This summer visitors to Buckingham Palace will experience what it is like to attend an event at the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen. Special films and displays have been set up throughout the 19 State Rooms to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Royal Household staff busy at work. Each year, they welcome the tens of thousands of guests who come to the Palace for a reception, State Banquet, garden party or Investiture. All the elements that make these occasions so unforgettable are brought together in A Royal Welcome, the theme of this year’s Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.
For the very first time, and indeed for this summer only, visitors can follow in the footsteps of Heads of State, and Prime Ministers by entering the Palace’s State Rooms through the Grand Entrance. Displayed at the Grand Entrance Portico, is the beautiful Australian State Coach which is always used on the first day of a State Visit. This is also where Her Majesty departs and returns to Buckingham Palace by carriage for ceremonial processions. During her reign, The Queen has welcomed 110 Heads of State on formal State Visits to Britain. Planning begins around 12 months in advance.
During press visits, it is always a privilege to wander a relatively deserted Buckingham Palace (The Queen usually spends most of the summer at Balmoral), and always a treat to climb an empty Grand Staircase designed by the architect, John Nash. The balustrade with its intricate pattern of acanthus, oak and laurel leaves showcases the very best of bronze casting.
To give a sense of behind-the-scenes preparations for a State Banquet, displays recreating the Palace kitchens, pantries and wine cellars have been staged. Note the amount of copper pots. This is because copper pots are the referred choice at the Palace so that they can be re-lined every couple of years with tin to extend their life. Also on display are some of the important ‘tools of the trade’, from the copper moulds used to create ‘chocolate bombe’ desserts (some of which have been in use since the 19th century) to the red leather seating-planner.
The Palace Ballroom has been set up for a State Banquet with the table dressed with silver-gilt centrepieces and candelabra from George IV’s magnificent Grand Service. The detailed preparations required to create such a spectacle, including the arrangement of 2,000 pieces of cutlery for 170 place settings, are captured in a specially commissioned time-lapse film. Other film shows the work of the Royal Household staff, including chefs, footmen, pages, florists and housekeeping staff.
Around 25 Investitures are held every year, the majority of which take place at Buckingham Palace. Each is attended by around 120 people (and their guests) who receive their honour from The Queen or a senior member of the Royal Family. The knighting stool and a knighting sword used to confer knighthoods are displayed alongside a number of Orders and Decorations.
A number of dresses created by distinguished British designers and worn by The Queen at State Banquets are exhibited, among them, beautiful creations by Sir Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies. On display are also items of personal jewellery worn by Her Majesty, including the magnificent Coronation necklace and Coronation earrings which were originally made for Queen Victoria in 1858.
The first Garden Party at Buckingham Palace was held by Queen Victoria in the 1860s. Today there are usually three Garden Parties held at the Palace every summer, each attended by approximately 8,000 people, who consume 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 cakes.
A Royal Welcome is part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, 25 Juy – 27 September 2015.
For further information, please visit: www.royalcollection.org.uk
All images by CELLOPHANELAND* and the Royal Collection Trust.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Collection Trust.