|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
27. The Royal Procession (1972)
The Au Pairs
father really was quite posh. A QC, who presided over the old Quarter
Sessions in the county of Dorset, he also took his turn as Master of the
Inner Temple, and was later appointed Commons Commissioner. In the early
1980s, he was awarded an MVO (Member of the Royal Victorian Order) in
the New Year’s Honours list. Other memberships included the Athenaeum
club, and the Royal College of Arms, where he bore the title of Norfolk
In his role as Norfolk Herald
Extraordinary, my grandfather had to undertake various processional
duties at major state ceremonies. His ceremonial dress included a
splendid tabard, bearing the royal coat of arms, along with a sword,
black leggings and buckled shoes. You can easily find him in footage of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral in 1965, and the 1969 investiture of the Prince of Wales.
However, his two regular gigs were the State Opening of Parliament and
the annual Garter Ceremony.
One year, it was decided that I was old
enough to come down to Windsor Castle with my mother, in order to watch
my grandfather take part in the royal procession that accompanied the
Garter Ceremony. However, on the day in question, it was raining heavily
– so heavily that the usual procession was cancelled. In its place,
there would be a procession of cars along the same route.
And so it came to pass that young
Master Michael Slater, sitting with his mother and grandfather in
their chauffeur driven car (hired for the day from Godfrey Davis), got
to take part in a formal royal procession, past thousands of cheering
onlookers, through the streets of Windsor.
At the age of ten, it has to be said
that I did bear a very, very slight resemblance to the young Prince
Andrew (who cut a considerably slimmer figure in those days). Slight,
but still enough for a group of several dozen Brownies to mistake me for
the Prince as our car rolled by, and to start cheering and vigorously
waving their Union Jacks at me. To which I automatically responded –
as if to the manner born – by regally waving back from the rear
passenger window, in that customary “slow windscreen wiper” fashion
for which our royal family has become famous.
After the ceremony, the three of us
attended a drinks party at one of the houses within the grounds of
Windsor Castle, hosted by one of the Sergeants of Arms (or something
similar – my memory fails me on this point). It was attended by most
of the people who had taken part in the procession – Clarenceaux Kings
of Arms rubbing shoulders with Rouge Dragon Pursuivants, that sort of
thing. It was a terribly, terribly posh party – the poshest I have
However, for young Master Michael
Slater, the party came as something of a disappointment. Frankly, he
was expecting something grander. He was particularly appalled to find
that all the ladies were keeping their hats on indoors. Dear me, how
common, he thought to himself.
Downstairs in the kitchen (I ask you,
the kitchen!), a smiling lady – possibly the hostess –
approached me, bearing a silver tray of sausage rolls (I ask you, sausage
rolls!). Would I care to take one? I picked one up suspiciously,
squeezed it, and then flung it back on the tray in disgust. “Eurgh,
it’s cold! No thank you!”
At the age of ten, I was already too grand for royalty.