Some suggestions on how and where to see the Royal Family in 2012
In the following posts, I am setting out details of some of the main Royal events of 2012. What I have set out is based on extracts from articles I have written and in which I retain first British serial rights [copyright.] but which I am reproducing here in case what I have said is of interest to members of TRF.
The events I have mentioned are in no way intended to be an exhaustive calendar of BRF events, but instead are intended to be a guide for people who may wish to try to see something of the BRF.
It is particularly worth stressing that since 2012 is Diamond Jubilee Year, the Queen and Prince Philip are expected to be appearing up and down the whole of the country during the first half of the year, so that as many people as possible have the opportunity to see something of their monarch. Obviously the official royal family website and local newspapers will give details of these engagements, My list therefore concentrates on the more regular ‘hardy perennials’.
Some of the events I have mentioned below have their basis in the so-called London [summer] Season; others are more general events in which the BRF are (usually) regular participants.
As I compiled this list, one interesting thought that struck me is how the list has changed over the years. The ending of Court Presentations obviously had an impact on the shape of the royal year, and indeed this topic deserves a thread all on its own. Other events ‘come and go’ for a variety of reasons. Events such as the Royal Caledonian Ball [held annually in May at the Grosvenor House Hotel] used to be enormously important for ‘royal watchers’ in the past; Princess Margaret used to be a regular Royal guest, and Princess Anne attended before her marriage. Nowadays, the RCB still continues as a very popular London event but does not enjoy a high royal profile.
Some once-popular events no longer take place. The Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair, held at the Hotel of that name, was a popular London event with a royal connection that was held around the time of Royal Ascot Week. Queen Mary was the original patron of the fair; the Queen Mother then took her place, often lending treasures of her own for the loan exhibition. After her death, Princess Alexandra took her place. And then, in 2009, the Grosvenor House Hotel suddenly announced that the fair was being discontinued. This was a sad time for those of us who had enjoyed viewing priceless antiques and works of art, many with interesting royal and princely provenances from around the world, in the elegant surroundings of the Great Room of the Grosvenor House Hotel.
Not all events are ‘formal ones’. One of the completely informal events that eventually grew into a tradition but sadly is no longer with us for obvious reasons was the celebration of the Birthday of the late Queen Mother. Up until 2001, on August 4, many ‘royal watchers’ used to turn up at Clarence House to wish Her Majesty a happy birthday. The day was invariably a sunny one and there was usual music from one of the bands of the Household Division, followed by the appearance of the Queen Mother. In addition, there was also the bonus of a very good turn-out of other royals, including the Queen and Prince of Wales and other royal grandchildren and latterly royal great-grandchildren.
In my very humble opinion, one of the greatest strengths of the British Royal Family is how its members are so easily visible to members of the public. I have taken American friends to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, only for them to gasp with amazement when the Queen has walked past a couple of feet away looking at the shops. Apparently security concerns would have prevented the possibility of such a close encounter with the President of the United States.
Horseracing has also provided members of the public with an opportunity to come across members of the royal family in an informal setting – again, American friends whom I took to the Derby some years ago were amazed when the Queen Mother suddenly strolled by with a kind word to all. I have to say that one of the many downsides of the recent remodelling of Ascot Racecourse was the way that the BRF are no longer able to mingle with visitors, ironic as one of the intentions of the remodelling was to make Ascot ‘more democratic’. Before the barriers appeared, members of the BRF used to mix with race goers in the Paddock, not just the Royal Enclosure. White lines painted on the routes to and from the paddock [known as ‘tramlines’] marked the expected path of the royals when they left the Royal Box in order to inspect the runners and riders. Although nothing was ever written down, people knew to step smartly aside from the ‘tramlines’ if and when members of the BRF approached. The Queen was always surrounded by Household Staff and protection offices, but the latter were always in formal morning dress and therefore ‘blended in’ and looked like ordinary race goers. The Duchess of Kent used to walk about with minimal security, greeting everyone with ‘how good to see you’. Princess Anne, often in the company of Andrew Parker Bowles did not even bother to keep to the tramlines and used to take her own route to the paddock. Princess Diana was another ‘good mingler’, once asking me [although I did not know her!!] if I had a tip for the next race and then producing her race card [programme] for me to pronounce upon! Fortunately my suggestion [the favourite] turned out to be correct. [Much to my surprise!] How sad that since the rebuilding of Ascot Racecourse, the Royal Family move to and from the Paddock behind barriers, although, refreshingly, Princess Eugenie used the ‘ordinary’ public routes last year.
Here then are my suggestions for some serious royal spotting etc in 2012. Enjoy!
Jan 1 Royal Ascot Royal Enclosure List opens for new applications.
Jan 6 to Jan 15 London International Boat Show. Royal participation is never 100 per cent certain but in the past Prince Phillip and Princess Anne have visited and so there is always an outside chance of a ‘drop in’ royal visit.
Early February 2012 Queen returns to Buckingham Palace following the end of her Winter break at Sandringham. According to some seasoned royal watchers, Her Majesty also starts contemplating her house party for Royal Ascot during this month.
March 9 Grand Military Gold Cup Day at Sandown Park. Important National Hunt [horse racing over the jumps] event; very strong military connection, and a huge favourite date of the late Queen Mother. Chance of a Royal presence as it is Jubilee year. Andrew Parker Bowles also usually turns up.
March 13 to 16 National Hunt Festival, Cheltenham. [horse racing ‘over the jumps’] Always good for a chance of ‘royal-spotting’: the Queen Mother used to attend regularly, along with her house party. The Queen has attended in the past, but nowadays, a ‘royal presence’ is provided by Zara Phillips, who often attends on at least on one day.
March 16 to April 1 The Ideal Home Show, London. In the past, this exhibition was often graced with a royal visit. Royal visits then tailed off completely until in 2011, Prince Charles attended and so there is always an outside chance of a ‘drop in’ royal visit.
March 31 Royal Enclosure List for new applicants closes.
April 5 Maundy Service at a British City to be confirmed.
April 8. Easter Sunday. Royal Family at Windsor Castle. Church services provide an opportunity to see most family members.
April 12 to 14 Grand National [national hunt (jump) racing] meeting at Aintree, near Liverpool. No longer so important in Royal terms, but in the past there has been a royal presence at the meeting, including the Prince and Princess of Wales.
April 21 The Queen’s Birthday Gun Salute in Hyde Park, 12 noon. No actual BRF presence but an interesting ceremony to watch.
3 to 7 May Badminton Horse Trials. In the old days, the then Duke of Beaufort (known as ‘Master’) used to hold a large house party at which there was often a very large presence of ‘senior royals’ including the Queen and the Queen Mother. Nowadays, likely visitors include Zara Phillips, who often competes, as well as her father Mark and sometimes the Princess Royal.
9 to 13 May Royal Windsor Horse Show. Held annually in the grounds of Windsor Castle, this is a wonderful events for the dedicated royal-watcher. You can turn up on the day (booking in advance is NOT required] and buy a modestly-priced ticket which gives you admission to the show, which is held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle. The Queen and Prince Phillip and often the Wessex family turn up, and you can watch them wandering about without barriers as they enjoy the show. The Queen tours the trade stands [shops] on the first day, Wednesday, and then watches the action from the Royal Box in the Castle Arena each day. Plenty of free seating elsewhere in the Castle Arena for the general public. This year, the RWHS is very important, because on 3 evenings, the Diamond Jubilee equestrian pageant is to be performed.
May 21 to 26 Chelsea Flower Show. The show starts with the famous royal visit on Monday 21st, when there is usually a very significant turn out of royals from the Queen downwards. Following the royal visit, a member of the BRF usually remains behind to attend the charity gala. Tickets for this gala are available (at a price!!) to the public, although they tend to sell out very early. Royal watchers however can wait at the Bull Ring gate [Thames Embankment] to watch the royals arrive and leave.
May 24 to 27 – Monaco Grand Prix Despite taking place in the Principality of Monaco, traditionally this has been regarded as part of the ‘English Season’ (!). Usually a chance to see Beatrice and Eugenie, [as well as their mother!] Prince Michael of Kent, a huge fan of motor racing, often turns up as well, accompanied more often than not by his wife.
May 29 (to be confirmed) Founder's Day at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Home of the Chelsea Pensioners, Prince Harry took the salute in 2011. Possibly time for another visit from a member of the BRF as this is diamond jubilee year.
June 2 to 5 Diamond Jubilee Central Weekend. Plans for this are still be formulated, but we do know that on 2 June the Queen will attend the Derby [Horse Race held at Epsom racecourse just outside London] and on 3 June the Thames Pageant will take place. Bank Holidays [public holidays] will follow on 4 and 5 June. Obviously there is so much to mention about this that it will merit a separate section on TRF.
June 5 and 7 Beating Retreat, Horse Guards Parade. Band of The Royal Marines. Unlike the Household Division Event, the Royal Marines beat Retreat only every 3 years, to commemorate the birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh. Usually HRH turns up to one of the performances.
June 13 and 14, Beating Retreat, Horse Guards Parade. The Household Division beat retreat. The salute is usually taken on one night by a member of the royal family. The Princess Royal even rode in the parade one year. Tickets are on sale to the public.
June 16 The Birthday Parade, Horse Guards [Trooping the Colour]. Whilst the Queen and Prince Phillip and other senior members arrive by carriage, it’s a very important royal occasion, with Royal Colonels riding in the Parade, whilst spouses watch from the buildings overlooking the parade ground. Afterwards, the BRF return to Buckingham Palace for the famous ‘balcony appearance’ whilst they watch the air display. Reheasals take place on the two preceding Saturdays, but will only include a royal presence if a Royal Colonel is actually involved. The Queen does not appear at these rehearsals.
June 17 final of The Queen’s Cup [polo]. A good chance that the Queen will be there – the sponsor for the first time is Cartier. Always a possibility that keen players William / Harry might roll up for some of the fun as well, sadly as spectators and not players.
June 18 Garter Service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Royal Garter Knights join other Garter Knights in the procession.
June 19 to 23 Royal Ascot. Hugely important in the calendar for royal-watchers: a huge turnout of the BRF over the 5 days. The Queen and Prince Phillip head the carriage procession each day, with different members of the BRF [along with non-royal guests] joining them each day. Ignorant reporters tend to concentrate on the ‘fancy hat’ aspect, without noting that Royal Ascot week is really about the best flat racing in the world. The Queen hosts a huge house party at Windsor Castle over the week; lucky guests are invited to stay the whole of the week, others are invited for lunch only. Since this is Diamond Jubilee year, it is bound to be a very important Royal Ascot, as was the case with the Golden Jubilee in 2012.
July 3 to July 8. Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The Duchess of Cornwall has ‘dropped in’ informally over the past couple of years, and so there is always a good chance that she will do so in 2012. Hampton Court Palace is just outside London.
July 6 to 8 British Grand Prix, Silverstone, Northants. [Formula 1 motor racing]. Over the years Prince William and Harry have turned up; now, the royal presence is usually confined to appearances from Prince Michael of Kent, and Beatrice and Eugenie, accompanied by their mother.....
July: Dates to be confirmed: Royal Garden parties usually take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Buckingham Palace. Additionally, a party is usually held in Scotland at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The dates for this year’s parties have not been confirmed yet, although two parties are apparently [unusually] being held on 22 and 22 May. I will update this section when I get more details. Although the Queen’s British subjects have to wait to be invited (!), intending foreign guests can apply to their Embassy or High Commission [if a Commonwealth citizen] for an invitation.
July 21 The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot racecourse. The event commemorates the Queen’s parents and thus historically was a very important event involving the BRF, with the Queen Mother attending with the Queen. Although the Queen is no longer a ‘cert’ [racing parlance!] for attendance, there is usually a senior member on parade. In 2011, Prince Harry and his friends turned up in the Royal Box.
July 15 Final of the British Open Polo Championships, the Cowdray Park Gold Cup. The Prince of Wales used to compete each year, even reaching the final in 1987. Nowadays, the royal presence is usually limited to occasion appearances by Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, together with their mother. Sarah is a friend of Lord Cowdray.
July 22 International Polo for the Coronation Cup at Smith’s Lawn, Windsor Great Park. In the recent past, a hugely important fixture in the royal watchers’ calendar - The Queen used to present the Trophy for the main match and Prince Charles used to play in the second match. In recent years, Prince Charles has given up competitive polo and the event has also become regarded as somewhat ‘Euro-Trashy’, with the result that the Queen is said to have become disenchanted and no longer attends. However, with William and Harry still playing polo competitively, some sort of royal presence at the event cannot be complete discounted.
July 27 to August 12 The 2012 London Olympics. This will probably merit its own section on the website, but it is likely to be a major event for the BRF. The Queen and Prince Philip will no doubt attend both the opening and closing ceremonies, plus other events. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have, of course, been chosen as Olympic Ambassadors. The Princess Royal is of course going to be heavily involved, as she is president of the British Olympic Association and also a UK member of the International Olympic Committee as well as Board Member of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, no doubt reflecting the fact that she is a former Olympic Competitor. Mark Phillips is heavily involved in the equestrian side of the games and there is also a good chance that (fingers crossed!!) Zara will follow in her mother’s footsteps as a competitor herself.....
July 31 to August 4 Glorious Goodwood. Horseracing meeting in Sussex. Previously a very important royal occasion in earlier reigns, but sadly no longer. For some reason, the BRF no longer attend, with rumours persisting amongst ‘those in the know’ about some sort of ‘row’ taking place. Who knows what really happened. I am nevertheless including the meeting here as it is an important part of the English Summer Season and so perhaps the Queen will visit as it is Diamond Jubilee year.
Early August – The Queen departs for her summer holiday at Balmoral. The timing will no doubt depend on the Olympics and the Paralympics. (see above and below)
August 29 to September 9 The 2012 London Paralympics. Major royal participation can be assured.
August 11 to 18 Cowes Week, Isle of Wight. Held a bit later in the month than is usual because of the London 2012 Olympics, this major sailing event is NOT quite as important for royal watchers as it used to be in the past, when the Royal Yacht Britannia used to anchor off Cowes, with a major royal presence at both the sailing and social events. Despite the absence of Britannia however, there is an outside chance of a royal presence, with Zara Phillips having attending in the recent past.
August 30 to 2 September 2 Burghley Horse Trials, Stamford, Lincolnshire. Zara Phillips usually competes and Mark Phillips is usually involved as well. In 2011, the Princess Royal also attended.
September 14 to 16 Gatcombe Park Horse Trials; held at the home of the Princess Royal, and therefore a very good chance of spotting members of the Phillips family.
Early October – The Queen returns to Buckingham Palace after her summer break.
October 20 Qipco Champions Day [horse racing] at Royal Ascot. Vastly important day in the racing calendar, with the Queen and Duke of York having attending the inaugural event in 2011. It is therefore possible that there will be a significant royal presence again in 2012
November 4 London to Brighton Veteran Car run. Prince Michael of Kent participates, driving a veteran car. His passengers usually include Princess Michael. Just turn up and watch from any convenient part on the London to Brighton Road [The A23]
November 10 and 11. Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on the Saturday, followed by Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on the Sunday. Not really possible to get tickets for the Festival [which is arranged through The Royal British Legion] but members of the public line the streets on the following day for the Act of worship and the march past. A solemn occasion with senior members of the BRF laying wreaths whilst their families watch from overlooking windows in Whitehall.
December 2012 Christmas events at Buckingham Palace in the pre-Christmas week, with the Royal Family then departing for Sandringham for the holiday period, with appearances at Sandringham Church on Christmas Day and then each weekend until the Queen returns to Buckingham Palace in the new year.
Tickets of most of the events I have nentioned above are available quite easily and often start at a fairly modest price. Google for the appropriate official website of the event for details.
Happy Royal Watching to all in 2012 and if you plan to visit the UK from abroad, then I hope that you can manage to time your trip in order to coincide with one or more royal events!
Thanks Alex. Just a minor correction, it is the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge that are the Olympic Ambassadors along with Prince Harry.
Thanks for that NGalitzine - now amended. I realised when I was typing this out that I had put Cornwall instead of Cambridge somewhere but could not find where I had made the mistake - too much Xmas spirit obviously!
Wow. The Windsors are in for a busy and exciting year.
What a busy year! I'll be happy just to be in London while they are there (May 25-31), would love to see the trooping of the colors one day (and to afford tickets to the flower show on Royal Gala opening day).
The interesting point Daria is that the above schedule of events is only a list of the annual attendances. As well as these royal appearances, the Queen has to carry out the day to day business of being a monarch [royal engagements, correspondence, planning, speech drafting, weekly audience with Prime Minister] Investitures for those who gain an honour [OBE etc] AS WELL as fitting in a very very extensive schedule of visits planned for the Diamond Jubilee, when it is planned that the Queen and Prince Philip will travel the country for the first months of the year.....
Whilst I do concede that the Queen has the service of a devoted team plus a huge amount of domestic and logisitical back-up [so she does not have to drive herself to events or prepare the meals etc!] it is still a formidable amount of work for a person well past retirement age........
It's interesting if during the Jubilee celebrations the minor royals will be involved in some activities.
I am just curious as to what goes about when the Queen has a jubilee doesn't it involve the commissioning of new commonwealth coins?
Once, when I was in London with my husband, we noticed that one of the James Bond films was being premiered. We thought perhaps we would go and hang around the theater in hopes of seeing some stars. It then occurred to me that perhaps there would be a royal presence at the premiere, and I checked the court circular. To my delight, the Prince and Princess of Wales were to attend.
We went to the neighborhood of the theater in a timely manner, and there was a smallish crowd on either side of the street for a few blocks.
By and by, a long line of limousines headed up the street, and sure enough, there were Roger Moore, the Bond girls, 'Miss Moneypenny', 'M',
'Q', Vijay Armitraj, and others.
A murmur rippled through the crowd: the Princess is coming! And sure enough, along came the Rolls with the PoW's standard fluttering. It stopped directly in front of us, and the very lovely Diana, wearing a silver one-shouldered gown, was on our side of the car. We gaped and smiled as politely as we could, and both she and Charles smiled and waved in a most gracious manner. The car moved on, and so did we. Very thrilling, very satisfying.
I note that she did wear the silver gown on more than one occasion, so possibly some others will recall it.
Here's a picture I found:
In addition to Zara's mother being a competitor I am sure that she would like to emulate her father - and actually win a medal, something her mother failed to do. Mark was on the Gold Medal winning team in 1972 while Anne competed in 1976.
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