attend and is there a dress code?
Approximately 8,000 people are invited to each party, and in order to ensure a cross-section of people attend quotas are reserved for public organisations such as the Civil Service, the Armed Forces, as well as charities and societies. During the Queen's reign, more than 1.1 million people have attended garden parties.
There is a dress code, and you'd stick out like a sore thumb if you decided not to abide by it. Gentlemen are encouraged to wear morning dress or lounge suits while women wear afternoon dress, usually with hats or fascinators. National dress and uniform is also allowed. Smart restraint tends to be the overriding theme. You're unlikely to find the sort of risqué dresses that have begun appearing at Ascot in recent years.
What happens at each party?
Guests are allowed into the grounds at 3pm after a lengthy security search. The tea party takes place in 'the garden', which is in fact 40 acres of meticulously sculpted parkland that was first laid out by James I in 1609. The Royal Family enters the garden at 4pm, accompanied by a military brass band playing the national anthem. They then circulate through specially formed 'lanes' to make sure as many people as possible get to speak to at least one member of the monarchy.
How long has the tradition been going on?
The first Royal Garden Parties were held in the 1860s when Queen Victoria began hosting 'breakfasts', despite the fact that they were held in the afternoon. Fuelled by imports of tea from its colonies, British high society had taken afternoon tea breaks to their heart and the monarchy wrapped this into royal tradition by hosting two garden parties a year. In the 1950s a third garden party was added at Buckingham Palace to replace the traditional presentation parties for debutantes which had fallen out of fashion.
Are there any other occasions when parties are hosted?
Yes, every year there is also a garden party for the Not Forgotten Association, a charity for war veterans. But from time to time the Royal Family will host one-off garden parties to commemorate certain events or institutions.
Garden parties have been held to celebrate the Territorial Army's 100th anniversary, the centenary of the British Red Cross's Royal Charter, and the Lambeth Conference, where the world's Anglican bishops meet in Canterbury once every 10 years. In 1997, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh also put on a garden party for couples who were sharing their golden wedding anniversary with them. A separate party was also held on 2002 on the 6 February to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee.
How to apply
Please complete the Nomination Form which is only for Bedfordshire nominations (i.e. people who live/work within the county) stating why you feel the individual should be considered to attend a Royal Garden Party. Lord-Lieutenants within other counties have their own forms. Nomination forms have to be received by the 31st October for consideration to attend a Garden Party in the following year.
You can contact the Lord Lieutenant in the following ways if you require further information:
By letter (address your letter to):
HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire
c/o The Lieutenancy Office
Begin your letter with ‘Dear Lord-Lieutenant’.
By telephone: 0300 300 6090 (Lisa Hutchinson)
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