Can the Queen's garden party really be improved by television?

TV crews at the monarchy's latest on-screen flirtation may be in for a big let-down, says Ann Treneman
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The Independent Online
THE Queen has decreed that in future royal garden parties are to be televised. So, as of July, you can see what goes on behind the gates of Buckingham Palace. Live! Raw! Uncut! Everyone I know is already setting their videos to see Her Majesty Unplugged and I will too. But, and I shouldn't really brag like this, some of do not need a camera to show us what goes on at such events. Some of us, ahem, have had an invitation.

The card was thick enough to be propped up somewhere unmissable in a casual sort of way. My mother-in-law was impressed. It must have been sent in error but serendipity rules fine by me. She talked of nothing but hats for the next month. There is something wrong about a country in which I, and not her, gets invited to such things. But that didn't stop me going.

I would be lying if I didn't say that it was exciting to actually walk through the gates at Buckingham Palace. This is because, until that hot summer's day, I had always been standing outside the gates watching the only entertainment going: a man in a funny hat who walked first one way, and then another. Not exactly the Grand Prix.

It is a testimony to the power of the monarchy that anyone comes back for more. The reason we do has to have something to do with the mystery of the institution itself. Perhaps the Queen has forgotten this. After all, TV has done the monarchy great harm already. They say the rot set in at her Coronation and continued with the first royal documentary. On the small screen, the creatures royal looked a bit too, well, human. It's got worse. Prince Charles and Princess Diana told us their secrets and who could forget It's A Royal Knockout? Now we are to have coverage of garden parties, investitures and banquets. It may be part of a drive to modernise but why modernise something that is, by definition, antiquated? Now the creatures royal will be seen to be human and boring, too.

How do I know? Well, on that summer's day not so many years ago, I strode through those mysterious gates and into the royal back garden. It wasn't small. I tried to imagine Philip out there with the Flymo, but couldn't. To one side are tents serving tea for us plebs. On the other were tents for important types, such as MPs, bishops and (other) men in skirts.

Never have I seen so many men in skirts. There were kilts for the Scots, robes for the religious, and wrap-around thingies for those men from the South Pacific who seemed to have arrived fresh from hula classes. There seemed to be an alarming number of these (one good thing about a tiny Empire is that it all fits nicely into a garden party). Some of the military men were bedecked with so much frou-frou and feathers that a chorus line must somehow be involved.

So what actually happened? Well, we walked in a circle for a while and then we walked back the other way. We drank a cup of tea. We decided not to wait in the long snakey queue that had formed in anticipation of the Queen stopping by for a chat. Evidently, in the new modern monarchy, her Majesty will be accompanied on these journeys by a camera crew. What a docu-drama that will be. I can hear it now. Lights! Camera! Inaction!

And that, I suspect, may be a wrap for HRH TV.