OPINION: We are lucky to get a chance to see the Queen and other royals in such close quarters
PUBLISHED: 16:27 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:37 31 December 2019
James Marston spent part of the festive period outside a Norfolk church waiting forthe royal family to arrive, something he says is a simple British pleasure
I've been to see the Queen.
I went last Sunday to see the royals as they walked to morning service at Sandringham church. Her Majesty wore yellow, I wore a woolly hat and old Barbour coat that has been in my family for at least 25 years. It kept the cold off.
Once past security - "have you got anything in your pocket's sir?" "Yes, a Vicks inhaler and some loose mints, would you like one?" we strolled across the field that separates the church from the grounds of the house.
Father, who joined me gave a running commentary.
"Of course they have to have a bit of security. It's not like it was when they just put a policemen on the front gate and that was all they needed."
"Oh here comes the Prince of Wales, he's striding out at quite a pace isn't he? He's had that coat years."
"Is that Princess Anne? She must be nearly 70, she does well doesn't she?"
"Is that Prince Edward? Crikey, he used to be younger."
And when they were right in front of us.
"Who's that girl? And who's the older woman at the back?"
Once they were out of earshot I explained that the girl looked to me like Prince Edward's daughter Lady Louise and the lady bringing up the rear was probably a lady in waiting who wanted to worship as well.
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It was quite an exciting experience, though I must admit it is odd driving half way across east Anglia to watch a group of five or six people walk past for a few moments.
The crowd was appreciative though and everyone loved seeing the Queen.
Father, who suspected they go back to the house for a stuff drink after its all over, wondered if they had a proper breakfast - maybe a full English - or do they manage on a bowl of Weetabix like he does?
We gleaned from the crowd that Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, probably goes to see her family as she's got children and grandchildren of her own to see to.
The royal Bentley was pretty impressive as well. We watched as it turned round ready to take The Queen back to the house after the service.
I think royal family watching at Sandringham says something about us all don't you? It might be irrational to the outside world but I can't help feeling a thrill at watching this family. And at Sandringham it's rather like watching history and ourselves reflected back at us. Just like our own families, every now and again one of them fades away and every now and again a new one arrives to be seen by the waiting crowds.
The older royals get older, the younger ones are never far from the limelight. And for each generation the Royal family is the same and for each generation it is different. We build the relationship between them and us year after year, we must want to as we've kept it going for hundreds of years.
I couldn't help but note that the crowd at Sandringham on these occasions is good humoured, the royal family play their part, everyone keeps a certain distance but there's a certain informality too. I noticed the Prince of Wales talking to the crowds as he walked along the path. Politeness, such a long forgotten social skill, is much and refreshingly in evident - father even took off his hat as they passed.
And all through it I couldn't help thinking how lucky we are to live in a country where it is still possible to get within greeting distance of the head of state and how lucky we are to have a family prepared to put up with being gawped at, scrutinised, and alternatively bearing our laud and critique, day after day, month after month, year after year.
They might live in a bizarre cocoon of privilege, wealth and deference; but they do that largely with our blessing, they might be a bit of a soap opera, they might get it wrong once in a while, but we put upon them huge expectations and demands of behaviour we ourselves could never live up to and yet, the Royal family do their best and do their bit. So much so that hundreds of people are prepared to make the effort to see them on a cold Norfolk Sunday morning and keep the relationship we have with the royal family going.
My father, of course, wasn't the only one expressing opinions on them. The crowd were all there to show their support and enjoy the shared moment between Queen and subjects. There was much speculation, not least my own that Her Majesty and her friends and family, might, just might, take the newspaper and read my column over breakfast.
Though I don't think any of them recognised me as they walked past, perhaps because I was wearing a funny hat and an old coat.
Happy new year to them in the big house, and you too.