Over the last three years I have received three invitations to Buckingham Palace, all of which I have had to turn down due to engagements in the constituency; however last night was not the case, and I was able to attend a Christmas reception for MPs and their ‘significant other’ with her Majesty.
I have met the Queen and various members of the Royal Family during official functions in Mid Beds, but last night was a bit different.
A huge Christmas tree at the entrance to the front door lit our way over the front courtyard as we tripped our way across. I have to admit at this point I began to feel excited.
As I reached the front door my path was blocked by Patrick Hall, MP for Bedford, bent over with his shoes off. Having a gravel issue I think. "Please don’t tell the paper" pleaded his rather beautiful wife as I went past. As if! What kind of person does she think I am?
After being presented to the Queen who was wearing a beautiful Lime green suit and bedazzling diamonds, we mingled as you would at any other drinks party.
Chatting in a group of six, a member of the Royal Household wandered over to talk to us. He was the man who had carried the crown during the State Opening of Parliament.
He told us of how the responsibility was awesome. The amethyst in the crown had been prised from the ring of Edward The Confessor as he lay in his grave, and the ruby from a crown worn by Henry V, and was taken from the battlefield at Agincourt. Wow.
I realised whilst he was talking to us that he was a player in a strategic operation. He obviously went on ahead, identified a group and then the Queen was led over to talk to us. Very smooth operation.
When she stood in front of us, drink in hand (water or G&T, not sure which but if the drinks do is at your place and you haven’t got to drive, why wouldn’t you?) I went ga ga. She was really beautiful. Animated, funny, relaxed and those eyes, the brightest twinkliest blue.
We self important MPs chatted to her in the same way and about the same legislative things that every other MP in the room probably had that night, and on that same night year after year after year.
My 6ft 2 significant other suddenly piped up, with absolute ease, as though he was talking to his own mum, " did you enjoy Condoleezza Rice playing the piano for you? It led on every American news bulletin and dominated the American TV news all day." Suddenly, the Queen looked genuinely interested, a real person was talking to her. She gave him her full attention and answered "it was there, in that room there", pointing over his shoulder urging him to look. She then told of how she was worried about the dog, but that he was fine, and had come into the room and sat down right beside her whilst she had listened. She talked of her admiration that the American Secretary of State could play so well, and keep in practice; and asked him did he know that she was a concert pianist. We MPs just stayed quiet and listened.
6ft 2 seemed about 12 ft to me at that particular moment.
As we left and tripped back out across the courtyard I was genuinely smitten. It's not hard to understand how every Prime Minister, socialist or otherwise falls under her spell. Maybe it was the story of the crown that did it; however, I can’t help but feel that maybe it should be incumbent upon every PM to feel the hand of history upon his shoulder. It’s a heavy hand but only with it can come the understanding of how important it is to preserve all that made us who we are, and be aware of whose blood was shed, in order that we who are free and usually safe, got here.
I have no phone, so apologies to anyone who can't get hold of me or who has text me and not had a reply. Tomorrow I'm on Question Time. It's from Birkenhead. You don't get any say in where or when you go on, you are simply invited; however, no MP is ever allowed to be on in the area they represent. Birkenhead is Frank Field's, which is ironic really given how we have both worked closely together on a couple of issues recently.
Am I scared? Would you be?