Top Hats and Umbrellas! See Who Stepped in for the Queen at Palace's First Garden Party Since 2019

Buckingham Palace announced that garden parties will return this month after being canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but the 96-year-old monarch will not attend the events

Prince Charles
Prince Charles. Photo: Jonathan Brady/WPA Pool/Getty

Buckingham Palace garden parties are back — but without Queen Elizabeth.

After canceling garden parties in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held again on Wednesday. Prince Charles, his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Anne stepped in for the monarch, 96, who announced last week that she would not attend the gatherings this year.

The royals greeted many of the 8,000 guests who were invited to the palace's gardens to recognize their public service. Guests dressed to the nines — with men in morning suits and top hats and women in whimsical fascinators and dresses — despite the gloomy weather. (In fact, the Queen has said the weather "can be a bit of a worry" when it comes to throwing these parties.)

Both Camilla, 74, and Princess Anne, 71, carried open umbrellas with them as they made their way across the lawn. Prince Charles, 73, also had an umbrella handy, although he opted to use it as a cane until it was necessary!

Other royals in attendance included the Duke of Kent as well as Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

Buckingham Palace Garden Party
Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. JONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP/Getty

Garden parties have been held at Buckingham Palace since the 1860s as a way for the monarch to recognize public service. In addition to mingling with members of the royal family, guests are treated to tea and cake. (According to the royal family's website, around 27,000 cups of tea are served and 20,000 slices of cakes are consumed!)

At the last garden party, hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, in 2019, the monarch was joined by three of her grandchildren: Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. JONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP/Getty

Kate Middleton and Prince William have also attended several garden parties over the years.

Other garden parties at Buckingham Palace are scheduled for this month, as well as one being held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 29.

The Queen has been absent from a number of public outings in recent months amid a series of health setbacks and mobility issues. The garden parties would require the monarch to be on her feet for a long duration to greet attendees on the lawn.

On Tuesday, Prince Charles stepped in for his mother for the first time at the State Opening of Parliament, fulfilling the important constitutional duty of delivering the Queen's Speech. He was accompanied by Camilla and his son Prince William, attending the ceremony for the first time.

Britain's Princess Anne

Royal historian and biographer Robert Lacey calls Tuesday's ceremony an "enormously significant moment."

The Queen is "clearly thinking of the future and this can be seen alongside the moment she said it was her wish that Camilla be known as Queen Consort, which was another important development this year," Lacey tells PEOPLE.

"Asking her son Charles and William to attend is clearly about succession, about emphasizing a partnership and teamwork," he says.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (L), the Imperial State Crown (C), Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (R) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (rear C) proccess through the Royal Gallery during the State Opening of Parliament
The royals at the State Opening of Parliament. HANNAH MCKAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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He adds that Queen Elizabeth remains "in charge."

"The sense I get from everyone I speak to is that the Queen remains totally in control of her faculties and of everything at the palace," he adds. "The problem is physical mobility — and that is not a constitutional or regency issue."

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