Being invited to an event is generally considered to be a flattering thing. It might be a birthday party, wedding anniversary, christening or a wedding. Perhaps we consider some invitations to be rather important or more significant than others. I first saw Her Majesty the Queen during her visit to Corby in 1961 at which time I attended Rockingham school: I was six years old. I remember being given a paper union flag on a stick which was to be waved as Her Majesty’s car swept past. We were all wearing our best school uniforms, freshly mum-ironed shirts along with our school ties and blazers. The various teachers had lined us up along the kerb outside the school in a neat orderly row of smiling faces in preparation for our magnificent display of waving and cheering. Eventually I saw the motorcade heading from the direction of the old police houses on the corner of Occupation Road down the sloped road past our school. We all began cheering our lungs out and waving for England as this big black car with huge windows was driven past. Then it was gone: it was over in a flash. I seem to remember that the Queen wore blue and that she was smiling and waving; but that’s what you do when you’re the Queen. I once caught a glimpse of the Queen Mother as she walked from the Corby Civic Theatre to the Civic Centre via an overhead glass covered bridge which used to connect the two. I remember clapping and smiling on that occasion. Then I saw the Queen for the briefest of moments whilst I was shopping in Uppingham. Someone had told me that she had been to visit the school. I didn’t have time to react on that occasion: it was over in a flash: car here, car gone. Within the past ten days an envelope dropped through our letterbox. It bore the seal of the Lord Chamberlains office at Buckingham Palace. The thick, beautifully embossed card inside read ‘The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by Her Majesty to invite…..’. Now, with the best will in the world, this is a significant invitation.
My dad worked in Corby’s steel works for over thirty years. He passed away at our Corby home in 1971 when I was fourteen years old. Yesterday, in the garden of Buckingham Palace, in the presence of the great and the good of this nation and the royal family, including Her Majesty, I made sure that my dad’s long service S & L watch was on my right wrist in order that it should be present on the day his youngest son shook the hand of the British Monarch, at her invitation and in her garden. It was my mum and dad that instilled in me the notion that we are all born equal: ‘no one is better or worse than you’. By the same token our family has, for the most part, remained fiercely patriotic and protective of our heritage. I know that yesterday would have been a red-letter day for my parents and my grand parents. I had had no hesitation in accepting that invitation