- Dominic Lipinski/ AFP Photo/ Getty Images.
- Her Majesty the Queen hosts several garden parties in the grounds of Buckingham Palace each year.
- Senior members of the royal family, including Kate Middleton and Prince William, are known to attend – but so are members of the public.
- Thousands of citizens are nominated by their employers each year to join Her Majesty for tea and cake at her royal residence as a reward for their “public service.”
- But that’s not the only way you can bag an invite to the prestigious events.
- INSIDER spoke to three people who have no royal connections but managed to gain entry to one of the Queen’s lavish parties.
- They shared their tips on how to get an invite, and what to expect if you do make it inside the palace grounds.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Her Majesty hosts several parties each summer in the private grounds of Buckingham Palace. Those invited are expected to dress for the occasion – a dress and fascinator for women, and a suit for men – and attendees are treated to live music, tea and cake, and free range of the gardens.
Here’s the best part: you don’t have to be royal to attend.
INSIDER spoke to three past attendees – non of whom had royal connections – about how they bagged their invites.
If you’re from New Zealand or Australia, you can enter an online lottery
New Zealander Greg Agnew was scrolling through Instagram when he came across two acquaintances who “weren’t the type of people to be invited” to the Queen’s garden party – yet, there they were, posing for pictures in the private grounds of Buckingham Palace.
Agnew knew these people had no connection to the British royal family, which led him to wonder how they gained admission to one of the most prestigious events on the royal calendar.
- Greg Agnew.
“It just took a bit of research on the internet. I stumbled upon the New Zealand High Commission website, and the details were right there,” Agnew told INSIDER.
“Basically, the rules say that anyone from Australia and New Zealand can request tickets. You enter into a lottery, and that’s all it takes.”
Agnew, an investor in companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook who lives in Los Angeles, followed suit and sent in his application in October 2016.
Six months later, he was boarding a flight to London with his wife, Nicole, invitations in hand.
Otherwise, you can be nominated by your place of work
According to the royal family’s official website, “it is not possible to acquire invitations to The Queen’s Garden Parties through direct application to Buckingham Palace,” however “a long established network of sponsors is used to invite guests.”
That means those who work for “Societies and Associations, Government Departments, Local Government, the Services, the Church and other Faiths” can be nominated for an invitation by their employer as a reward for their public service.
Sarah Blinco, a senior internal communications officer at the British Medical Association, said she had no idea you could be nominated for an invite until a colleague put her forward to attend the Queen’s garden party this past May.
- Sarah Blinco.
“I had helped implement a mentoring scheme to help newer staff at work. This involved speaking to senior members of staff, bringing them together as mentors and putting together profiles for them,” Blinco told INSIDER.
“Staff could then go though profiles and choose people to mentor them, based on who they hoped to develop similar skills from.
“Someone I mentored really appreciated the support, and she nominated me.”
After receiving an email from her boss asking if she would like to attend, Blinco says she “thought he was joking” – that was, until she recieved an official invitation from the palace.
- Sarah Blinco.
75-year-old Pat McClelland was nominated in a similar way. McClelland volunteers as a a shop assistant at a charity shop run by Sue Ryder, a national healthcare charity that provides palliative, neurological, and bereavement care.
McClelland, who attended the Queen’s garden party with her daughter in May this year, said she was nominated by the charity’s head office for her dedication to the organisation.
- Pat McClelland.
“We got a new Ethos computer system, and I did some testing for it before it went into the shops. I did it for 12 months, and it involved taking two train rides, two bus rides, and a taxi between one and two days every week,” she explained.
“There was a phone call for me at work, asking if I’d be available to attend the Queen’s garden party. I had recieved four nominations from head office.”
There’s a strict order of business – and plenty of rules
If you’re coming to the party as a citizen of New Zealand or Australia, you must first go to the consulate in London with your ID, passport, and invitation before being handed your official ticket of entry.
After going through security checks at the palace’s front gate, attendees are ushered through the palace before entering the courtyard.
Attendees are strictly discouraged from taking photos of the inside of the palace, according to McClelland, who said she and her daughter got in trouble “for taking a photo of a palace guard.”
- Greg Agnew.
When the party finally begins, those who who have been pre-selected to chat with the Queen, William, and Kate are “positioned strategically,” according to Agnew.
“They had people who would walk around and pre-choose who was to have a conversation, and those people that had been selected had been positioned strategically every hundred metres or so, and the members of the royal family would go along and talk to one group of people and move to the next,” he said.
Agnew added that although there was security at the event, it was very “discreet.”
“There was no sign of armed police. I live in the United States now, and if you go anywhere near the President, the Secret Service are not secret. You know they’re there, you know they’re armed, and you don’t disobey them. But this was much more British – much more discreet and much more polite, everyone just followed the rules.”
- Greg Agnew.
“I’m sure there were lots of undercover police and military people just dressed in suits and formal wear,” he added.
“We were an arms length away from the royal family – there’s no barrier, no rope, noting at all that would stop a crazy person from doing anything. They do it very subtly, and very well.”
One surprising rule the royals did remain strict on was a “no selfie” policy.
“The one thing they talked about a lot was no selfies, and the reason was that they didn’t want people turning their backs to the royal family and the queen. And that was very important to them,” Agnew explained.
Despite the somewhat strict rules, attending a party with the royals was “an experience I’ll never forget,” according to McClelland.
“Receiving an invitation to the Queen’s garden party with a Buckingham Palace stamp on it – well, that really changes the definition of receiving royal mail,” she said.