On the 19th of April 2017 I had the great honour of attending Buckingham Palace, where I received my MBE from Prince William.
I was allowed to take 3 guests with me, my guests were my Mam, Dad and a friend.
We arrived in London the night before and were booked into the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel. We were surprised when the staff at Reception informed us we had been upgraded to a Suite overlooking the London Eye and we had access to the executive dining area and lounge.
That night Mum & Dad took us out for a curry in London.
The following day – we met for breakfast in the exec lounge and had a great view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament – looking over Westminster Bridge.
Arriving by car at Buckingham Palace is quite nerve wracking. We had been allocated a space in the inner courtyard – so that meant driving through crowds of people waiting outside.
Once inside the Palace I had to leave my guests and follow the other award recipients into a series of formal briefings. Listening to the Queen’s staff explaining procedures and protocols – that dated back to Queen Victoria – was quite special.
Awards were received in alphabetical order – so I was one of the last to go into the formal ballroom. I walked up to one of the officials and waited until my name was called. I then had to walk forward and bow to Prince William before he shook my hand. He asked me about swimming, Rio and my aspirations for the future – he was genuinely interested and showed a connection with young people.
After the ceremony we left the main building and returned to the courtyard for photographs.
I met up with some of my team-mates and fellow gold medalists from Rio2016 – Steph Slater, Mikey Jones, Bethany Firth and (my flat-mate from Rio) Aaron Moores.
As we finished, I spotted David Beckham and asked if it was OK to get a photograph. David had been attending to support his wife, Victoria, who received an OBE during the same ceremony.
As we left Buckingham Palace – Mum & Dad had a surprise for me. Instead of driving home – we turned towards Knightsbridge and parked at the Mandarin Oriental on Hyde Park where we had High-Tea in the Rosebery Lounge. The staff really looked after us and we had some fantastic sandwiches and amazing pastries.