On the morning of Monday 13th May, I arrived at the illustrious Buckingham Palace gates, excited to receive my DofE Gold Award at one of the world’s most famed landmarks. A very surreal moment, stepping away from the busy tourist scene, other guests and I were escorted by the multitude of security through an immense archway and into Buckingham Palace Gardens.
Upon entry, I was welcomed by the sight of a mass of fellow DofE Gold achievers and their guests dispersed throughout the 40 acre gardens, and the sound of the Royal Brass Band in full force – and full uniform. I quickly located Luke, registered with our group before we took some time to explore the grounds. One immediately noticeable trait of the setting was that it no longer felt like we were in the busy centre of London, but rather a well-kept country park complete with a 3 acre lake, due to the sheer enormity of the place.
As it neared 11:00am, we wandered back to our allocated group, where we were given instructions as to the morning’s procedure, and a history of Buckingham Palace. Our group consisted of around 30 young people, one of at least 24 regional groups, arranged in 3 rows, as each row was to be visited by one royal. It was at this point that I noticed Mrs Sales-Mint standing proudly opposite as a representative of LVS Ascot.
All of the hundreds of people present fell silent very quickly as it was announced HRH Prince Edward Earl of Wessex, HRH Sophie Countess of Wessex and HRH The Duke of Gloucester, were to be arriving shortly. The National Anthem sounding loudly, all eyes fell on these members of the royal family as they walked out onto the terrace each accompanied by their entourage.
A short while later, The Countess of Wessex stood directly in front of me, as she addressed our group, congratulating us on the hard work and dedication we had put in to complete the award. Our highlights throughout the DofE Award, memories of our expeditions as well as upcoming exams, were some of the various topics the Countess asked us about. It was refreshing to see how down to earth she was as an individual, and she made us all feel comfortable having a conversation and sharing our experiences with her. After HRH had moved to the next group, famous author and vlogger Louise Pentland delivered an inspirational speech, speaking of the hardships she had experienced throughout life.
Finally, each student’s name was read out in succession, as she awarded us individually with our DofE certificates – a proud moment of mine. To top it all off, the following day I discover, to my surprise, a photo of myself standing alongside the Countess of Wessex, posted on the official royal Instagram page as well as multiple newspapers! An inspirational and memorable honour, this remarkable visit to Buckingham Palace is the culmination of 5 years of volunteering, skills, physical activity, a residential, and numerous expeditions, for which this was a monumental end.
Senior School Head Boy