Lady Cynthia Zissman and Sir Bernard Zissman meeting HRH The Duke of Cambridge
Last month my wife and I attended a unique gathering at St James’s Palace, the London home of the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra – a kind of Royal multi-occupation you might say! The occasion was a dinner to support the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas – just up the road on the A38, about 40 minutes from Birmingham – an organisation of which I am a member of the Appeal Council.
St. James’s Palace, built in the middle of the 16th century by Henry VIII, has been the setting for some of the most important events in Royal history: in 1588 Queen Elizabeth I directed the English fleet against the Spanish Armada; in 1649 King Charles I spent his last moments before being executed; and Queen Victoria was married in the St James Chapel. The State Apartments also contain an interesting range of Royal portraits from the time of Henry VIII, including important works by Mytens, Van Somer, Michael Wright and Wissing; portraits of military and naval heroes painted for George IV by Reynolds and Hoppner; a portrait of George IV by Lawrence; and important battle pieces by Wootton and George Jones.
It was in this most elegant and historic environment that we were to meet the Patron of the NMA Appeal, HRH The Duke of Cambridge and his lovely Princess, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. I was honoured to be asked to introduce “my group” of guests and as we enjoyed some laughter with the Duke, their presence – and the Duchess’s captivating warm smile – lit up a gathering of some 120 guests already dressed in its best and excited to meet our newest Royal Bride and Groom.
The food was superbly served, the wine very acceptable and the table company hugely interesting. It was a relaxing evening and the short speeches from Appeal Chairman, Major General Patrick Cordingley, HRH Prince William and a moving address from Jacqui Thompson – the widow of a serviceman killed in Kandahar and left with five daughters – inspired us all and brought tears to many eyes. There was even some entertainment with a short recital from violinist Nicola Benedetti.
A memorable evening, a unique location and an inspiring occasion, it was a privilege to have been present.