The Queen hosts three Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace every year – and another up in Scotland – inviting thousands of guests. Our resident royalist Steve Thompson managed to blag his way in...

SO, what really happens at a Royal Garden party?

Do they actually serve cucumber sandwiches? Do you really get up close and personal with the Queen and her famalam? And what happens when you need to go – do you get to use the Royal bogs?

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All these answers and more coming up...

I waited in line with a good few thousand others in the rain outside Buckingham Palace. Tourists looked on in envy. Everyone was clutching a precious yellow invite. Worryingly, I didn’t seem to have one.

I’d been invited on email and had brought along my valid forms of identification as instructed – a passport, the green paper bit of my driving licence, and three months worth of water bills.

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When I got to the front, a police officer, who managed to be unfailingly polite while also holding a semi-automatic machine gun, had a bit of back and forth on his radio, as he made sure I wasn't persona non grata.

He checked my address three times, then eventually established I was a member of Her Majesty’s Press, and waved me over to a media officer. I was in. I didn’t quite believe it.

Dress code is fancy: morning suits or military uniform for the chaps, frocks and hats for ladies.

I was the only one there with a backpack and an anorak – I felt like Mr Bean.

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Once you’re across the front courtyard (no pictures allowed), it's back into the main building, and then outside again to the gardens.

Buckingham Palace and its gardens is like a particularly well kept National Trust place - and I’m quite partial to a visit to Tatton Park with my Scottish membership (it’s cheaper than the English one) so I felt right at home here.

There were two brass bands, who mainly played the Star Wars theme tune and the National Anthem. You do get up close to the Royals, but it’s stage managed and while some are lucky enough to get regal facetime, it is not as laissez faire as one might think.

Crowds are ushered into ‘organic corridors’ allowing each Royal to wander around the gardens, seemingly chatting to the hoi polloi at random.

But what actually happens is that groups of two to four guests, who have done something particularly worthy, are selected to stand in the middle of these lines for one of the VIPs to meet.

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The Queen, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice were all there – but there was one more Royal that everyone wanted to see.

As we waited to glimpse ours, one young woman, clearly hoping to clap eyes on Harry, enquired who would be coming down our line.

“The Duke of Sussex,” came the reply, from a chap in top hat and tails, who was almost certainly an armed undercover secret service bodyguard.

The poor girl looked disappointed, not realising this is how Hazza is known these days.

We came within selfie taking distance of Mr Markle, who was without his Hollywood wife, but I decided against a lunge, clocking what looked like either a cameraman or a marksman up on the roof.

Like any good British event, there was queuing. Lots of queuing. There were more queues here than at Alton Towers on a balmy bank holiday Monday. The weather wasn’t quite so good here, though.

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There was a queue to get through security, a queue to get into the gardens, a queue to glimpse a royal, a queue to get fed and a queue for the loos (the poshest ‘portaloos’ you’ll ever use).

The sarnies were good, if not in plentiful supply. There was no cucumber, but the egg mayo was fine (no crusts), then there was some sort of vegan wrap, and a delightful ham (as in ma’am) sandwich with mustard (English, naturally).

The tea was warm and weak, and the plates were miniscule, but I’d been forewarned about this so I piled mine high, as soon as I heard the magic words ‘help yourself’.

Fed, watered – although there was no booze – and by now a bit bedraggled on this wet Wednesday in May, I noticed a few folk starting to sneak out.

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I took my chance and darted back onto the streets of London with the rest of the common folk – now not looking quite so out of place with my raincoat and bag.