3 June 2022

Happy and glorious: My time at the palace

Major Andrew Stone interviews Austin Burn

A photo of a young Austin Burn wearing his Royal Household uniform and a recent photo of Austin Burn
Then and now: Austin Burn before a state banquet in 1996 and a recent photo
As Brits enjoy a four-day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Salvationist Austin Burn speaks to War Cry editor Major Andrew Stone about his time of working for the royal family.

There has never been a bank holiday weekend like it in the United Kingdom – but then there has never been a monarch like Queen Elizabeth II.

Yesterday (Thursday 2 June), millions of people started celebrating the longest reign in the history of the country. The Queen’s 70 years on the throne have been marked by events that are military and civilian, secular and sacred, local and nationionwide.

Tomorrow (Saturday 4 June) there is a Party at the Palace when viewers on BBC One can join with thousands of people in The Mall and enjoy a live concert featuring some of the best-known names in the entertainment business.

The weekend’s celebrations reach their climax tomorrow with a Platinum Jubilee pageant, which will look back over the past 70 years in four acts, and procession. The event will include a ‘finale like no other’ that will form around the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.

Celebrities such as Jeremy Irons, Bill Bailey and Gok Wan will join with singer Ed Sheeran, a gospel choir and the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines to pay a special tribute to the Queen. It promises to be a fitting conclusion to four remarkable days that have been years in the planning and will have the royal household working flat out to make sure that every event is a success.

The Queen walking through a church yard with a vicar and members of the congregation
The Queen attending St Peter and St Paul Church in West Newton, Norfolk in 2019 | Credit: Paul Marriott/Alamy

‘During a jubilee year the royal household is buzzing, a lot of planning goes into each event,’ says Salvationist Austin Burn, who spent 18 years working for the royal family and was involved in the running of past jubilee celebrations.

‘During the Golden Jubilee there would be times when I would start work at six in the morning and finish at two the following morning. We had about 20 sovereign heads of state come and take part in a garter day ceremony, and I had to make sure that they had everything they needed. But, on the whole, the Golden Jubilee weekend was fantastic.

‘The motto during any event is “Don’t let the wheels come off” and they never did. But there were times when we had to adapt. For example, at one point I was on the royal yacht and it broke down.’

Austin’s close working relationship with the Queen and her family has meant that he witnessed their personalities and their work ethic at close quarters, and he was impressed from the outset. ‘When I first started working with the royals I was shocked by the attention to detail. In previous jobs, I had been used to a “that will do” attitude, but working in the royal households meant we always had to be at the top of our game.

‘But the biggest surprise was just how well looked after we were by every member of the royal family. I had expected them to be aloof, but they weren’t. The Queen in particular was absolutely delightful.’

  • You can read more of Austin’s experiences in this week’s War Cry.

Written by

The Salvation Army red shield

Major Andrew Stone

Editor, War Cry

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