There are few opportunities to wear one of those hats you see the Royals wear at events and in the news. Really, unless you happen to find yourself invited to a Royal event or to Buckingham Palace, wearing one of those hats would seem quite odd. So when you do get an invitation to Buckingham Palace, naturally you find the best hat you can – and you milk it.
My entrepreneurial journey has been exciting. I have had many great opportunities thus far; and they keep coming. As a veteran I have access to some unique programs. One of them is Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE). It is one of the Prince’s (of Wales) Charities (Canada), and it provided the perfect chance for my wife to wear one of those hats, and honestly, she rocked it!
Last year I attended a POE boot camp at Memorial University (MUN) in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This opportunity, a gift from the charity, the university and the students from the MUN Enactus platform, was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Since that boot camp, this trinity of awesomeness has been a steadfast network and community of support. This association culminated recently in an invitation to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party. This particular garden party was in honour of the Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday celebration – an homage to his vast catalogue of charities.
I managed, mostly, to keep this a surprise from my wife. I was able to arrange this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Buckingham Palace with some much appreciated help from family and friends.
We book-ended the trip with a few days of sightseeing, but the garden party was the main event. With the threat of rain leading up to the party, it turned out to be a beautiful, and warm day. We took our time walking from our hotel, which was near Waterloo Station. This allowed us to stroll across Westminster Bridge and past Parliament as we headed to The Mall. There were no shortages of stares and curious glances, and my wife’s efforts to stun captured more than a few acknowledgments. Well, maybe the hat deserves a special mention too; as stated up front, there are few opportunities to wear one of those hats, and even in London their oddity clearly only diminishes relational to one’s proximity to Buckingham Palace.
The Mall proved the perfect path, offering shade and incrementally more hat-wearing and well-dressed guests as we advanced on the palace. The lines formed for the entrance were civilized and spurred great conversation. Everyone was quite excited, and of course linked in some way to the Prince of Wales. Entering the palace grounds took us past pristine grounds and gardens that gave way to the tents and tea stands of a quite exclusive environment. It was remarkably calm and inviting.
A saunter through the gardens was the first order of business. This was quickly followed by a sojourn to the tea tents where anticipation did not go unrewarded. An array of sandwiches (no crusts, of course), desserts and giant and ornate tea carafes bore delicious treats in a way only the Queen’s residence I suspect, can deliver.
A speech from Prince Harry soon drew everyone’s attention; especially this being the first official engagement of the newly married prince, and the only just minted Duchess of Sussex. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Wales were present of course, and a long line of eager guests formed hoping for a glimpse. There was the chance of being drawn from the crowd to meet the Royals. We got close. We did not get to engage, however. It didn’t matter, it was very memorable.
Departing the palace offered a surprisingly unique circumstance. Buckingham Palace is accustomed to visitors and spectators. The gates are often mobbed by them as they try to steal a view of the palace’s residents. Walking towards the gates from the inside, it was us, the guests, that became the fish-in-the-bowl. It was an odd feeling. Once outside the gates though, each step away from the palace reversed the incremental oddity of our attire until we were once again victim to our relational proximity to the palace. Without the context of the palace and the party to make sense of our dress, and that hat, we were once again at odds with our surroundings.
It was a remarkable experience. One my wife and I are extremely thankful for and will not soon forget.
The opportunity was bestowed as a result of taking a chance. Stepping out from familiar circumstance, seeking a different path, and of course by being exposed to a wonderful grouping of people and organizations helping veterans. If this is the type of opportunity that taking a risk can offer, then my entrepreneurial journey will truly be an adventure.