'The Palace gardens have not seen this much fun, ever': Royals throw huge tea party for bereaved military children

Kate shoots water balloons at Prince William Kate shoots water balloons at Prince William
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In the words of Prince Harry, Buckingham Palace had not seen that much fun, ever.

He should know - and with water balloons, facepaints, cupcakes and the RAF Falcons parachuting onto the palace lawns, who would argue?

"How do you do..." Credit:  REUTERS

The gardens of Buckingham Palace were transformed into every child’s dream playground on Saturday, as the Royal family threw open their home to entertain children who have lost a parent in military service to their country.

Some 850 young people were invited to join the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry for an all-out Party at the Palace.

Star entertainers included the ventriloquist Nina Conti, singer Jess Glynne and Britain's Got Talent-winning magician Lance Corporal Richard Jones.

Children took part in activities including cupcake decorating, chocolate making, science experiments, and arts and crafts.

The children get stuck in to some Arts and Crafts at the Palace Credit:  REUTERS

The adventurous among them were taught how to beatbox and breakdance, while the palace lawn was given over to mass participation games

Balloon-makers were on hand to craft colourful crowns for children, while a facepainter decorated them with designs including a sparkling unicorn.

Guards in front of the palace were reported to have welcomed the children by playing Let It Go, the popular song from Disney film Frozen.

The Duchess, wearing the same cream Chloe dress she wore during a children’s party in Canada last year, got into the spirit of things early, by launching a water balloon in a catapult from the steps of the palace.

In a grand finale, children were left open-mouthed as they watched the RAF Falcons display team parachuting over the roof of the palace and into the gardens.

kparker458Nice soft landing to finish the day off #partyatthepalace Credit: Kristian Parker

Speaking from a stage, Prince Harry told children: “We’re here to celebrate you.”

"We're here to remind you that we as a family, and as a nation will never, ever forget the sacrifices that all of you here have made," he said.

“We wanted to give you an opportunity to know that you are part of, sadly, a very large group of fantastic people. The three of us, and all of our family, wanted to thank you so, so much for everything you've done.

“I can assure you that Buckingham Palace gardens have not seen this much fun, ever.”

Among the children who bonded with Prince Harry was Jack Rigby, six, the son of Fusilier Lee Rigby who was murdered in 2013 by Islamic extremists outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, south London.

Prince William meets budding  Spiderman George Hinchcliffe, 3, at Buckingham Palace Credit: i-Images/Andrew Parsons

Jack's mother, Rebecca Rigby, 34, said: “It means so much that the royals put this event on and are showing us their support. It's so important for Jack and all the other children here to know they are not forgotten – that they've not gone through all of this to be forgotten, that they've got their support.

“It's also so important for Jack to be able to speak to other children and know that other children have gone through the same thing as he has.”

The Prince also played at “plate-spinning” with George Hinchcliffe, three, who had dressed as his favourite superhero Spiderman for the party.

George's father, Captain Richard Hinchfliffe, who served with the Royal Armoured Medical Corps, died in an accident as a civilian in 2015 shortly after leaving the RAMC.

Although the day was designed for children to simply have a good time, four charities - Child Bereavement UK, Scotty's Little Soldiers, Winston's Wish and SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity - were present to provide information on services or support for children who needed it.

Prince Harry and the Duchess Credit:  Andrew Parsons 

The children received their tickets last month along with a handwritten note from Prince Harry telling them how much all three young Royals were looking forward to hosting them.

“I know it’s Buckingham Palace but please don’t worry about dressing up,” he told them. “There’s no need, I won’t tell if you don’t."

“Loads of fun stuff organised so wear what you want, I dare you!”

Among the guests was Nikki Scott, mother of Kai, 13, and Brooke, eight, who founded charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers to help the bereaved children of British Armed Forces children following the death of her husband Cpl Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009.

Kai was five when his father died, and Brooke just seven months old.

Mrs Scott said that the party would show bereaved Forces children that they are not alone, allowing them to form friendships with others who understand.

“The fact the royals are putting this party on shows the children they are not forgotten and people still care,” she said. “It gives them a chance to feel really special.

The Duchess of Cambridge chats with a boy whose father died serving his country Credit:  PA

Also invited were Toni O’Donnell and her children Aidan, 16, and Ben, eight. Their father WO2 Gary O'Donnell was killed in action in September 2008 while serving in the 11 EOD Regiment.

Mrs O’Donnell said: “It’s just nice to be remembered, especially by people like the Royal Family.

“A lot of people think kids get over these things quickly, but they don’t: they just deal with it differently.

“When they [the children] get together with other people who are all in the same situation, you’d be surprised how they go off together and really talk to each other.

“Prince Harry and Prince William have been in that situation themselves, and they know what our children are feeling.”

Hayley Armour, wife of Corporal Peter Armour of the Royal Signals accompanied her daughter Lola to the Palace. Now 13, Lola was nearly two when her father died in Seeb, Oman, in May 2005.

She said: “It’s really thoughtful. The way that our Royal Family is heading is absolutely amazing if this is the sort of thing they’re going to do.”

 

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