One can only guess how long Nick Howell took to get ready yesterday morning, before going to Buckingham Palace to watch his father honoured by the Queen. Sadly in the end, his efforts were completely in vain.

While his father Keith was receiving an OBE, Mr Howell came away with six stitches in his head and with his best suit covered in blood after a piece of plaster from a ballroom fell on him. Indeed, after all the subsequent media attention, it was certainly becoming a day when he would have liked to have looked his best.

The incident took place after Mr Howell, 28, from south-west London, went to the palace with his brother and mother to watch his father honoured for his work with the Office of Fair Trading.

"I have absolutely no idea what hit me, something came down from the sky. It was a huge shock, not what you expect to happen," he said, with a fair amount of understatement.

"Yes it was my first time in the Palace and it may well be my last. "I was ushered out so quickly I do not know what happened after that. I would like to think they just carried on."

Which is exactly what they did. The Queen, about 100ft away and busy handing out gongs, looked up, paused momentarily, and then got on with her business. The military band, in the best of traditions, stoically played on.

Palace officials helped Mr Howell out of the ballroom and waited for an ambulance. Last night they said an investigation had been launched.

"This is a terribly unfortunate and inexplicable accident," said a spokesman.

The Queen was last night being kept informed of Mr Howell's condition and invited him to a summer garden party.

Mr Howell, however, remained philosophical. "It has just been a strange day - it is a good tale for down the pub."

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