Harte and Garter Hotel - Room No 109
Up early and down to breakfast at 7 am. Everyone is getting excited.
I started to get dressed and then realised that the three weeks on board the Queen Mary 2 had taken its toll on the hips and when I went to zip up my skirt - oops, it was a tad difficult. I needed a bit of help from Phil to do the final two inches!!! So, now the hat. This is the part of my outfit that has been causing me the most angst as I am not used to wearing hats and am hoping that it will just sit beautifully and not move. The hat is on and it is looking good. I keep bumping it because I'm not used to wearing a hat, but on the whole it feels pretty secure.
Those of us staying at the Harte and Garter have agreed to meet in the foyer at 9am, because the entrance to Windsor Castle opens at 9.15 am and we have noticed that this year, that there are no seat numbers on the invitations. There is free seating for all within their dedicated sections and I want the Aussies who are attending for the first time, to have a seat in the front row.
We notice the Town Crier is out on the street, so we gave him a whistle to come and have a photo with us, as we are all looking pretty "spech", even if I do say so myself. We are bombarded by the Australian media who have heard our accent. There is a television crew from Channel 10 Australia and a reporter from NewsCorp. They want to talk about the baby, but what would we know. Then they suddenly realise we are all dressed up with medals and then asked about that and Doug told them all about the Royal Victorian Order. It was great fun and I believe that that night, we were seen on the Channel 10 news in Australia!
So we all enter the Castle and proceed through security and then into St George's Chapel. As I am sitting in the Quire, I have a different entry from the others, but there is someone on hand at every turn, and it was a breeze. I am the first to arrive in the Quire and am met by Maxine Murray, the Deputy Secretary at the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood who has been so nice to deal with over the months and who is responsible for my fabulous seat in the Quire. Thank you Maxine. I gave her a small gift, just to say thank you. It is a gold kangaroo lapel pin with an opal tummy. It is lovely and she puts it on straight away. It looks very nice on her suit and during the morning I noticed her colleagues commenting on it.
As it is very early, not many people have arrived yet, so the girls come into the Quire for a peek. They came and sat with me and chatted for a while. It was nice. Kevin Skipworth took a totally illegal photo of the four of us sitting in the Quire!
There are only 52 seats in the Quire and most of them are for members of the Royal Family, the Choir of St George's Chapel, the Choir of The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Order and the Military Knights. The Military Knights are resplendent in red uniforms emblazoned with so much gold, I almost needed sun glasses!
I am sitting in the back row with seven "normal" people, five places away from Her Majesty. There are about 10 "normal" people on the other side, so I am feeling very special. Michael Jackson, LVO from Canada is on one side of me and Captain David Guy, MVO, RN, an equerry for The Queen's 1977 trip to Canada, is on the other.
The organist has been playing for about half an hour and then a fanfare announces the arrival of Her Majesty and the Royal Family. They include Princess Alexandra, Princess Anne and her husband, Tim Laurence, Prince Michael of Kent, The Duke of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Princes Andrew and Edward. We are disappointed that Kate and William aren't there, but it is Princess Charlotte's birthday party today, so that's where they are. And Meghan and Harry - well that goes without saying. Prince Charles and Camilla don't ever attend. I'm not sure why.
During the service, I kept looking up at The Queen and each time she was staring at me so we had quite a few eye contact moments. I really think she wanted my hat!
At the end of the service, we all proceeded to the reception rooms. I followed the other people from the Quire and found myself alone in a huge room, keeping my eye on the door for the other Aussies. Finally Geoff Hay found me having a champers, but as the room filled up it was harder and harder to spot the others as everyone was so tall and with 1,200 people in several rooms, this was going to be a task. I wandered around a few of the rooms until I found the group, and then we went Royal hunting.
We found Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and her husband Vice Admiral Tim Laurence and had nice chats with them. We went searching for The Queen but we couldn't find her. She is quite short and unfortunately for the newbies, we didn't even glimpse her. Such a shame for them. We did have a chat with Reverend Canon Professor Peter Galloway, the Chaplain of the Order (at St George's Chapel and the Savoy Chapel) and apologised for not being able to attend the service at the Savoy on Sunday, but we would be on our way home by then.
All too soon it was time to go, so we wandered down the hill, out the huge gates and back to normality. A local woman on the streets of Windsor stopped us and asked us why we were all dressed up and where we had been, so we chatted to her for ages.
I got back to the hotel at about 3 ish, and Phil was sitting in the lounge with Kathy and Maurice Dalton having a drink. Maurice was with Phil in Turkey in the early seventies, and as a member of the Royal Victorian Order had come up from Kent for this morning's function. It was nice to meet then and we sat there for hours chatting.
A German man in the lounge approached us and asked me if he could take my photo, because I looked so nice! It's THAT hat again! We all laughed and I said yes, of course. We all laughed a lot at that!
We were given a huge bottle of champagne on our arrival on the Queen Mary 2 and it was too big for just two of us to drink in one go, so Phil has been lugging this thing all over the UK for three weeks. So when Doug, Maria and Caroline joined us, Phil got the bottle from the bar fridge, and we polished off the champers in record time. A very nice way to end a very special day.
But there was more to come. Gerri Warner had told us about a fabulous Greek restaurant just down the road, so twelve of us went there for a very nice dinner. All reports were that everyone enjoyed their meal and wine very much. Poor Kathy and Maurice then had a two hour drive to Kent, but they were happy to have missed peak hour traffic.
It has been raining a bit and it's freezing, but I still can't say that I am happy to be going home tomorrow. This has been a very memorable and wonderful six weeks.
Phil has never been to Windsor before and he just loves it. It is a very pleasant town with lots of eateries and very easy to walk around.
Haven't packed yet and into bed about midnight, a very tired but very happy girl! It has been a very special day!