Elinor Snowsill is a star on the rugby pitch in Wales. On Wednesday night, she was a star on the griddle in DC, serving up fresh Welsh cakes during the British Embassy’s version of the Platinum Jubilee Celebration.
The embassy will ramp up the festivities again on Friday evening, which will cap off a month-long celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s record 70 years on the throne in the United Kingdom that included millions of people in the UK and at British Embassies around the world celebrating Her Majesty.
Snowsill’s mother, Nerys Howell, runs Howel Food Consultancy and has devoted her life to promoting Welsh produce. Snowsill has one month off from rugby a year, which happened to be June.
“She sent me a message about two months ago saying, do you fancy coming to Washington, DC for a week to work for me? And I was like, 100% Yes. So here we are. We’re in the British Embassy, giving out Welsh food to people,” Snowsill said.
Snowsill has traveled to the US before, but her DC experience so far has blown her previous perceptions of the US out of the water. Her expectations of huge shopping malls and massive highways were replaced by beautiful DC buildings and lush greenery that reminded her of Britain.
Closer to home, Snowsill has helped out her “Mum” before at the 2012 London Olympics in the athlete’s village. They had to cut the hockey-puck-sized Welsh cakes, which Snowsill described as a cross between pancakes and scones, into quarters for athletes who were on a strict diet.
It Takes An Army
British Army attaché Brigadier General Paul Tennant was in charge of the task force to put the embassy’s celebration together. His goal was to bring a lot of “British-ness” to the menu, which included multiple quiche options, cress and egg sandwiches, whiskey-infused cheese, a selection of scones, cream cakes, fresh seafood imported from Scotland, and more.
“It’s very difficult to find a good sausage in the US,” Tennant said. “I’ve tasted the sausage rolls, they’re excellent. Those are not easy to do in the British way.”
The embassy’s jubilee featured tents from all four of the UK’s nations—Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England—each decked out with their own flag and each with their own national provisions.
Tennant said the two-day celebration took six months to plan and involved “multiple hundreds” of people, likely somewhere close to an estimated 1,000 people.
“It takes an army, or a village, depending on your point of view–I happen to be in the army–and there are some extraordinary people who’ve contributed to the success of today.” Tennant said.
No gathering of Brits would be complete without tea.
“It’s a classic garden party and we’ve even got the British tea standard as well,” said Air-Vice Marshal Mick Smeath, CBE, the UK’s defense attaché in the US. “That’s where our American friends can learn how to make a proper cup of tea.”
As for the secret to perfecting a cup of tea, the highest-ranking UK military official in the US’s lips are sealed.
The British Embassy is currently under renovation, which added to the logistical challenges. Planning for the unpredictable DC summer weather was another. Wednesday’s scattered thunderstorms didn’t scatter the crowd of VIPs, which was another DC-specific challenge to coordinate.
“A lot of the challenge in Washington, DC, of course, is giving the kinds of people that we were hoping would come enough notice to make sure that they can secure it in their diary,” General Tennant said.
The guest list included Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Stephen Breyer, Senators Richard Shelby , Jim Risch, and Ed Markey, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, White House chief of staff Ronald Klain, senior adviser to President Biden Tom Donilon and former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, among others.
The Band of the Scots Guard provided the soundscape for the event, mixing in “God Save the Queen”; the US National Anthem and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” with the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” and “Hey Jude”; ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and “Fernando”; and Adele’s “Skyfall” theme.
“It’s just nice to have everybody from all walks of life, from the arts, from academia, from think tanks, from cities,” British ambassador Dame Karen Pierce said. “We are really honored to have so many people come and join us.”
See more photographs from the official event photographer Carrie Dorean here. Those who are not on the guest list for Friday’s closing ceremony at the embassy can still catch a piece of the Platinum Jubilee Celebration. The Band of the Scots Guard will perform on the National Mall in front of the World War I Memorial at 2:30 Friday afternoon.