When You’re Invited to the Palace, Don’t Turn Down the Offer

It was one of those memorable days. My wife and I alighted from the train at London-Paddington station and climbed into a taxi, where Merryn told the driver an address she might never ask for again: “Buckingham Palace, please.” A few days earlier she’d received a gilt-edged card with royal crest in the mail—an invitation to join The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall for a reception at the palace to celebrate the Commonwealth Diaspora of the United Kingdom.

All images © Sheridan Voysey unless otherwise stated

While the invitation never said why Merryn had been invited, it was no doubt due to her role as Lead Statistician on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which has prevented an estimated 50 million Covid-19 hospitalisations and saved 1 million lives so far. Just a few weeks ago that effort earned her the honour of being named Australian of the Year in the UK 2022, with a standing ovation and her name engraved alongside Kylie Minogue, Clive James, Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries and others on the official Wedgewood urn. You can see her acceptance speech below, filmed at Australia House in London.

Prof. Merryn Voysey with King’s Speech director Tom Hooper, actor Jaimie Dornan (Honorary Australians of the Year UK) and Doone Roisin (Young Achiever of the Year) © Albert Palen

No Entry Without Invitation

We arrived at Buckingham Palace’s north gate where Merryn showed her invitation and proceeded with other guests into the Grand Ball Room—a wonderous hall with crystal chandeliers and two gold thrones under a gold embroidered red velvet canopy, where important people with OBE’s and MBE’s took sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres from friendly Palace staff. Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla soon greeted their guests. It was a special afternoon.

There was just one problem—I wasn’t allowed in. This royal invitation came with no plus-one, so while Merryn dined with the prince in the palace, I sat in the park with the pigeons, holding an over-priced coffee and stale muffin from the kiosk!

Gates Close at 3.30pm

Jesus once told a story about a member of royalty who throws a banquet. Gilt-edged invitations are sent to important people, but in this case some decline. One is busy with his property portfolio, another is busy with work, while a third has booked his honeymoon on the same date. This isn’t the kind of response fitting for a royal invitation. The man gathers his staff and says, “Print more invitations and give them to the poor!” The staff return, saying there’s still room. “Print even more invites,” he says. “Take them to the streets and those watching pigeons in parks!” It’s a story about the love of God, who wants His banquet full, with every kind of person. And it’s a story with a sting in its tail, for the gates will soon close and only those accepting the invitation will get in.

Stale muffin aside, I enjoyed my time in the park—taking photos of the pigeons and a cheeky squirrel that tried to steal my coffee cup. If Palace staff had approached me with an invitation I wonder if I’d have taken it. I might’ve felt out of place, dressed in my T-shirt and jeans instead of a suit. Perhaps I’d have deliberated too long, the gates closing, missing my opportunity.

Or maybe I’d have walked in, just as I am, dusty trainers and all.

Note to self: when the invitation comes to enter palaces earthly and divine, don’t turn down the offer.


Listen

Listen to Sheridan talk about this on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

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Comments:

  • June 15, 2022
    Bruce Michael Gulland

    The perfect real life story to introduce a great spiritual thought Sheridan – love it! And big congrats to Merryn, fantastic achievement 🙂

    reply
    • June 15, 2022
      Sheridan+Voysey

      Thanks Bruce!

      reply
  • June 15, 2022
    Sue Warner

    Congratulations Merryn…and thank you! What an amazing achievement !

    reply
    • June 15, 2022
      Sheridan+Voysey

      Isn’t it? Thanks Sue.

      reply
  • June 15, 2022
    Linda Santavicca

    Sometimes we don’t get the invite but, with God, the door is always open. And Congratulations to Merryn. An amazing honor!

    reply
    • June 15, 2022
      Sheridan+Voysey

      Yes indeed!

      reply
  • June 15, 2022
    Michelle+Vergara

    Congratulations and many, many thanks to Merryn! I want to accept the invitation too. Looking forward to seeing you there, Sheridan.

    reply
    • June 15, 2022
      Sheridan+Voysey

      Meet you at the gate, Michelle!

      reply
  • June 17, 2022
    Scott Lee

    What an honor! Happy for you, Merryn. I can relate, Sheridan. I really enjoyed the way you tied it to the scripture. Always enjoy your writing, especially in Our Daily Bread.

    reply
    • June 17, 2022
      Sheridan+Voysey

      Thank you, Scott – that is very appreciated.

      reply
  • June 20, 2022
    Clare

    I saw that photo of Merryn in her dress out the front of the palace just now and felt a little bit teary, what a beautiful post.
    We are all invited

    reply
    • June 20, 2022
      Sheridan+Voysey

      Indeed we are :).

      reply

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