The Queen has departed from the hottest London summer in seven years for the cooler pastures of Balmoral in Scotland. The Royal Standard has been lowered and this signals the start of tourist season at Buckingham Palace. It is also a chance to mount an interesting curated exhibition which will entice the public to return on an annual basis. People flock to Buckingham Palace to admire the splendours and rich history of the Palace and its inhabitants.
This year’s exhibition is intended to recreate the atmosphere surrounding the 1953 coronation from a televised projection against one of the state room’s walls of the procession, in the royal carriage to a display of 1950’s television sets showing the public’s reaction to events. In another details of the ceremony plus Cecil Beaton’s official coronation portraits give us insight into this important day in modern history. The gowns are truly spectacular in their elaborate bejewelled detailing and the fact that all the dresses, robes and uniforms worn by the members of the principal royal party are on display is remarkable. Norman Hartnell must have been an extremely busy man that Spring. It is all here: the 6.5 metres Robe of Estate worn by the Queen , her Diamond Diadem, the Coronation Necklace and Earrings by R & S Garrad & Co.
Reunited for the first time since 2 June 1953: Outfits from The Queen’s Coronation is the largest exhibition ever mounted about the Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen opens at Buckingham Palace on Saturday, 27 July 2013. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of this historic event, The Queen’s Coronation 1953 at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace (27 July – 29 September) brings together an unprecedented array of the dress, uniform and robes worn on Coronation Day. Paintings recording the event, works of art and objects used by The Queen at the ceremony are also included, to help recreate the atmosphere of that extraordinary moment and the pageantry of a State occasion that has remained essentially unchanged for 1,000 years.
The Queen acceded to the throne on 6 February 1952 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey the following year, on 2 June 1953. Buckingham Palace was at the heart of the celebrations on Coronation Day, which heralded the dawn of a ‘New
Elizabethan Era’. Hundreds of thousands of well-wishers lined the Mall and filled the specially constructed stands around the Victoria Monument in front of the Palace. From here they witnessed the carriage processions of Members of the Royal Family, foreign Heads of State and Commonwealth Prime Ministers depart Buckingham Palace for Westminster Abbey. The processions culminated with The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh leaving the Palace in the Gold State Coach. The Palace was also the focal point for the famous balcony appearance of the Royal Family to witness the flypast and later in the evening, when The Queen turned on the illuminations in the Mall.
In the Palace’s Ballroom, the dress, robes and uniforms worn by the principal royal party are brought together for the first time since Coronation Day. They include The Queen’s Coronation Dress and Robe of Estate; the uniform, robe and coronet of The Duke of Edinburgh; the dress and robe of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother; the dress and robe of Princess Margaret; and the outfits worn on the day by two-year-old Princess Anne and four-year-old Prince Charles. The Prince’s personal invitation to Westminster Abbey is also on display.
The Queen’s white satin Coronation Dress was created by the British couturier Norman Hartnell(1901-79). The design incorporates an iconographic scheme of embroidered national and Commonwealth floral emblems in gold, silver and pastel-coloured silks, encrusted with pearls, crystals and sequins. The exhibition at Buckingham Palace also includes Hartnell’s original designs for the Dress and his embroidery samples.
The Queen’s Robe of Estate, worn when Her Majesty departed from Westminster Abbey for the Palace, is of English purple silk-velvet and is more than 6.5 metres long from the shoulder
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to the tip of the train. It is exquisitely embroidered with wheat ears and olive branches, representing peace and prosperity , and terminates in The Queen’ s crowned cipher . The embroidery, which includes 18 different types of gold thread, was designed and executed by the Royal School of Needlework, a task that took 3,500 hours to complete between March and June 1953.
Exhibited with the Dress and Robe are a number of jewels worn by The Queen on Coronation Day. These include the Diamond Diadem, which Her Majesty wore for the journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. The Diadem was designed and made for George IV to wear at his coronation in 1821 by the royal jewellers and goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. The Diadem is one of the most recognisable of The Queen’s jewels, as she is shown wearing it on postage stamps and some issues of banknotes. Also on display are the diamond Coronation Necklace and Earrings, made for Queen Victoria in 1858 by R & S Garrard & Co. and worn by Her Majesty The Queen for her Coronation.
As they tour the State Rooms, visitors will experience a sense of the atmosphere of Coronation Day and learn how individual rooms in the Palace were used in 1953. For example, it was in the Green Drawing Room that the photographer Cecil Beaton (1904-80) took his famous Coronation portraits of The Queen, using his signature theatrical backdrops to recreate the inside of Westminster Abbey. Other official portraits were taken in the Throne Room.
The Coronation State Banquets were held at Buckingham Palace on the evenings of 3 and 4 June 1953. For the Summer Opening, the table in the State Dining Room has been dressed to evoke the Banquets’ magnificent settings of porcelain, silver-gilt and flowers. Along the visitor route are works of art and paintings linked to the occasion, including the Coronation Frieze (1960) by Feliks Topolski (1909-89), who was commissioned by The Duke of Edinburgh to record the colour and excitement of the event, and Queen Elizabeth II in Coronation Robes (1954), the State portrait by Sir Herbert James Gunn (1893-1964).
Exhibition curator Caroline de Guitaut of Royal Collection Trust said, ‘The exhibition brings together a magnificent display of dress and objects which are both unique and personal to The Queen and so redolent of the extraordinary events of Coronation Day. A visit to Buckingham Palace this summer will present visitors with a truly special experience in this 60th anniversary year.’
The Queen’s Coronation 1953 is part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, 27 July – 29 September 2013. Advance tickets and visitor information: www.royalcollection.org.uk or +44 (0)20 7766 7300.
27 July – 31 August: open daily 09:30-19:00 (last admission 16:45) 1–29 September: open daily 09:30-18:00 (last admission 15:45)
A typical visit lasts between two and two-and-a-half hours.
Admission prices (all include an audio tour)
Adult £19.00, Over 60/ Student (with valid ID) £17.50, Under 17 £10.85, Under 5 Free, Family £50.00 (2 adults and 3 under 17s). A booking fee of £1.25 per ticket applies.