This was prompted by the article about the Ipswich Society's outing to Eltham Palace in the July Newsletter.
The Friends of the Ipswich Museums (FOIM) visited Eltham Palace in 2004. I organised the trip and remember that a week or so before the day I received a phone call from English Heritage saying that the booking was cancelled. I asked to speak to a manager who said that there was a reason he could not disclose. This was as not acceptable: a coach full of members would all have to be told and have their money refunded. Come on another day was also not acceptable so the manager would investigate further.
A day or so later he phoned to say that they were having a private visit by HRH Prince Charles and that Clarence House had said that FOIM could be the only group that morning. The cafe would be closed but it was too late to tell everyone to bring a packed lunch so it was agreed that EH would provide sandwiches, cakes and beverages at a modest cost.
On the journey I asked if the group wanted the good or bad news: some members were upset that if they had known they were to meet HRH they might have dressed more formally. When we arrived we were told to be in the Orangery at a particular time for our lunch - which was excellent. We would all be presented to HRH at 11.30 prompt. By this time the weather had worsened and it became very windy; branches were falling off trees on the lawn. Staff busied themselves clearing up lest the Prince might see an untidy lawn!
At the correct time we all went out on to the lawn and presentations were made. Prince Charles asked me where we had come from. 'Ipswich, Sir' to which the Prince said that we must have set off rather early. I then presented other FOIM officers before HRH mingled informally with the group. We all walked to the royal car and waved him off. The afternoon was spent less eventfully at the Red House in Bexleyheath, home of William Morris.