It’s always an utter privilege to be invited to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace each year. To be given the opportunity to wander around the Palace during a quiet time ahead of the public opening, is a rare luxury. This year is a very special opening as the Coronation outfits worn by Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla will be on public display for the first time. Not only is it a Coronation year, but it’s also the 30th anniversary since Buckingham Palace first opened to the public in 1993.
This year’s exhibition is staged in the Ballroom, which was used by Their Majesties as a Coronation rehearsal space. The display centres on the outfits, jewellery and insignia worn by The King and Queen as they departed from Westminster Abbey. Shown alongside these are some of the historic vestments worn by The King as he was crowned, as well as the Anointing Screen, Throne Chairs, and designs for the Coronation invitation.
The King and Queen’s magnificent Robes of Estate are a highlight of the display. His Majesty’s Robe was worn by his great-grandfather King George V and grandfather King George VI for their Coronations, and was conserved by the robemakers Ede and Ravenscroft.
The King’s cream silk overshirt and Purple Coronation Tunic were created especially for the occasion by Turnbull & Asser and Ede and Ravenscroft respectively, inspired by similar items worn by King George V and King George VI at their Coronations. Shown alongside these are His Majesty’s Royal Naval Trousers and the Star, Collar and Great George of the Order of the Garter, the oldest order of chivalry in the United Kingdom. The jewelled Great George pendant is thought to have been made for George II and was worn for the Coronations of King George V and King George VI, while the Garter Star was a wedding gift to King George V from the Officers of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Naval Reserve.
Her Majesty’s Robe was newly made for the occasion by Ede and Ravenscroft and hand embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. Its design draws on themes of nature and the environment, featuring the floral emblems of the United Kingdom and a further 20 plants chosen for their personal associations, as well as insects including bees, butterflies, a beetle and a caterpillar.
Queen Camilla’s Coronation Dress was designed by Bruce Oldfield and features silver and gold embroidered floral designs, representing Their Majesties’ affection for nature and the British countryside, intertwined with celebratory bunting. Visitors may also spot some more personal details amongst the intricate gold embroidery: the names of The Queen’s children and grandchildren, and depictions of Bluebell and Beth, Her Majesty’s Jack Russell Terriers
Visitors will have the opportunity to admire close-up the beautifully embroidered Anointing Screen, which was used to shield His Majesty from view during the most sacred moment of the Coronation. Its central design takes the form of a tree with 56 leaves, representing the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth, and its maroon, gold, blue and red colour scheme reflects the colours of the Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey. The design was selected personally by The King and is inspired by the stained-glass Sanctuary Window in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, which was gifted by the Livery Companies to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. The screen’s four oak poles are made from a windblown oak from the Windsor Estate, planted in 1765, and are topped with two gilded bronze eagles. The screen was gifted for the Coronation by the City of London Corporation and City Livery Companies, designed by the iconographer Aidan Hart, and brought to life through both hand and digital embroidery, managed by the Royal School of Needlework.
Also on display is the spectacular Coronation Necklace, which was originally made for Queen Victoria in 1858 and has been worn at every Coronation since 1902. Made from 25 cushion-shaped brilliant-cut diamonds with a central drop-shard pendant. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Who can forget images of the late Queen wearing the Coronation Necklace and Earrings as she positively dazzled at the Abbey during her Coronation in 1953.
In the Palace’s State Entrance portico, visitors will see the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, which conveyed Their Majesties to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation.
Don’t miss the chance to relive the pomp and ceremony of the historic Coronation via this very special display.
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CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Buckingham Palace and Royal Collection Trust.
Images by CELLOPHANELAND*