Festive atmosphere at British Embassy’s annual garden party bash

 In Bi-lateral trade, Events, News

Text and Photo: Chris Graeme

It was open house at the British ambassador’s residence in Lisbon on Wednesday evening with the annual garden party to commemorate the official birthday of His Majesty King Charles III which welcomed around 800 guests.

In her first garden party since taking up her post as British Ambassador to Portugal in January, Lisa Bandari and an intelligent robot hosted the event held to mark the King’s 76th birthday.

It was his namesake King Charles II who strengthened the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance through his marriage to Catherine of Braganza (Portugal paid a hefty dowry for that marriage which included Tangiers, Bombay and the Seven Islands, trading privileges in Brazil and the Portuguese East Indies, religious and commercial freedom for English residents in Portugal, and two million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000 — around €30 million today).

However, it was an unlucky match. While fond and protective of Catherine, she was barren and unable to bear the king any heirs. Poor Catherine, who gave us tea (but without milk), was largely miserable at the English court, the subject of catholic plots and her husbands many infidelities.

That marriage took place in 1662, just over three and a half centuries ago, which was already nearly 400 years into the formal alliance (of the Treaty of Windsor in 1386), the 650th anniversary of which was celebrated in 2023.

The current occupant of the British throne has visited Portugal three times and has a “striking awareness of our shared modern challenges, showing leadership for decades on the importance of climate action and sustainability while his King’s Trust does life-changing work to deliver education, employment, enterprise and environmental projects helping communities and young people”, said Lisa Bandari.

As for the government’s priorities, Lisa Bandari was not able to divulge any new information because of the election campaign underway. This would have to wait until after election day on 4 July.

“The outcome of the elections won’t change the fundamentals or shared interests Portugal and the UK have as ancient allies, Atlantic neighbours, modern European democracies, and partners who value our hard-won freedoms, and will continue to cooperate for our shared prosperity and global peace and security.”

The Master of Ceremonies this year was not a member of the embassy staff, but was actually a robot called Ameca, the world’s most advanced human shaped robot representing the forefront of human-robotics technology.

Designed specifically as a platform for development into future robotics technologies, Ameca proved to be the perfect humanoid robot host and was not unlike the Star Wars character CP3O, and in the words of the ambassador “showcases cutting-edge British design and innovation”.

Highlighting Portugal’s shared values for democracy and freedom, as well as an enthusiasm for the ‘beautiful game of football’, Lisa Bandari said that in the previous two weeks the UK and other allied nations had marked 80 years since the D-Day landings “the most ambitious amphibious operation in history” and the start of the turning of the tide in World War II and the liberation of North-West Europe and the continent.

“Roughly one year before D-Day, the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill invoked the ancient Anglo-Portuguese alliance (Treaty of Windsor) to seek Portugal’s permission to establish military bases in the Azores.”

The authorisation was given in August 1943, and the Azores would play a strategically important role in World War II and on many occasions since.

The ambassador called a toast with vintage port to honour all those who had fought so bravely in World War II and in subsequent conflicts, and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

“Sadly, we cannot forget that war has returned to our continent. Another generation is having to fight for their freedom, self determination, and democracy in Ukraine”, she reminded.

And as founding NATO allies, the security of the Euro-Atlantic area was at the heart of Portugal’s and the UK’s bilateral agenda.

“We are working together to provide aid and practical support to Ukraine, tackle threats to our security, and enhance cooperation on foreign policy.”

The ambassador emphasised that both Portugal and the UK had been steadfast in their support of Ukraine and its right to determine its future.

The ambassador went on to highlight another important anniversary; the 75th anniversary of NATO and said that the UK was proud to stand alongside Portugal and other NATO allies as founding members.

“We have never needed this defensive alliance more as we once again face threats to peace and security in Europe,” the ambassador warned.

The ambassador concluded by thanking “generous sponsors” including Duke’s Education, British School of Lisbon, Cambridge University Press and Assessment, Astra Zeneca, Barclays, Leonardo, MDS Group, Eurest, BP, EY, Bentley, Triumph, Aston Martin, Taylor’s Port, Fevertree, Lisbon and Cascais-based Chutnify (which saw long queues at its stall serving fabulous spiced Indian food), the George (Lisbon’s only English pub) and Bushmills whisky, and several others.