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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Up That London, (Part II) The Investiture Ceremony

Friday morning dawned wet and dreary, but were we downhearted? Well, yes, perhaps we were, just a little bit.

Although I have to say that there can't be many hotels at which the proprietor himself holds an umbrella over the guest's head until she is in the car so that her outfit won't get wet.

I know everyone wants chapter and verse on what happened in the Palace but, given how very difficult it is to find any information about investiture ceremonies on the Interwebnet, I have a sneaking suspicion that the finer details are not intended to be discussed in the public domain.

Not wishing to incur the wrath of the monarch, therefore, I shall confine myself to a list of observations so that those of Lady Bracknell's readers who will one day attend such a ceremony on their own account will be well prepared.

  • As the individual being honoured, you get to choose up to three guests. Once you have informed the Palace of your guests' identities, you will be sent formal invitations for them. Without these invitations, your guests will not be able to gain entrance. Unless all four of you are arriving together, therefore, it is a Very Bad Idea Indeed for you to still have all the invitations in your handbag as you approach the Palace. (I was nervous about entrusting the invitations to the Royal Mail, but I should have bitten the bullet and sent them recorded delivery.) We sorted it out in the end, but only after several frantic calls on mobiles and much handing of invitations out of the car window.

  • When the two very burly policeman ask you to open the boot and the bonnet of your car, expect their eyes to light up when your driver responds, "Well, you're welcome to look in the boot...". Of course, Algernon did go on to say, "... and if you can work out how to open the bonnet, be my guest", or words to that effect, but there was a split second when we could see in their eyes that they thought that was where we'd stashed the Uzi.

  • Visit the royal conveniences whether you need to or not: it's an education.

  • If a friend who is not one of your official guests drives you into the inner courtyard, he or she will have to remain there until the ceremony is over. (From the conversation I had with someone from the Chancery earlier in the week, I gather this enforced inactivity is expected to be regarded as something of a privilege rather than as two hours of excruciating tedium.) Algernon kept himself amused by taking photographs of his car in the exclusive surroundings, which he will use at a later date when he comes to sell it. Cunning, no?

  • If, when deciding on Your Outfit, you decide to go down the route of using a personal shopper from a major chain store, don't be surprised if all that store's personal shoppers across the country have made the same recommendation. The two ladies in identical hats and jackets wore themselves to a frazz keeping as large a distance as possible between one another in the holding area (sorry, "Picture Gallery"). To my immense disappointment (hey, I never said I was a nice person), their names weren't alphabetically adjacent, so there was no real danger of Prince Charles saying, "Hold on a tick: haven't I just done you?" to the second one.

  • It really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone to learn that they will be expected to bow or curtsey to whichever member of the royal family is investing them with their honour. But it clearly did. I was disappointed in one of my fellow crips who segued seamlessly into Massive Panic Mode immediately after hearing this news. "But I don't think I can curtsey properly!!". "No, neither can I. But I have no intention of injuring myself by attempting to. I'll do what I can, and that'll have to be sufficient.".

  • Once the ceremony has begun, live footage from it is relayed into the holding area (sorry, "Picture Gallery"). If, on account of being a crip, you are resting with the other crips on an upholstered bench, don't expect to be able to actually see any of this footage. Apparently, even people who have done sufficient good works to merit being honoured by the Queen aren't considerate enough to make sure that their crippy cohorts are included in the full experience. Perhaps they assumed we could stand up if we were really that bothered. Selfish gits.

  • At some point during your forced march through various corridors lined with priceless old masters, a footman will relieve you of your handbag. Don't say, "I don't think that colour suits you", or you will spend the next ten minutes consumed by the horrible realisation that every woman from whom he has ever taken a handbag will have made exactly the same lame joke.

  • The whole process is an incredibly well-oiled machine. The only time you are on your own is when you walk to the dais to receive your medal. Unless you consider members of the royal family to be semi-divine, this part is really nothing to worry about. The royals are used to putting people at their ease and - assuming the Queen would be equally as charming as Prince Charles was to me - it will be a pleasant, if brief, experience. The members of the royal household are, without exception, friendly and pleased for you. They are committed to ensuring that the whole process is as painless as possible.

  • Once out of the ballroom, you are ushered into a further corridor and a delightful gentleman relieves you of your medal temporarily to pack it into its box. You then retrieve your handbag and are ushered by a succession of splendidly-uniformed flunkeys back into the ballroom where you sit on a hideously uncomfortable chair and watch the rest of the ceremony, safe in the knowledge that your part is over.

And now we come to the best bit. Just prior to my entering the ballroom itself, a very nice lady official said, "I don't think you'll want us to do this, but we can take your stick away from you if you'd rather not be carrying it while you're being invested. A lot of people prefer that.".

My response was something along the lines of, "Take my stick away from me? Absolutely not! My entire outfit was designed around my stick!".

To which she replied, "I can see that. It's beautiful. That's the trendiest stick I've seen in seven years of investiture ceremonies.".

So I hope Steve the Stick Man is reading this. Because there can't be many manufacturers of glorious walking sticks who have received that level of praise from a member of the Buckingham Palace staff. I'm only sorry Prince Charles didn't comment on it, but I suppose you can't have everything...

The Editor


Blogger The Goldfish said...

You never know; it might be leaked from one of his Diaries at a later date, especially if he made some scandalous admission that same day. Something like,

"One didn't want to be heir to the throne at all. One wanted to be... a lumberjack! Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! The Fir! The Larch! The Redwood! The mighty Scots Pine! The plucky little Aspen! The great limping rude tree of Nigeria!

"But then today at the Investitures, one saw a lady with the most magnificant walking stick one has ever beheld. That sort of thing really makes the job worth while."

Glad it all went so smoothly. :-)

9:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'stick' episode reminds me of when they tried to take Gandalf's staff from him.

2:52 pm  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

I wonder if they usually take sticks away from people so they don't hit Prince Charles with them?

"But I wanted to meet the Queen! Go away you nasty little substitute!" Whack!

And I don't see why they shouldn't be pleasant to you; you are one of their employers, after all.

8:04 pm  
Blogger Wrinkled Weasel said...

How delightful the occasion must have been, rendered even more so by your lively description.

I went to the Palace many years ago and managed to get lost. I wandered around for about 20 minutes and not one person challenged me. I hope they have decorated since then because I remember that it was all looking a bit tatty.

The stick is remarkable - did you have to import it?

11:28 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Yes, the sticks are shipped over from Florida.

12:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, My Lady, for this post for inclusion in the Disability Blog Carnival # 5. We look forward to seeing you there on December 14 at www.planet-of-the-blind.com

I discovered your blog from a previous Disability Blog Carnival and I've been an admirer of yours ever since!

2:08 am  

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