Treated royally: a friendly welcome for QE boys at Buckingham Palace

Treated royally: a friendly welcome for QE boys at Buckingham Palace

A QE old boy treated three current pupils to a rare behind-the-scenes tour of Buckingham Palace – and gave them an insight into careers on offer there.

Christopher Sandamas (OE 1978-1983) is Chief Clerk to the Palace and offered the opportunity for three boys and a member of staff to find out more about the inner workings of ‘Buck House’.

“We thought the best way to choose three pupils was to run an essay competition,” said teacher Sarah Westcott who accompanied the boys on the visit. “They all had to write about what it means to be British.” Year 8 boys Hector Cooper and Zakariya Shah, and Ivin Jose, of Year 7, were the winners. Their essays covered a broad range of experience, including growing up in France, how the traditions of British life are interwoven with the increasingly technological world, and an evaluation of the tolerance and multiculturalism experienced in modern Britain.

“After we cleared the security checks at the Palace gates, we had tea in Christopher’s office, where he outlined the duties of the Private Secretary’s office and his role as Chief Clerk,” said Dr Westcott.

“We were given an extensive tour of the Palace, including state rooms and some areas not usually open to visitors. We received the impression very much of a ‘working palace’, where functions of various types – be they investitures, garden parties or state visits – occur on a regular basis.”

The party was also given a ‘back stairs’ view of the Palace – meeting the numerous people who support the Queen in her duties, from handling correspondence with Heads of State or members of the public and acting as intermediaries with various departments of Government to organising her extensive engagements list.

The boys were given an insight into careers within the Palace organisation and the skills necessary for such roles. “The key message of how important it is to study what you enjoy came through loud and clear,” added Dr Westcott. “Many of the staff we met had backgrounds in the arts, particularly History and Politics with experience in research.”

The tour concluded with lunch in the staff dining room, where Christopher was keen to hear about the boys’ current experiences at QE, and to share his own memories. He was interested to hear about the boys’ preconceptions about Palace employees and was amused by Hector Cooper’s comments on how “normal and pleasant” the people working at the palace are.

“I think we were all amazed at the number of people working behind the scenes to support the Royal Household’s work and how welcoming they were when asked to tell us about their roles. It was a wonderful experience and we are all grateful to Christopher for giving us this rare opportunity,” concluded Dr Westcott.