Clarence House

In the spring of 1979 I attended an advocacy weekend in Windsor Great Park. This was an informal event put on for its students by the Middle Temple, the Inn of Court to which I belong.

On Saturday I bumped into the Middle Temple student’s officer. She asked if I had a suit. This is the kind of question that you prefer not to answer, until you know why it is being asked. But I decided to take a chance, and said yes, I did have a suit.

In that case, she asked, did I want to attend a sherry party at Clarence House the next day? This was at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who lived at Clarence House and was an honorary bencher of the Middle Temple. I promised not to tell anybody about this invitation.

By breakfast on Sunday the party was common knowledge, but nobody knew who was going or how to get an invitation. I kept quiet. There was a rumour that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II would also be there.

At Sunday lunchtime I found myself in a queue at the front door of Clarence House. There were about twelve people in the queue, all in suits. I was the last person in line.

Two tall guardsmen in splendid uniforms and beaver hats stood by the door. An equerry came out to greet us, and spoke in turn to each person in the line. He had no written notes, but he knew my full name, the university I was at, my father’s name, and the fact that he was a psychologist in the health service. He asked casually which hospital my father worked at.

At that moment another suit joined the end of the queue. Inside the suit was a famous county court judge. He had also heard the rumour, and decided to attend. He introduced himself to the equerry, stated that he was one of Her Majesty’s judges, and demanded to be let in. The equerry said evenly that he could not admit anybody, not the Lord Chancellor himself, if his name was not on the guest list. He asked the judge to leave.

The judge refused to move. The equerry spoke briefly to the two guardsmen, who took the judge gently but firmly by both arms and escorted him away, his feet barely touching the gravel. He spluttered with indignation: “You cannot do this! I am one of Her Majesty’s judges! I know the law on habeas corpus!”

After a brief summary of Royal etiquette, the equerry opened the front door and we were admitted.


See also:  Tea with Milk

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.