Lunch with the Queen
By Victoria McEvoy, M.D.
“Do you want to have lunch with the Queen Mother?” This question came from my grandfather who was visiting London the same time as my Wimbledon adventure in 1968. Val Ziegenfuss and I had been playing the pre-Wimbledon English circuit for several weeks together – Bournemouth, Wolverhampton, Hurlingham, Surbiton, Manchester, Queens, and then the big banana, Wimbledon. My grandfather had played a role at the Red Cross in London during World War II and had befriended King George, Queen Elizabeth, and an assortment of Dukes and Duchesses. “Sure”, I said, having no idea as a nineteen year old boy – and tennis obsessed teenager what exactly was involved in such an opportunity. First of all-shopping! I have always hated to shop, but in this case we were off to Harrod’s, the world famous department store in London, to find appropriate attire for dining with the Queen. My grandfather picked out the clothing with the help of a shop attendant- dress, overdress on top of the dress, matching purse, umbrella, gloves, and hat. I felt like i had stepped out of the 17th century.
Next task was to learn the protocol: a curtsy when introduced to the Queen, address her as Your Majesty or Madam, don’t speak unless spoken to, NEVER precede the Queen into the room ( which I almost did in my flustered state), and basically, do as directed. Lunch was to be held at Clarence House, and we arrived promptly on time in a large black car my grandfather had ordered. He was attired in a suit, morning coat, top hat, gloves, and cane. We were greeted by livery men and shown into a reception room filled with flowers where we awaited the Queen. I believe we were offered a cocktail. The Queen arrived and she proceeded to greet each of her guests. It was a small gathering of maybe six or seven guests along with several ladies in waiting and palace officials. She approached me, and after my curtsy and “How do you do Your Highness”, she asked me all about my adventure ahead at Wimbledon. She knew a little something about each guest.
We then proceeded to a small dining area where each table setting had three glasses for wines along with cutlery, and lovely china. I don’t remember what we ate but believe it was a meat and vegetable arrangement. I believe I sat next to a lady in waiting and a male guest. The Queen sat at the head of the table, and a radio with a hotline to the racetrack was parked next to her so she could follow the horse races. After lunch we departed, and after leaving my grandfather, I quickly stripped off these elegant clothes which I wore only once more when my grandfather and I attended Ascot ( a famous horse race venue) with seats in the Royal box, another great privilege .
It was an incredible experience for a nineteen year old, and I don’t think at the time I appreciated what a privilege it was to have a window into the royal family. I was more concerned at the time with a budding romantic interest and the upcoming tournament at Wimbledon. However, it truly was an amazing opportunity, and I believe many of us have found tennis to be a window to many different adventures and opportunities that we would not have had otherwise.