Fashioning a Reign at Buckingham Palace

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The Queen's Coronation dress designed by Norman Hartnell

The Queen’s Coronation dress designed by Norman Hartnell

The Queen is off on her Summer holidays to Balmoral in Scotland and the public are able, from today until 2 October, to tread the royal carpets, and enjoy the beauty of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.

Visitors enter through the grand entrance of the State Rooms in exactly the same way as the Queen and her guests would.  Her Rolls Royce Phantom IV is strategically parked at the bottom of the steps.

Buckingham Palace is one of the few working palaces in the world with the State Rooms designed and built as public rooms. There are over 11,000 paintings and miniatures in the Royal Collection, and a visit is also a great opportunity to see some of them. This includes, at the entrance to the ball/supper room, the space used for the current exhibition, ‘Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe’ and four screen prints based on the official Silver Jubilee portrait photograph of HRH Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol.

The famous Andy Warhol screen prints

The famous Andy Warhol screen prints

This year, clothes spanning ten decades and including the christening gown worn by Princess Elizabeth in 1926 are on display. The christening gown has since been replicated and worn by both Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Other clothes on display include the green ensemble worn by the Queen at this year’s Trooping the Colour; her wedding dress worn for her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 and her Coronation dress, these last two both being designed by the British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell. The Coronation dress is regarded as one of the most important examples of twentieth century design created by a British courturier. On display too are ceremonial and military attire, dress for State occasions and overseas tours, as well as outfits for family celebrations.

the christening robe

the christening robe

A huge showcase provides the perfect setting for her collection of hats. Although the décor in these rooms is virtually hidden, it is worth looking up if only to admire the magnificent chandeliers.

some of the Queen's evening wear

some of the Queen’s evening wear

Visitors go through sumptuous drawing rooms in blue, white and green given names by the colour of the curtains and matching furnishings. Needless to say, the throne room is decked out in what looks like a vivid red satin. These rooms including the music room encircle the Picture Gallery whose walls are filled with old masters that include Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt and Canaletto. The Queen owns the largest collection of Canaletto paintings as well as the largest collection of da Vinci drawings in the world.

Look out for the huge mirror in the corner of the White Drawing Room from behind which the Queen and members of the Royal Family can gain entry to the State Rooms from their private apartments.

The tour ends via beautifully manicured gardens. A Garden Café serves drinks, sandwiches and cakes. There is also a family room with games to keep young children amused. Exit is via an enormous shop where an enormous array of goodies from toy Corgis, books on the Royal Family to bone china items, and wine can be purchased. A great place to buy presents as well as souvenirs of the visit.

The Picture Gallery © The Royal Collectio

The Picture Gallery © The Royal Collection

Buckingham House, as it was originally called, was built in 1703 by the Duke of Buckingham and Normandy. However, it wasn’t until 1837 when Queen Victoria moved there that it became the home of a reigning monarch.

George III purchased the house, which stood on the edge of the City of Westminster in 1762 as a private residence for his wife Queen Charlotte. It was only during the reign of George IV that the architect John Nash, who was responsible for the transformation of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, was asked to draw up plans to enlarge Buckingham House. The central block was extended westwards and to the north and south, and the two wings to the east were rebuilt. The wings enclosed a forecourt. In the centre of the forecourt between the two wings was a triumphal arch intended to be part of the ceremonial processional approach to the Palace.

Th White Drawing Room © The Royal Collection Photo: Derry Moore

The White Drawing Room © The Royal Collection Photo: Derry Moore

Using his theatrical background, Nash created a building to reflect Britain’s standing in the world, providing a much needed and suitably dignified setting for the Sovereign and Court. However, when Queen Victoria came to the throne she found the building too small for her large family, and the Palace was extended again. A new wing, designed by Edward Blore, obscured the Nash porticos and colonnades, and enclosed what had until then been an open, three-sided forecourt.

When he came to the throne in 1901 King Edward VII redecorated the interior with a white and gold theme. Improvements were also made to the heating, ventilation and electric lighting. In 1913, the present Mall frontage was created. Facing onto the Queen Victoria Memorial and the Mall, at its centre, the royal balcony is used by the Queen and members of the Royal Family to make public appearances. The insertion of the new wing required the removal of the triumphal arch, which was relocated to Cumberland Gate, where it is now known as Marble Arch.

The Throne Room © The Royal Collection

The Throne Room © The Royal Collection

Whilst visiting the Palace, it is worth considering a visit to the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews as both are within the Palace grounds. This year, the Queen’s Gallery has an exhibition of Scottish Artists 1750 – 1900 with paintings, drawings and miniatures collected by monarchs from George III to Queen Victoria. The Royal Mews is the working stables responsible for the training of the Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays, the horses that pull the royal carriages. Vehicles used for both royal and State occasions are on display here too. The cost of entry to both are in addition to that of the Palace.


Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA

23 July – 31 August Open daily 09.15 – 19.45 (last admission 17.15)

1 September – 2 October Open daily 09.15 – 18.45 (last admission 16.15)

Admission Adult £21.50  Over 60/student £19.60

Under 17/disabled  £12.30   Under 5 free Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £55.30

To read more of Natasha’s travels, click here or go to



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