A Licensed Lay Minister from a Lancashire parish church enjoyed the experience of a lifetime in the company of many famous faces when he was invited to the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey.
Greg Doughty BEM, from The Trinity Parish in Blackpool, received an invitation in recognition of his British Empire Medal award for setting up a food project that saw some 50,000 meals supplied to homeless people living in bed and breakfast accommodation in Blackpool during the worst phase of the Covid pandemic in 2020.
His seat saw him just a few feet away from the King and Queen as they entered the Abbey on May 6. Greg is clearly visible on the recorded television coverage of the Coronation service.
Greg, who is also Assistant Warden of Lay Ministry in the Diocese, will be sharing his experience of the Coronation service with his church family on May 22 at the church’s regular afternoon tea at 1.30pm.
It’s not Greg’s first brush with Royalty: He received his BEM at Buckingham Palace in 2020, and in 2022 he and his wife Catherine, who also worked on the food project, were invited to Buckingham Palace for one of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s garden parties.
Said Greg: “Imagine my surprise when I received an email from The Palace inviting me to attend Westminster Abbey for the Coronation! After accepting the invite, I received all the instructions regarding dress codes, wearing of medals, timings, and security protocols.”
Greg, whose full-time job is Motorway Traffic Officer, got the invite via email whilst on duty one evening in March: “It was about 10pm at night and I checked my phone, and up popped the formal invitation. There wasn’t much time before I had to reply to it!”
All invited guests had to be at the security point at the Abbey by 7.30am on the morning of the service. Greg explains: “On arrival we were put into a queue waiting to go through security clearance. I was standing in line with all manner of celebrities including legendary singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading.
"Joan and I had a chat and we were saying how levelling the queue was. How lords, ladies, TV celebrities and the like, despite how fancy a vehicle they arrived in, were ushered to join the rear of the queue to await the Abbey opening!
“She was lovely to talk to, down-to-earth and just as thrilled to be there as me!”
“It was quite surreal seeing the likes of Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Adam Hill and more having to fall into line just like the rest of us. Everyone was addressed as either Sir or Madam, no matter who they were.”
Once inside, Greg found himself sitting in one of the best seats in the house, having a clear view of all the dignitaries and the Royals as they processed into the Abbey. Sitting nearby were TV presenting duo Ant and Dec and also singer Nick Cave.
Greg added: “The atmosphere was incredible and for me what was amazing was that the theme of the Coronation service was about serving and not being served and that Jesus Christ, the King of Kings was honoured in the words spoken, scriptures read, and prayers prayed.
“As at the Queens funeral, the world got to hear the Good News. All in all, a fantastic day and I am grateful to have been a part of it.”
In an additional surprise for the Doughty family, Greg’s 12-year-old grandson received an invitation to the Coronation Concert on the Sunday evening at Windsor Castle. He had been a liver transplant patient as a baby in Birmingham and received the invitation from the Prince and Princess of Wales who had visited the hospital.
Other Diocesan Coronation coverage …
Additional words by Mark Ashley
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