He’s danced with the Queen in Balmoral Castle, stumbled across a loved-up Prince William and Catherine beside a secluded pond, had kisses blown at him by baby Prince George and was even given a piece of the royal wedding cake as a thank you for his services.
Now, former royal police guard David Lombardi, 58, has shared some of his most memorable royal encounters with Starts at 60 after serving the monarch for 10 years as part of her specialised security team.
Every year the Queen holds the Ghillies Ball at Balmoral Castle for her staff and the local community – and David had the honour of attending several of the lavish events during his time in the job.
“I’ve danced with the Queen a couple of times,” he said. “It’s essentially the staff party and it’s really a Scottish country dance. You may dance with one of the royals, or you may not. You link arms and swap partners throughout, it’s that type of dance. A bit like a barn dance.”
He explained the party is usually black tie, with the women dressing up in beautiful ball gowns. Several members of the royal family attend each year to support the Queen and Prince Philip.
“Before you go you have to have several lessons, so you don’t make a fool of yourself,” he explained. “[You’d have to] put your arm round their waist and spin them round, including the Queen. That’s why you need the lessons so nothing goes wrong while you’re dancing with her! The Queen always loved it, she was always smiling and having a good time.”
Most of the routines are variations on classic Scottish country dances, with local musicians playing each year alongside a band.
David added: “The Queen does a lot of the dances, then will sit down in between some of them. She’s really energetic and really seems to enjoy it.”
He said the best advice he could give anyone doing it for the first time is to act like you do it every day – as the last thing the Queen wants is people feeling on edge around her.
“The main thing is you don’t sit and stare. You treat it like an enjoyable party, not making the Queen the focus,” he said.
Asked if Prince Philip joins in too, he said: “Yes he’d always go along and join in a few dances. If not, he’d be sitting nearby.”
David worked in the royal protection group of the Metropolitan Police – a specialised unit in charge of the royals’ security – for a decade, having previously worked in a similar role for government ministers.
The job also allowed him to travel extensively with the Queen and Philip, regularly spending a whole month at a time with them in Balmoral over summer, as well as stints at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and more.
One particularly memorable moment for him at Balmoral was stumbling across Prince William and his wife Catherine enjoying some time out together beside a duck pond, close to Prince Charles’ residence Birkhall.
“We were chatting for five minutes or so, mainly small talk and a little about the ducks… They’re a really nice couple and they were very loved up,” he said.
Being stationed in the grounds of the estate meant he came across the young couple a lot, and even had the chance to see a rare private moment between Catherine and her son Prince George while he was still a baby.
“I remember her dunking baby George in puddles and having a great time, just like any mother would,” David recalled. “Baby George was busy blowing me kisses! It was all very normal for them.”
He added: “Kate certainly wasn’t precious. It’s a muddy area, they were completely relaxed.”
While the Queen spends every summer at Balmoral, most of the other royals simply visit for a week or so at a time. However, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla often spend lengthy amounts of time at Birkhall, close to his parents.
“I’ve probably chatted to Prince Charles the most, he’s really nice and easy going. I’d honestly say he’s a nice guy,” David said of the heir to the throne.
“Bear in mind this is in his house and environment, so he doesn’t need to put on a public show, but he genuinely was pleasant. Likewise with Camilla. They seemed perfectly happy. I’ve never, ever seen anything that would cause gossip, they’re honestly just normal.”
David usually acted as senior officer while in Balmoral, so his daily routine would see him do rounds to check on each guard at the gates, while planning the security needed for outings and events.
“The royal family like familiar faces and like to see the same people around them,” he explained.
That was also the case for Prince William and Catherine’s wedding in 2011 and David was stationed at St James’ Palace at the time, where the groom and his brother Prince Harry spent the night before the ceremony.
“They came out for five minutes to meet the crowd which was a surprise, no one knew they were going to be doing that and that’s one of my best memories in the job,” he said of the brothers.
David was also presented with a piece of the wedding cake to thank him and the other security staff for their services.
He is now working as a tour leader for travel company Back-Roads Touring, which offers tours ‘off the beaten track’, and has even created a specific royal tour of his own to offer tourists the best chance of spotting a member of the family and soaking up the iconic sights across the country.
To join in one of David’s royal tours with Back-Roads Touring, visit the website here.