Back in November I received a letter that I couldn’t quite take in. It was delivered ‘on her majesty’s service’ and was a letter inviting me to accept an honour from the Queen.
I couldn’t understand it at first, someone had regarded me as somebody who should be considered and I was taken aback somewhat. I duly accepted and after reading the words “in strictest confidence” decided to keep the news to immediate family. In reality, I wasn’t entirely sure it was genuine, so I wanted to wait until the announcement.
But it was true and this week I had the absolute pleasure of her Majesty’s company. Albeit for around 60 seconds, but those 60 seconds were shared between solely me and the Queen and it was wonderful.
I took my mum, dad and Jamie who is 6 and delighted to get two days off school down to stay overnight at a gorgeous hotel with a pool & spa. We arrived at the Palace a few minutes early and were directed to drive through the crowds to get to the gates where the car was searched by security guards. We entered the gates and directed through to the quadrangle of the palace – driving almost beneath the main balcony. The palace guards presented arms as we approached.
We parked in the quadrangle and walked up the red carpeted entrance– the one we’ve all seen the Royal Family use hundreds of times.
It led us to the main reception room, from here there were rooms off at every angle, we were ushered up some stairs where I was separated from my family. Mum, dad and Jamie went off down a long and very grand hallway to await the Queen in the Palace Ballroom where the investiture was to take place, while I walked along up the ‘Grand Staircase’ a very beautiful and ornate curved staircase. This led to further rooms where I mingled with the other recipients as we waited…
Eventually the “Comptroller” arrived to talk us through what would happen; my goodness there was lots to remember. We would be told when to enter the ballroom and would know where to stand, thankfully but we had to know our queue – when to approach the Queen, when and how to bow or curtsy, and how to leave – 3 spaces backwards, another curtsy and leave to the right.
Twenty Seven investitures are held each year, there were about 100 people receiving honours today. The Queen entered the Ballroom attended by two Gurkha Officers, a tradition started by Queen Victoria. Five members of The Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are on duty, this was created by King Henry VII.
The Queen is escorted by the Lord Chamberlain who after the National anthem has been played stands to Her Majesty’s right and announces the name of each recipient and the achievement for which he or she is being decorated.
Starting with knighthoods, then the Order of the Bath, the Royal Victorian Order, then onto the CBE’s, OBE’s, MBE’s and finally the royal Victorian Medals and the Police Medals.
This means I am now MBE; A member of THE MOST EXCELLENT ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE.
I had to walk through a number of large reception rooms, and across the back of the ballroom where investitures were already taking place and managed to spot & wave at my family at the last moment. In the ballroom, an orchestra was playing throughout, completing the amazing atmosphere.
Whilst in the line awaiting my turn, I was nervous, excited and very much in awe at my surroundings. The walls were covered with huge wall hangings of original paintings depicting the history of the Royal Family.
I found myself next in line, the person before me was in place at the marker awaiting her turn to approach the Queen. I was next. Possibly sensing my unease, the usher began chatting to me, he was possibly the 8th person to check my name – the whole proceedings are like clockwork ensuring everybody is where they should be. He then motioned me to move forward into the ballroom to stand, as instructed earlier by the Comptroller, to stand in line with the next usher – who was there as my marker. If I missed my queue – hearing my surname – I would be tapped on the elbow… The Lord Chamberlain introduced me “Miss Jane Hopkins, MBE for services to Entrepreneurship” as he did this the Equerry in waiting reminded the Queen who I was as I approached, whilst she took the Decoration that was destined for me, from velvet cushion being held by the Master of the Household.
I walked forward 3 paces turned to my left met eyes with the Queen, curtseyed; she gave me a gentle nod of acknowledgement and I walked to what is called the Dais which is where she was waiting for me.
She leant forward slightly to attach the decoration to a pin that had been fixed in place upon arrival in the reception room earlier. She asked me about what I do and we spoke for about a minute. To be honest my recollection of the exact conversation is vague but I know it was warm and friendly, and she seemed genuinely interested in me. It ended with both a beaming smile and a handshake from the Queen…my cue to leave.
I took my 3 steps backwards; curtseyed once again, received a second gentle nod from her Majesty, I then turned to my right and left the ballroom and it was time for the next in line to have their moment.
I was then whisked to a side room to be interviewed for the press. I then joined the other now decorated people in the main ballroom to watch the remainder of the ceremony. The national Anthem marked the end, and the Queen left the Ballroom by walking down the aisle in the centre of the room flanked by her Gurka Officers.
And that was it.
I then met up with my family again and we walked back down the long hallway to the main reception room and back to the quadrangle where the photographers were waiting for us.
We took millions of photographs here, as photography was not allowed inside then we headed back through the gates, and the palace guards and drove up the Mall heading for home.