The Queen tours Chelsea Flower Show in her very own chauffeur-driven buggy

·6-min read
The Queen makes a surprise visit to the Chelsea Flower Show - Paul Grover for The Telegraph
The Queen makes a surprise visit to the Chelsea Flower Show - Paul Grover for The Telegraph

In her 70 years on the throne, the Queen has ticked off nearly every mode of transport known to mankind – from horses to helicopters via yachts, Concorde and gold coaches.

As she arrived at the Chelsea Flower Show on Monday, delighting guests who feared she may not make it, she added a new one: a golf buggy.

The Queen, who has recently endured “episodic” mobility problems, confirmed she felt able to attend only hours before arriving in style, taking a tour of the sprawling site via a six-seater luxury “leisure car”.

Until now, she is thought to have resisted using the vehicle in public, only reluctantly conceding to the practicalities of older age at 96.

But in the event, the Queen appeared delighted to be on board.

The Queen looks delighted as she is driven around the Chelsea Flower Show site in a buggy - Paul Grover for The Telegraph
The Queen looks delighted as she is driven around the Chelsea Flower Show site in a buggy - Paul Grover for The Telegraph

Dressed in a Stewart Parvin coat described as a “pink lemonade” colour, the Queen smiled at Chelsea Flower Show guests as she was given a thorough tour of show gardens and displays by Keith Weed, the president of the Royal Horticultural Society.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "Adjustments have been made for the Queen's comfort."

The buggy belongs to the royal household and was driven by a palace chauffeur, with a peaked cap bearing Her Majesty’s ER cypher.

It is the first time the Queen has used the buggy in public. The same model is reported to have been delivered to the Windsor Castle estate in March for her private use. It is said to have been particularly useful for transporting her pet dogs.

The Queen has been seen in a golf buggy only twice before – in 2013, during the Coronation Festival in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, and in 2011, touring the grounds of Government House in Canberra, Australia.

The Queen appeared animated as she spoke to horticulturists and garden designers, at one point joking about the appalling weather in her Coronation year.

This year’s RHS show celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, with an array of gardens paying tribute to the Queen’s service.

They include the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Garden, which features laser-cut steel silhouettes of the monarch surrounded by 70 planted terracotta pots, representing each year of her reign.

The Royal family also viewed the RAF Benevolent Fund Garden, marking 100 years of good works, and The Mind Garden, designed as a space to boost mental health.

At the Hands Off Mangrove garden by Grow2Know, which aims to highlight global deforestation and racial injustice, she asked Danny Clarke, the co-designer, how long it had taken to create.

“Two and a half years,” he said. “Covid helped,” she replied.

The Queen is given a tour of the Chelsea Flower Show site by Keith Weed, president of the Royal Horticultural Society - Dan Kitwood/Reuters
The Queen is given a tour of the Chelsea Flower Show site by Keith Weed, president of the Royal Horticultural Society - Dan Kitwood/Reuters

Also in the buggy were Mr Weed's wife, Kate, and a lady-in-waiting who held a number of bouquets given to the Queen.

During the early evening tour, the Queen spoke to Raymond Evison, a renowned clematis grower, telling those around her: “We wouldn’t have any clematis if it wasn’t for him.”

She was also shown three "signatures" - special pieces of floral artwork commissioned by the RHS and signed by the Queen. Two spectacular arrangements of blooms marked her Platinum Jubilee and Golden Jubilee, while the third, for the 1953 Coronation, was unusual for featuring just roses and thistles.

Fiona Davison, head of libraries and exhibitions at the RHS, said: “She remarked that it was quite sparse, and said: ‘Possibly because nothing much was growing in 1953!’”

The Earl and Countess of Wessex, Princess Beatrice, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra all attended the event, although none joined the Queen in her buggy.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex visit the Chelsea Flower Show - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The Earl and Countess of Wessex visit the Chelsea Flower Show - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, at the Chelsea Flower Show - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, at the Chelsea Flower Show - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The new method of transport helped the Queen continue her support for the RHS, as its patron. She has attended the Chelsea Flower Show more than 50 times during her 70-year reign.

It also raised hopes that she can continue to appear in public for events she enjoys or particularly wants to attend, despite the mobility problems which led her to withdraw from the State Opening of Parliament this month.

It could, if the Queen wished, be incorporated into the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend to allow her to join the festivities in greater comfort.

The Queen has only recently made concessions to her age in public, now regularly using a walking stick for her comfort.

Earlier in the day, the Queen had personally praised the newest rose in the Buckingham Palace garden, which had been planted in honour of John Ystumllyn, the 18th-century horticulturist and one of Britain’s first black gardeners.

The Queen has said she hopes visitors to the gardens will reflect on the “friendship and community” represented by a newly-planted rose, and that visitors “will have the opportunity to reflect on what this rose represents for many years to come”.

This year's Chelsea Flower Show will pay a special tribute to the Queen - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
This year's Chelsea Flower Show will pay a special tribute to the Queen - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

During the first day of the Chelsea Flower Show, ahead of the public opening on Tuesday, Rebecca Pow, the environment minister, announced a new push by the Government to support bees and other pollinators, including encouraging gardeners to let their lawns and borders grow.

She said artificial grass "had its place", despite it being banned from the RHS' flower shows this year.

"It's not something I would encourage,” she said. “I can see there's a place for it for certain functions - low-maintenance, health issues and kids - but I would say there are so many wider benefits of having flowers and healthy soil.

"You're doing much more for saving the planet and your own health and wellbeing, and insects. So I would go down that road. If they do use astroturf, it would have to be recycled plastic," she said.

In a speech at the flower show, Monty Don, the BBC gardener, said young people "do not feel horticulturally enfranchised".

Monty Don with The RHS Victoria Medal of Honour he received for exceptional services to horticulture at the Chelsea Flower Show
Monty Don with The RHS Victoria Medal of Honour he received for exceptional services to horticulture at the Chelsea Flower Show

He added: "They do not feel that Chelsea, the RHS, Gardeners' World, everything that I do and I suspect quite a lot, with the best will in the world, of what you do, is for them.

"We desperately need their enthusiasm, their discomfort, even their anger, to challenge and reshape what we do.”

He also chatted to the Queen about filming the popular television series during lockdown with remote cameras, saying “it was quite odd”.

The Queen replied: “I’m sure.”

Hearing how people had turned to gardening during the pandemic, she told the celebrity gardener: “And it’s probably very therapeutic, digging.”

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