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King Charles just held his first garden party in Buckingham Palace – we explore this century-old tradition

Just days before the coronation, the King celebrated a tradition dating back to Queen Victoria – and it was a royal success

King Charles
(Image credit: GettyImages)

King Charles and The Queen Consort Camilla held their first official garden party yesterday, May 3rd – celebrating a tradition that dates back to the 19th century. The event, which took place in Buckingham Palace, was the first of two Garden Parties that will take place on the famous grounds – as well as one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

The London landmark (and arguably the most famous Royal residence worldwide) has hosted garden parties since June 1868, during Queen Victoria's reign. However, in more modern history, the events were best associated with Queen Elizabeth II, who used it to meet with charity workers and community representatives on the iconic grounds.

Yesterday, the King, who will celebrate his coronation on May 6th, followed in his mother's footsteps – alongside The Queen Consort, The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and The Duke of Kent. They met with nearly 8000 guests, including diplomats and hundreds of volunteers from the Royal Voluntary Service, to mark the start of the coronation celebrations. 

King Charles

King Charles at his first Buckingham Palace Garden Party on May 3rd 2023

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Many of the 500 volunteers – described by the royals as the nation’s 'Coronation Champions' – attended the Coronation Garden Party, where they enjoyed food and drinks in royal company. 

Singer Lionel Richie, who will be performing at the Windsor Castle concert, also joined the family, diplomats, and volunteers – where he shared his excitement before performing on such a historic site on Sunday night. 

Here's what else we know about the history of royal Garden Parties – ahead of a momentous weekend for the family.

King Charles

(Image credit: GettyImages)

What is the history of royal Garden Parties?

The first Garden Party took place on June 20th, 1887, when Queen Victoria had been on the throne for 50 years.

'The afternoon splendid, & not too hot’…Quantities of people on the lawn whom I had to recognize as I went along…it was very puzzling and bewildering,' the Queen wrote in her diary, according to the Royal Collection Trust

Despite taking place in the nineteenth century, many elements of the first garden party followed a similar stricture to the ones we see today – taking place on the 5-acre camomile lawn between the garden front of the palace and the lake. There were also tea tents set up on the lawn. 

Today, the royal family has said that more than 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches, and 20,000 slices of cake are served throughout the events.

King Charles

(Image credit: GettyImages)

British artist Frederick Sargent captured arguably the most famous party – Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Garden Party – in his artwork seen here. The oil on canvas depicts Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and her guests at the west front of Buckingham Palace – marking her 50th year on the throne. 

Garden parties aside, we're reading up on Buckingham Palace's garden history in this beautiful book below.

Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden | $20.33 on Amazon

<a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=107655&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2FBuckingham-Palace-Garden-Claire-Masset%2Fdp%2F1909741698%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-20%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-20" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden | $20.33 on Amazon

Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden provides unique insight into the activities of the Palace's gardening team, such as mulberry harvesting and creating winter bouquets for the UK's most famous palace.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.