Season’s Greetings from the Marshal

The Marshal rounds up a busy year of diplomacy and gives the London diplomatic corps some insider tips on how best to enjoy the Festive Season.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers of Embassy a very restful and enjoyable holiday season.

For me, it is a chance to reflect on my first year in the post of Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps. During 2014 52 new Heads of Mission came to Buckingham Palace to see The Queen. I haven’t counted the number of departing Heads of Mission, but it must have been a similar number. And it doesn’t take sophisticated maths to work out that The Queen has welcomed a new Head of Mission on average once a week.

During the year the Diplomatic Corps are also invited to a number of events at the Palace, as well as to important State Occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament and The Queen’s Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour). And many of them are kind enough to invite me to their own celebrations, whether it be National Day parties or smaller and more informal occasions.

I can safely say that I have met more new colleagues and friends this year than during any previous year, and enjoyed a huge range of interesting conversations. A warm thank you to everyone who has made my job so easy and enjoyable. I would especially like to thank my colleagues in the Royal Household, particular my excellent Executive Assistant Georgina Asplin.

I have sometimes been asked what are my top tips for diplomatic success in London, and I am reflecting on that question for a future article. In the meantime here are some ideas for enjoying the festive season in London:

Travel as little as possible. Many UK citizens spend most of the season on the motorways and railways. London empties a bit, and there are some fantastic cultural events, many of them free, to enjoy, notably the largest street parade in the world on New Year’s Day;

The sales in some of London’s famous stores can be enjoyable (and even sometimes financially worthwhile) but they can also resemble a cross between a football match and a riot. Something to experience once, or watch the reports on TV);

The UK used to close down for about five days but these days only on 25 December is everything shut. Lots of good things happen on Boxing Day, including sporting events and other weird customs;

If you want to celebrate New Year in style the place to be is Scotland, where the celebrations last well into January.

Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year.

Alistair Harrison