After welcoming six visitors to our February meeting, vice-president Margery Tate introduced the speaker for the evening, Roger Barrell, ex-Royal Bodyguard.
A London policeman for 31 years, Roger was then recruited to the personal protection group, or Royal Bodyguards, where he spent the next 17 years.
Guarding royal families is one of the oldest professions in the world, providing 5,000 years of service going back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans, and is as relevant today as it was then.
We learned that royal bodyguards are carefully selected and put through rigorous training, which includes areas as diverse as medical training and social etiquette.
During his service Mr Barrell has accompanied many of our royal family, including three years with the Queen Mother and seven years with Princess Alexandra.
As personal protection is covert a Royal Bodyguard needs to dress appropriately so that he blends into the background of any occasion. In America protection is much more blatant. The President is surrounded by 72 men, including a doctor with an ambulance on standby, but security in Britain is much more discreet so that the royal family can go about their business.
As to which method works best – well, consider how many members of the royal family and how many presidents have been assassinated.
Mr Barrell illustrated his talk with fascinating slides, both of himself carrying out his duties and of the royal family carrying out theirs. He looked as dashing in the guise of a footman riding on the back of the carriage carrying Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson from their wedding ceremony as he did clad in the traditional grey top hat and tails when accompanying the Queen at Ascot.
It may look glamorous, but the work is intense, with hours long. One trip involved 72 functions, 11 locations and 22 flights. Concentration is vital. We are lucky enough to enjoy political freedom, but one never knows where the next enemy will come from.
Mr Barrell’s fascinating insight into the world held us all enthralled and provoked some interesting questions.
Tribute was paid to Margaret Trotman, a dear member who died last month, and the suggestion that we plant snowdrops in the orchard in her memory was eagerly endorsed.
Margery reminded everyone that the next meeting is a cookery demonstration, to be held at Cresswell House on Tuesday, March 15, at the earlier time of 7pm.