Buckingham Palace to keep ‘intimate’ Covid-era investiture ceremonies

Davina McCall receives her MBE from Princess Anne
Davina McCall receives her MBE from Princess Anne in a private ceremony that the palace plans to keep for all further investitures - PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Buckingham Palace is to make Covid-era changes to investiture ceremonies permanent after those receiving honours said that they much preferred the “intimate” new version.

The restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic meant that those receiving knighthoods, damehoods and orders of the British Empire were invited in one-by-one for a more private-feeling conversation with a member of the Royal family, with their relatives watching on.

The previous set-up, in which all recipients and their families were seated together facing the front, has now been altered permanently, after overwhelming positive feedback from those who had experienced the ceremony.

Multiple sources told The Telegraph that the Covid-era ceremony is staying, with those attending the Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle ceremonies being informally told about the change as a point of interest during their day out.

Those receiving honours, who bring a small number of family or friends with them on the day, are also invited to look around some of the staterooms as they wait, in what has been described as an opportunity to mingle.

The previous method, dating back decades, saw an entire cohort of honourees - around 70 each time- and their families gathered in the Buckingham Palace ballroom en masse, in chairs facing the front.

King Charles knights Sir Dr. Brian May in the palace Throne Room - investitures used to be held in the Ballroom
King Charles knights Sir Dr. Brian May in the palace Throne Room - investitures used to be held in the Ballroom - Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Likened to a school prize giving, in which everyone watched as each recipient made small talk with the then-Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Charles, the long-running tradition was a mainstay of the Royal calendar and a moving moment for those honoured for their service to their country and community.

An old description of the ceremony, hosted on the Royal family website with a photograph of hundreds of gold and red velvet chairs, states: “The Ballroom is readied for recipients and their guests, ahead of their arrival at Buckingham Palace.”

The new version is instead hosted in the Throne Room. It sees recipients invited in one-by-one, while their families are in the room to one side watching.

Those asked are reported to have given feedback that the set-up felt more intimate, lessening their nerves as they talked to the King, Prince William or Princess Anne one-on-one without a large audience.

It retains its other traditional elements, including the attendance of two Gurkha orderly officers dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria in 1876, and a military band or orchestra playing in the background as the Royal host and recipient make conversation.

At Windsor Castle, it takes place in the Grand Reception Room, with a corridor outside with half a dozen professional photographers on hand to capture people smiling with their CBE, OBE, or MBE for a souvenir of the day.

They can also purchase a video of their day, with remote cameras in the room for their big moment with royalty.