Celebrating the Queen’s Official Birthday

Our Official Invitation

Our Official Invitation

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (to give my home country its full official name), does not have a National Day as such. Some of the constituent parts of the UK do have their own special day with the Welsh making much of ‘Dydd Dewi Sant – St. David’s Day’ on 1st March and the Irish, both north and south of the border, celebrating St. Patrick on 17th March.

The nearest we get to a National Day is the Queen’s Official Birthday. This is usually celebrated on the second Saturday of June each year. Queen Elizabeth the Second’s actual birthday is 21st April but she has her official birthday in June in the hope the weather will be better for events put on to mark the occasion, most notably, the Trooping of the Colour ceremony in London.

The occasion of the Queen’s Official Birthday is used by British Embassies in foreign capital cities around the world, as a very good excuse to host a diplomatic reception. So it was that on Thursday 11th June, Her Excellency Linda Duffield CMG, the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, hosted a Reception marking the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, and we were invited to attend!

The British Embassy, like a number of other foreign embassies, is situated in Mala Strana, the ‘Little Town’ or ‘Lesser Town’, an area of wonderful architectural delights that lies immediately below Prague Castle. It occupies a building originally known as Thun Palace which has a history going back to mediaeval times. You can read more about it on the embassy website here.

Having passed the inevitable security check and climbed up several flights of stairs through the embassy building, we arrived in the embassy gardens that lie immediately under the walls of the castle, to be formally welcomed by the ambassador. I had previously had an hour-long meeting with Linda Duffield back in January. But Sybille had never met her before so I introduced her to the ambassador and remarked that as a German citizen, Sybille was surprised to be invited to a reception marking the British monarch’s birthday! In reply the ambassador pointed out that the German ambassador was actually immediately in front of us!

The guest of honour at the reception was the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus. His official residence in Prague Castle effectively overlooks the British Embassy garden and jokes about looking down on the ambassador and her embassy were an inevitable part of his speech. This followed the ambassador’s speech in which she spoke of good Czech – British relations over the 90 years since the first ambassador of the UK to the newly formed nation of Czechoslovakia, presented his letters of appointment to President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk in 1919. The speeches were followed by the playing of ‘God save the Queen’ and the Czech national anthem.

The Reception was an interesting mixture of things British, with Pimms being one of the drinks served, and things Czech, with a large tent where Pilsner Urquell was freely available. Strawberries and cream were served along with cheese from both Britain and elsewhere. Despite several strong gusts of wind, no marquees or gazebos blew over and the rain just about managed to stay away.

When all the guests arrived, we were duly piped in by two Scottish pipers playing the bagpipes. The Reception was officially meant to finish at 7pm. At 7.15pm, those of us still present were given a pertinent reminder that it was time to leave by the same pipers striking up to pipe us out of the embassy garden and down the staircases of the embassy building and back out into Mala Strana.

4 comments to Celebrating the Queen’s Official Birthday

  • What is or are Pimms? Strawberries and cream are a Wimbledon tradition, right? Or does it go beyond Wimbledon?

  • Ricky

    Hi Karen – Pimms is a peculiarly British summer drink. See Pimms at Wikipedia which will explain a little more. Strawberries & cream are a Wimbledon tradition but it does go far wider. You will find them served at many outdoor events in the UK during June and July.

  • Hi Ricky, a nice tradition, being somewhat of a monarchist I am pleased that the embassies lay on something special. You clearly move in the right circles!

  • Ricky

    Hi Mike – Yes – it is a nice tradition. As for moving in the right circles, it wasn’t something I was necessarily expecting but I guess it is a perk that comes with being the Anglican Chaplain in a capital city!