London: More pandemic disappointment in the United Kingdom: There will be no chance of tea with the queen in her gardens this summer, Buckingham Palace announced.
Royal garden parties, one of the few gatherings where ordinary Brits get to mingle with Queen Elizabeth II and members of her family, are off for 2021, the palace said in a statement.
“The decision has been taken that Garden Parties will not take place in 2021,” the statement said.
It’s the second year in a row that the annual summer garden parties at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, have been nixed because of restrictions due to COVID-19, which is surging again in the U.K.
The parties, which can have thousands of guests at a time, are scheduled during the summer as a way for the queen to speak to and honor a “broad range of people from all walks of life who have made a positive impact in their community,” according to the palace website.
The parties require a lot of advance planning – and deadlines are approaching for committing to dates and contract details – which would be difficult given ongoing pandemic precautions and the rapid-fire changes made by the government in recent days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new stay-at-home order for England (the country’s third national lockdown) effective at midnight Tuesday and lasting at least six weeks.
It shuts schools, restaurants and all nonessential stores and won’t be reviewed until at least mid-February. Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon also imposed a lockdown in that country that began Tuesday.
Royals are affected by the new rules, too: All London schools, including the posh private school attended by Prince George of Cambridge, 7, and his sister, Princess Charlotte, 5, will keep Prince William’s and Duchess Kate of Cambridge’s kids at home in Kensington Palace for weeks.
The queen, 94, and her husband, Prince Philip, 99, have been isolating mostly in Windsor Castle 25 miles west of London since March, when she was forced by the pandemic to cancel the 2020 garden parties. Since then, she has stayed away from her office in Buckingham Palace and carried out most of her engagements via video conference calls.
Although she did manage to spend a few weeks at her Balmoral estate in Scotland for her annual summer holiday, she had to cancel the annual Christmas festivities with her extended family at Sandringham in Norfolk. She and Philip celebrated Christmas alone and quietly at Windsor instead.
Invitations to the royal garden parties are much coveted in Britain – and are crucial to the monarch’s ever adapting strategy to connect with her subjects and bolster the position of the monarchy in general.
As she once said, “I must be seen to be believed.”
Queen Elizabeth II stands in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle, Dec. 8, 2020, to meet and thank members of the Salvation Army and local volunteers.
The garden parties began as a substitute for the old-fashioned “presentation parties” attended by upper-class debutantes, but they’ve evolved into a way for the royals to recognize public service by all Britons.
The palace says the queen welcomes more than 30,000 guests per year at the parties, which take place in beautiful palace gardens. According to palace statistics, at each party, some 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake are consumed.
The dress code is morning dress or suits for men and day dresses for women, usually with hats or fascinators.
Usually the sun is shining but even when it’s raining, the queen carries on under a clear umbrella so everyone can see the diminutive monarch in her brightly colored outfits and hats.