Tom's heraldry role puts him in prime position for Queen's jubilee flotilla
ON Sunday Queen Elizabeth II will be going on a special journey down the Thames as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
She will be joined by more than 1,000 boats as she leads the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant held in her honour.
The formal river procession will be between 2pm and 6pm, starting upriver of Battersea Bridge and finishing downriver of Tower Bridge.
And there on the river with her will be Llandeilo-born Thomas Lloyd OBE.
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Many will know Tom Lloyd as a local historian and writer. He has also just finished a very busy year as High Sheriff of Dyfed.
But it is his role as Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary that will take him to London and the River Thames on Sunday as he forms an important part of the Queen's Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
"I, with all my fellow heralds, will be in a boat in front of the Queen — the heralds always go in front of the Queen, because they herald her way," Tom explained.
Keep an eye out for Tom — he will be about halfway down the line of heralds on the day.
"The more senior you are as a herald, the nearer to the back of the queue of heralds you are," Tom explained. "The Garter Principal King of Arms is immediately in front of the Queen and the junior ones are at the front of the queue."
Tom is an "extraordinary herald" which means he is, in effect, an honorary member of the College of Arms — the official body of the royal heralds.
"I will always be towards the front of the queue — I will never work my way back.
"I am an honorary herald, a consultant herald. We don't move up the system like those in the herald's office do," said Tom.
"Fortunately I am never at the front of the queue either, because there are junior heralds." Tom takes his lead from the herald at the front of the line.
"He is a former military man and he knows how to keep step, how to march with a bit more dignity than me — I haven't done much marching in my life!"
The role of the herald is very important and requires them to move in a very specific and organised way.
You would expect that the heralds would have got together regularly to practice for the big day.
But because of the nature of the event, there has been very little opportunity to be put through their paces ahead of the day.
"We just have to stand there, stand to attention for quite a long time as the boat goes up the water," he said.
The best Tom can do is pray for sunshine and calm water!
"There will be a tarpaulin over us if it starts raining, as there will be over the Queen but that would be a terrible disappointment!"
"If these tabards get wet, they rapidly become so heavy that you can't stand up at all.
"They were caught out some years ago in a garter service at Windsor when there was a sudden June shower. The tabards got soaking wet. They have to dry them out very slowly — it took about a year."
The herald's tabard is worth thousands of pounds and is kept in the Royal Wardrobe in London.
"They are very valuable things — one isn't allowed to keep it in one's own house," Tom explained.
"I only wear it on state occasions. Once the occasion is over it is taken off me and taken back to the Royal Wardrobe."
The last time he wore it was at the state opening of the National Assembly for Wales following the last round of elections.
The outfit was originally made by the Welsh Office for the first Herald of Wales another Carmarthenshire man Colonel Francis Jones who became the first Wales Herald in 1962.
"The other heralds go round in ones made in Victorian times," said Tom. "They last a long time. They are made with gold thread — they are fantastically beautiful."
Tom will be back in his tabard on Tuesday for a special Diamond Jubilee service in St Paul's Cathedral.
It promises to be an amazing spectacle.
"Individually, we are just a group of people," said Tom. "The camera isn't interested in us individually but together we present a wonderful sight.
"This line of a dozen people dressed in red and gold going up the aisle presents a wonderful preamble to her arrival."
Tom has had a pretty hectic year so far. He was in London on May 9 for the state opening of Parliament.
"We are symbolic of the presence of Her Majesty on a state occasion and we herald her presence into the chamber," Tom explained.
Tom thinks that there will be a lot of support for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
"I think we will see the banks of the Thames being absolutely 25 deep in people coming out to see the Queen on Sunday," said Tom.
"It's uplifting. It does provide some great colour for people — it's fantastic."
Tom said he thought personal sympathies towards the monarchy may have fluctuated but the people of Britain have always turned out to support the great ceremonies like last year's royal wedding, for example.
"This is because they are great occasions. You are really seeing something that's outside of everyday life," he said.
Tom said politicians are also very supportive of monarchy.
"At the state opening of the Welsh Assembly, for example, everyone was very pleased it was happening.
"It was organised by the Labour Government and they very much wanted it because it adds dignity to their Government."
Tom thinks the Queen and the monarchy still have a very important role to play in the UK.
"There is always a need for an honorary office at the top to give authority to proceedings," said Tom. "Every country has a president of some sort.
"The monarchy was in terrible trouble after Diana's death, they really were," he continued. "But they bounced back — they put the record straight themselves and everybody so, so admires the Queen now.
"We are very lucky — I think the Royal family is a force for the good."
He is certain that people in Carmarthenshire will celebrate the Queen's Jubilee.
"It is an absolutely wonderful occasion — we are never going to see it again."