Receiving the MBE from King Charles at Windsor Castle
Updated: Aug 13
A little blog about getting the MBE
In March 2021 I received an email from the government's honours commission informing me I had been awarded an MBE in her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's birthday honours list. I was to keep it secret and it will be published in June.
At first, of course, I thought it was spam because surely they would send an official letter and not an email, but on reading it they knew far too much about me for it not to be anything but genuine. Running our campaign for many years you do get emails from so-called Honours companies saying they could get you a knighthood for this and that if you give them 500 pounds type emails.
The request, of course, was from the honours committee which is part of the government and could I please reply within 2 weeks to confirm that I would accept the MBE and in the future visit either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle for an investiture? , It also said I could not tell anyone until the full list was published in the Gazette on the day of the queen's birthday in June 2021
Anyone who knows me will tell you believe it or not I am shy, avoid praise,
I've never chased status, I just wanted to help people and hope that in time people would think I changed things even just a little bit for men diagnosed. I have said no to so many requests to be on TV and in the press. I am an ex-soldier who was lucky enough to survive this cancer twice and has a truck's worth of chemo both times so it's your duty to try and stop other men from going through it, isn't it?...,
I was flattered to receive the news but how could I go and receive it when so many young men have died. As many who know me would agree in a world full of status chasers I am not at all fussed at it all. I started this to change things and help men and unlike most people in this business only in it to raise their profile.
I rang a close friend former sergeant major Mick Riley MBE who also had this cancer for advice.
Mick is without a doubt one of a handful of men I trust, I only trust ex-military and a few civilian friends and he is the man I have the most admiration for, served in Iraq and Afghanistan with 25 years of service and just said " this is not about anything else but you for once, take it, have a day out, dress smart, brush your fucking hair and teeth and take a slap on the back for once".
So ok I replied Yes, I would be delighted of course and I looked through the rules attached to the email looking for a catch, I have for most of my life always looked for " the catch" in most things, I learnt that in the military, even guard duty at 3 am in the morning had a catch.
It turns out the only catch was because of covid ( at the time) there was a long delay in people getting their gongs at investitures and it could be a long long time before I get a date to go to the palace or the castle and anyone who's had cancer will tell you, you get very very used to waiting, it becomes normal.
A nice man then rang from St James palace chancery of Knighthoods a few months later asking if id like to come to Buckingham Palace with 1 guest in November 2021. I was to be honestly a bit gutted because I had seen people get honoured in videos on youtube who had 3 guests. I really wanted to take Laura my partner, my daughter Polly and my mum so I asked if it will ever return to 3 guests. He said yes but because of covid restrictions at that time only 1 is allowed and he could not give me a date on when it would return to normal, he also said they could post me the MBE medal and I could bring 3 guests to a summer garden party in 2022 at Buckingham palace.
I asked him, a bit nervously to be fair as I didn't want to sound like a pain in the arse if I could wait until it returns to 3 guests and myself, he was ever so nice and said yes of course but it could along wait and he would make a note of this on the computer.
So that was that sorted, I would have to wait and that's fine because I really wanted to take them with me.
About 4 months later I received a large cardboard tube from the postman.
It had the royal emblem on it. typical me I took one end off the tube and shook it rather vigorously up and down to see what came out. A big piece of paper came flying out across the floor just missing the cat's food and it hit the door before rolling on the floor and sort of unravelled itself.
It was a certificate in very fancy old writing with the signature
" Elizabeth R" . I picked it up rather puzzled and rang my mate Mick Riley MBE a former British army Sargent Major who informed me that it is in fact a parchment from the Queen to say it was official.
Thank god it didn't land in the cat food.
Yes it was signed by the queen but not Prince Phillip who was the grand master, he had passed away unfortunately as you can see from the photo, the space above the grand master is empty.
On the Queen's official birthday, June 2021it was published in the London Gazette and I could tell people about the award, to be honest, I had forgotten about the date I could tell people, I was reminded of this at about 11 pm as I was driving across the Yorkshire hills in the dark returning from working at the Boxing as my phone started beeping with notifications
from Facebook and Mick Riley had posted it, it's a good job he remembered. Yes, this sounds like bravado that I had forgotten but it's the truth as many who know me would agree, my memory is awful and I sometimes need reminding to even breathe.
A long time later...
The queen unfortunately died and of course, to a lot of us, it was the end of an era. I am not a big royalist but I had served in the military with pride and although you are not brainwashed into being a royalist as some of my left-wing mates would point out you do look at her as a symbol of the country you're serving. The queen had always been like a granny to people my age, as far back as I can remember. I always admired her dignity and to be honest with a bit of sympathy, i mean personally given a choice to live in a little house and be able to do whatever I want carefree or live in a place and have everything scrutinised, followed everywhere by the press, not even being able to just go and get a pint of milk with your tunes on in your headphones, I know which life I would pick, So yes I was upset the queen had passed away.
Just before she passed away I received a letter from the chancery at St James Palace to inform me that I and 3 guests could come to Windsor Castle on February 7th 2023, at 9.30 am at Henry 8th gate. It did not say who may be presenting me with the medal. It could be 1 of three
King Charles, The Princess Royal or Prince William. The dress code is a smart suit or morning dress...... what the hell is a morning dress?. I googled it and the first image that came up was Hugh Grant in for weddings and a funeral, you know what I mean! I am of course one of those men who could go to a tailor, spend thousands ( yeah right) and within 1 minute of leaving the shop look like I've had a fight with a bull and been dragged through a hedge. For some reason I always look a bit of a scruff, yes I was always immaculate as a soldier but that was easy, civilian clobber is a different story and civilian smart clothes well that will never be loved, we just don't get on, I don't look right in smart suits. I think Johnny Mercer the MP and an ex-officer in the army said the same.
I thought, funk it you only live once and hire a morning suit and look posh for a few hours, as Mick said brush my hair and teeth and say " bugger" a lot like Hugh Grant.
So me and Laura my partner, Polly and Gemma, Rhys and my mum and dad drove down to Windsor the night before
hEADING INTO WINDSOR CASTLE.
We had a nice walk around Windsor the night before, it was a rather windy cold February night and, to be honest, there was no one about, we walked up to the castle to see if the king's royal standard ( flag ) was above the tower, we still did not know who would be presenting me with the MBE the next day so the armed policeman informed us that the king is indeed home at the castle and winked!!.
So we're now pretty sure it would be King Charles. Windsor is a nice town and just over the river of course is Eton. We decided to get some food in Wetherspoons which is opposite the castle and is rather plush compared to some we have been in.
The next morning we all got up and went down from breakfast, not all at the same time as I for some reason woke up at 5 am while everyone else was fast asleep and got my suit ready before going down. Just a big plate of sausages and beans with mushrooms, I really love cheaper hotel buffet breakfasts ( no one was watching how many sausages you can grab).
9.15 am we all met at the hotel reception as discussed the night before. Unfortunately, I could only take 3 in so Gemma, Rhys and my dad walked up with us but couldn't come in, I was glad they came down with us so they walked off to look at the river and Eton.
We walked to the gate, had a few photos taken and then in we went waving goodbye to the others. The first stop was the armed police at the gate asking for passports and invitations and then they showed us the way to go, up the hill past St Georges's chappel up into the state departments behind the castle tower. It was a bit emotional walking past the chapel where we all knew Queen Elizabeth was buried not long before and the castle was covered in a morning fog which made the buildings grey and rather intimidating but very beautiful. It was so quiet and there were only ourselves, the Welsh guards, and some other people walking up that we could see.
It took only 10 minutes to walk up through the castle and we were met by two rather nice castle guides dressed in wonderful grey and red capes who made us welcome and guided us through the main doors into the state apartments. This is where the quiet misty lovely morning ended and after checking coats into a room just inside the door we were met with the Blues and Royals and the lifeguards all standing on either side of the corridors with an orchestra playing as we walked upon some stars into a large room full of paintings and suits of armour. We gave our names to a gentleman who stood at a podium and welcomed us and gave asked us to follow the signs until we found a waiting room. As waiting rooms go then......
it was rather nice and there was a lady in there who said we could be waiting for up to an hour. There was another small orchestra there playing who were called the duchesses quartet I think, they were military though.
there were struck rules for no photography inside the staterooms but I did sneak one of Polly and Laura ( sorry your royal highness)
Stelle McCartney was there and we wondered if her dad was with her, didn't see him but that added to the nerves a bit.
After an hour our moment came, one of the king's men who was a former officer in the Grenadier guards told us what to do when our name is called, walk in front of the king, bow my head and walk forward. The king will walk forward and placed the MBE on my chest and talk to me, he then said please don't go shy, the king will want to know all about you and what you do, talk to him as normally as you can as he likes that.
Laura, Polly and my mum will be guided to another chap in uniform and will stand about ten feet behind me as I meet the king.
So with a few minutes to go the Gentleman in uniform noticed I'm ex-military because had ribbons on and chatted to me while the guy in front was with the king, turns out he was one of the officers in charge of one of the tours I did way back in 1994 I would have talked all day to him but my name was called and he said " off you go sir" and I walked up, turned and bowed my head and walked forward to talk to King Charles.
I have always admired King Charles as king or prince for his work in organic food/farming awareness as we know modern mass-produced farming has been linked to cancers but I know I would not have much time to go into a deep and meaningful conversation about it so I started with " good morning your majesty "
I remember thinking of Karl "benny" Benson, one of the best friends i ever made and was like a brother but unfortunately died from this cancer. He popped into my head just for second , he often pops in to my mind when i'm low and i think he's watching over me. I'm glad he was there with me.
He was very nice, and very warm and asked me if I had beaten cancer, I said yes but it took loads of chemo to which he gave a sympathetic look so I moved the conversation onto what I do with testicularcanceruk.com and how we drive awareness but most importantly offer emotional support.
I won't say the whole conversation as it was very brief but I am ex-military so i was not the slightest bit nervous and i found him to be very very nice and he really listened to what I had to say.
He put his hand out and I took it and he said very well done and thank you for all the hard work, with this I said " I will keep at it your majesty", stood back a few paces and bowed my head, and moved away.
So that was that, was I nervous? no, I don't get nervous after being in the military and having cancer twice and lots of chemo, waiting for results etc as anyone whose had cancer will testify, nothing scares you.
Will I remember it forever? Yes, of course, i met King Charles who i admire very much, I love castles and old buildings, so I was stupidly excited to walk through Windsor, ask my partner Laura... I'm always dragging her around Chatsworth or Highclere Castle ( downtown abbey ).
I was happier for my mum who loves the royal family and got to see the king even if it was a few feet behind me and I hope my daughter and Laura were proud.
Most importantly I hope anyone who going through cancer I've had to see's it and thinks "I could do that" and I can now say to Mick Riley MBE " Ha, now I've got one to ya bastard"
Thank you to everyone who sent me a nice message, and thanks to Laura, Polly, Gemma, Rhys and Mum and Dad for coming, ( we even stopped in Oxford my most favourite place on the way down for a few hours )
Lastly i want to thank EVERYONE who have looked out for me and helped me over the years, to many to name but all the lads in the forum and old army mates.
here is a little video by the of the whole day,