Garden parties have been held at Buckingham Palace since the 1860s, when Queen Victoria instituted what were known as 'breakfasts' (though they took place in the afternoon). In the 1950s the number of garden parties held at Buckingham Palace was increased from two to three a year. They took the place of presentation parties attended by debutantes, but have evolved into a way of rewarding and recognising public service. They are attended by people from all walks of life.
Every summer, Her Majesty The Queen hosts at least three Royal garden parties at Buckingham Palace, as well as one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Over 30,000 people attend in total.
With tea, cakes and a beautiful garden to stroll in, garden parties are among the most relaxed and informal of Royal events. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by other members of the Royal Family, enter the garden at 4.00 pm, when the National Anthem is played by a military band. Tea and other refreshments are served and guests are invited to walk around the extensive gardens.
Most people like to dress up for their special day. Gentlemen wear morning dress or lounge suits, while women wear afternoon dress, usually with hats or fascinators. National dress and uniform are also often worn.
View a video about Royal garden parties:
Every year the Lord-Lieutenant, together with the government and organisations such as the Civil Service, Armed Services, Diplomatic Corps, charities and societies, is invited to put forward names of outstanding individuals who have done much to support and enhance the life of the county by the service they have given. This ensures that a representative cross-section of the community in West Sussex –— as in all other counties — is invited and that guests are generally people who have contributed a large amount to their various organisations or society in this county. In looking for suitable guests, the Lord-Lieutenant seeks the advice and support of her Deputy Lieutenants, but individuals can be brought to her attention at any time. Please note that individuals may not apply for invitations on their own behalf. It is rare for people to be invited more than once.
The Lord-Lieutenant is especially keen to ensure that unsung heroes are recognised for their commitment. If you are chosen to attend a Royal garden party you will receive a formal invitation from the Lord Chamberlain (the senior official of the Royal Household) and will be invited to take a partner, family member or friend to accompany you.
If you are aware of an individual who you think would merit consideration and would like to bring it to the attention of the Lord-Lieutenant please contact the Lieutenancy office.
A sample invitation to a Royal garden party.