Last Friday, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a very special preview of the summer exhibition at Buckingham Palace. This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation, and in celebration The Royal Collection Trust have put together a series of exhibits across The State Rooms celebrating every element of the occasion, from the grandeur of the garments to the very personal details which emphasise a shift towards a far more relatable monarchy. Illustrating the planning, preparation and theatricality of this most opulent of state events, The Queen's Coronation 1953 offers a unique insight into a truly defining moment in modern British history, and displays some of the most significant objects from the ceremony itself:
The centrepiece of the exhibition is the Norman Hartnell gown couture gown worn by The Queen for the Westminster Abbey service, displayed alongside the Ede & Ravenscroft Robe of Estate, elaborately embroidered with eighteen different types of gold thread. Here the exhibition allows you a much closer look at the symbolic signifance of the clothing of The Coronation, focusing on the intricately created national emblems punctuating Hartnell's design and the painstaking process of putting the gown together. The exhibition also incorporates Hartnell's designs for The Maids of Honour, The Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and The Duchess of Kent, each created with the overall aesthetic of the day in mind. I was also really excited to see firsthand the court dress of the Earl Marshall of England- my grandad used to work for him so it was lovely to feel a little bit of a personal connection!
Looking in detail at the objects which proved so important both in the planning and throughout the duration of The Coronation itself, the exhibition also displays an array of books and paper materials. One of the most significant is undoubtedly The Form and The Order of Service, used and signed by The Queen on the day and until now kept away from public view in the library at Windsor Castle. A personal invitation sent to Prince Charles requesting his attendance at the ceremony is also a highlight- and a very poignant reminder of the core family dynamic which continues to shape the Royal Family as we know it today.
Returning to the symbolism of the occasion, a replica of the bouquet of flowers carried by The Queen incorporates a variety of national blooms, including lily-of-the-valley from England, stephanotis from Scotland, carnations from Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man and orchids from Wales. Shedding light on the most sacred part of the service, the exhibition also features (for the first time on public display) the simple white dress worn for the Anointing. Television cameras and photography were not permitted to record this most sacred of moments, where the monarch is consecrated and set apart from the people as sovereign, so to see Norman Hartnell's simple white gown on display here is very special. Finally, perhaps my favourite of the objects encompassed within The Queen's Coronation 1953 is the Diamond Diadem, dating from 1820. Again incorporating the national symbols of the rose, thistle and shamrock and encrusted with over a thousand diamonds, this was something only worn by The Queen during the brief journey to Westminster Abbey, but it is a truly iconic and beautifully crafted illustration of the grandeur and spectacle of such a momentous event.
If you're in London over the summer or are looking for something to do one weekend, then I'd definitely recommend paying the exhibition a visit.
The Queen's Coronation 1953 is now open at The State Rooms, Buckingham Palace, and runs until September 29th 2013. To find out more and to book tickets, visit royalcollection.org.uk.
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)