A church friend has kindly written his story for the column on the occasion of the anniversary of the Queen’s accession in 1952.
It all started on a low profile. A letter from Number 10 to say I was being considered for an award and if it were to be offered would I accept. The indication was if an award was to be made I would hear no more till the New Year Honours List. My name was in the papers that day for an MBE.
In the correspondence that followed I was given the choice of dates to attend the Palace and advice on ‘dress for the day’.
On the day nerves took over. (I had been to the Palace before and met most of the members of the immediate royal family as part of doing business in Africa and meeting heads of state/government ministers when they came to UK.)
Driving into London there were the usual questions of getting there on time and what was the traffic like near the Palace. We got there and then the next issue: what would they do with my wife who is in a wheelchair. It had all been organised and four burly soldiers came, lifted my wife in the chair and took her into the Palace with my two children.
I was then ushered in to the Palace through, it seemed, a maze of rooms and long corridors. They all seemed to be in a competition for magnificence, rich colours, beautiful carpets and outstanding works of art. It was unbelievable and the nerves were in overdrive.
In a large room with no furniture (amazing paintings on the wall) but cordoned off into areas, we all waited, in our area according to the award, for the member of the royal household responsible for the investiture ceremony. He came in and quickly gave the important news: the day’s investiture would be done by Her Majesty the Queen. Nerves cranked up even higher.
Instructions were then given about entering the room where the Queen would be waiting and how we would address the Queen. First time ‘Your Majesty’ then after that ‘Maam’. We were also made aware that when the conversation was over (the Queen’s decision), we would take two or three paces back, then turn and leave the room. You can imagine the panic. Would I mess up in front of the Queen?
When my turn came and I was announced by the official at the door, I walked into a room crowded with people on my right, with my wife in the front row. The Queen, with a circle of staff behind her, was on my left. As I approached, she put out her hand and I briefly shook hands, all nerves.
No visible signs of royalty such as robes and crowns. A smiling, welcoming, well-dressed lady who looked as though she could have been my mother. Then she put me at ease by asking about what I know best, my job and travelling in Africa. I knew I was talking with the Queen of the UK and the Head of the Commonwealth, but I felt myself relaxing.
The brief chat was soon over and, totally relaxed, I stepped backwards, turned and left the room.
The preparation and worry of the past two or three months was over in a minute.
Often, since then, I have reflected on how it will compare with the day I am called to meet the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
My dress: not hired, but a robe of righteousness given by my host.
My nerves: none. I have been made fit for the presence of God by the death of his Son on Calvary and I am in my Father’s home.
Will mine be a lower order? No, I will be welcome among all the other ‘sons of God’ and ‘joint heirs with Jesus Christ’ into the presence of the Lord (Romans 8, 15-17).
Will I need an introduction? No. He knows me better than I know myself, and he loved me and gave himself for me.
Finally, all the wonderful treasures of Buckingham Palace will be just a faint picture of the eternal glory to be found in the Father’s house.