I did, however, attend a Buckingham Palace garden party and one of my sons was a signaller on the Royal Yacht Britannia. I was on the bridge of a frigate escorting the Royal Yacht into Cardiff Docks with the late lamented Queen on board.
My job on that occasion was to ensure the ship’s floodlights were switched on at a pre-arranged time.
We passed through the very narrow locks that gave entrance to Queen Alexandra Dock. Astern of us, the Royal Yacht was still passing through the locks. I looked at the bridge clock and checked the time with my wristwatch – the moment was rapidly approaching.
I switched my microphone on and said, ‘Stand by, stand by – now!’ To my inexpressible delight, our ship was bathed in a blaze of light, until the signalman spotted a signal lamp flashing furiously from the yacht. He read out the message: ‘Switch those bloody lights off’.
Everyone on the yacht’s bridge was dazzled by our lights and no-one could see the stonework walls that hemmed them in as they precariously inched through the gap.
However, the Britannia, despite everyone on her bridge temporarily blinded, managed to avoid scraping against the lock wall and nothing more was said about it. Such a choice of action was no surprise.
Her Majesty had served in uniform during the Second World War, her father was afloat at the Battle of Jutland, whilst her grandfather (trained in the Royal Navy) was happy to visit the troops in the trenches during the First World War.
None of their activities were surprising – they had forebears stretching back over many centuries, the vast majority of whom knew their duties and carried them out as exemplars to those over whom they ruled.
In return, their people saw them as national figureheads and demanded that, in representing the nation, they should live a lifestyle of nobility and grandeur.
Such a concept was strengthened when Great Britain became a republic under Oliver Cromwell.
At his death, the people – including former Parliamentarians – sensed the loss of a monarch, even inviting the Dutch William of Orange to help fill the void.
With the transfer of legislative power to Parliament, the national leadership brought stability and stature to the nation.
There now remains just one proclamation – ‘God save the King!’
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