Six Sedbergh School pupils ended the Lent Term with a visit to the royal palaces of St James and Buckingham Palace on Friday March 17th. The tour was led by the Revd Cannon Paul Wright, sub Dean of the Chapels Royal and by Jon Simpson, Serjeant [sic] of the Vestry, St James Palace.  

The pupils, all in Year 11, were the second group to attend St James Palace this month, as just a week earlier, 13 pupils had attended to receive their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards. They attended with Dr Myles Ripley.

St James Palace, built originally as a leprosarium, was almost unknown to the group, and pupils were surprised to learn how many of the Royal Family live there and to hear of its role as the centre of the Diplomatic Corps and “hosting” all the Ambassadors to this country.

Nearby, a film company was adapting the frontage of Lancaster House for the filming of  a popular television series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, “The Throne”.  

The group visited the Chapel Royal, where the bodies of sovereigns are laid out before State funerals, and where Charles I spent his last night prior to his execution. Treasures shown to the group included the Communion Chalice dating back to Charles I and Queen Anne’s own prayer book.  

Breaking off to watch the Changing of the Guard at St James, pupils then saw round the Queen’s Chapel, built so that Queen Mary could practice her Catholic faith and used by the court of St James in the summer months.  

Touring the state apartments of St James brought with it the fascinating ritual that will accompany the next accession to the throne where Prince Charles will be “offered” the throne. Assuming his acceptance, it will be announced at St James Palace and he will then progress to the Throne of England which is in St James Palace to sign significant documents such as his testament to the independence of the Church of Scotland. 

The group’s arrival at Buckingham Palace coincided with the departing Guard marching down the Mall and the Household Cavalry departing down Constitution Hill. They entered Buckingham Palace by the “Side Door” and were ushered through the bin yard into the basement to be greeted by the sight of a Coutt’s bank machine!

Canon Wright explained some of the complex preparations that would accompany the next forthcoming state banquet for the King of Spain – including preparing many thousands of pieces of cutlery for the 180 guests at the state banquet.  This takes two months!

We were also given nuggets of information about the wine cellars, the team dedicated to answering every single letter written to the Queen and, most surprisingly, the fact that the Queen only inhabits five relatively small rooms in the palace. The group was then taken to the ground floor and shown where the official guests would enter and process, and the staircase where the Prime Minister makes her regular way to see the Queen.  

The tour finished at the small private chapel for the Queen with a beautiful stained glass window presented by the Household Division. Behind this is a special office complete with bathroom in case the Sub Dean is required to be on site to attend the Queen overnight.  

Dr Ripley added: “It was a fascinating day with so much learned and just a peek under the smart final appearance of the formal occasions that happen at both palaces. We are so grateful to Canon Paul for arranging this visit.”

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