Day 5: Meeting the Queen

We slept in on Sunday morning as breakfast was to be served at a later hour of 9:00am.  At breakfast, we received our invitation to the Sunday Church service at Windsor.  The previous night I had googled Windsor Chapels and I discovered that the impressive St. George’s Chapel is attended by the Queen only several times a year.  As a result, my expectations were low that we would actually get to see Queen Elizabeth II.  However, little did I know that instead of going to St. George’s we were actually going to be attending the Queen’s private chapel!

The invitation said “smart-casual” was perfectly acceptable, so I dressed simply in khaki pants and a polo shirt.  Out of our group, seven of us decided to attend the service and we all walked over together to the main gates, some 15 minutes away.  After getting our passports and invitations checked at the front gate by a police officer, we walked up to the relatively small chapel further up the road.  Since the Queen is usually at Windsor castle every weekend, this is her regular place of worship.

Inside, our group was seated on two rows near the front right side of the church.  As it was my first time being at a church service, I found the proceedings to be quite interesting.  There were hymns, prayers, and a sermon read out by the pastor.  While the members sit in the regular aisles, it is interesting that the Queen sits at the very front of the church. However, her area has its own back entrance which is completely blocked out by a screen, so there is no way to see her or even know if she is attending a particular service.

After the service, we hurried out the doors, turned our heads to the left and there she was! Queen Elizabeth the Second, looking just like she does on our coins.  The Queen was a fairly small, grandmotherly-looking woman, dressed in a matching light green dress and a fashionable hat.  She was wearing white gloves and had a small handbag.  While we stood by the entrance, Ross the most fearless of us Innovators, began walking over right away to her.  At that time, our host at the service suggested that our whole group come down to say hello to her.  Laura Thackray, the Communications Exec at the International Award explained that we were all Gold Recipients of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award from all across the world.  We told her that we would even be attending two events the following day at Buckingham Palace, her official residence.  At that point, the Queen responded with a joke, saying that she had joined in on several delegations that had been visiting the Palace in previous weeks.  However, she continued, that the organizers had asked her to stay away because she had been causing more trouble than good with her presence!

After the short and pleasant encounter, we started walking back to Cumberland Lodge.  However, that’s not all.  Once we started walking the Queen’s green Jaguar drove past us. Can you guess who was in the driver’s seat? Yes, the 84 year old Queen still zips around Windsor in her Jaguar!  Sorry – no photographic evidence of this encounter as cameras and cell phones were strictly banned.  You will just have to take my word!

We returned to Cumberland Lodge to tell the others about our good fortune of meeting the Queen.  Needless to say, some of the innovators were a bit jealous and Andy, an Award Staff simply got really excited! With our bags packed, we took a cab to the train station and before long we were back in London.  After a short walk from Victoria Station to our hotel (where we got slightly lost), we quickly dropped off our bags in our rooms.  We had free time allotted for the afternoon, and some sightseeing was on our minds.  We stopped at a typical London pub for a late lunch and then I went out with half the group to check out the exterior of Westminster Abby, the Parliament House, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace.   The most surreal part of the experience was being at the front gates of Buckingham, knowing that we would be invited inside the very next day.  After a group dinner that evening at Pizza Express we returned back to our hotel room to make sure that we were rested for our very busy Monday adventures.