Australian-State-Coach
Among the treasures on show at this year’s summer opening of Buckingham Palace, the Australian State Coach was a gift to Queen Elizabeth II by Australia on 8th May, 1988, to mark the Australian Bicentennial.

The coach – the first to be built for the Royal Family since the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 – was built by Australian WJ “Jim” Frecklington who also designed the Diamond Jubilee State Coach.

The coach, which is usually kept in the Royal Mews where it can be viewed by the public, has been used at the State Opening of Parliament and other occasions involving foreign royal families and visiting heads of state. It was also used to carry Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Michael and Carole Middleton back to Buckingham Palace after the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

It was last used to carry the Duke of Edinburgh and Señora Rivera, wife of the president of Mexico, on a State Visit in March this year.

The summer opening of the palace runs from 25th July to 27th September. The coach will be on display in the Grand Entrance portico.

WHERE: Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace (nearest Tube stations are Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner); WHEN: 25th July to 31st August – 9.30am to 7.30pm daily (last admission 5.15pm)/1st to 27th September – 9.30am to 6.30pm (last admission 4.15pm); COST: £35.60 adults/£20 under 17 and disabled/£32.50 concessions/£91.20 family (2 adults and three under 17s); WEBSITE: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace/plan-your-visit.

PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015 

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Jack-the-Ripper,-Illustrated-Police-News,-1888-(c)-British-Library-BoardThe UK’s largest ever exhibition on comics opens at the British Library tomorrow. Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK examines the history of the comic book in the UK – from 19th century illustrated reports of Jack the Ripper to 1970s titles like 2000AD and Action and more recent works – and examines how they have been used to explore confronting subjects like violence, sexuality and drugs. Among the highlights is a specially commissioned work by Tank Girl and Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett and works by the likes of Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum) and Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drewe). Admission charge applies (and due to the graphic nature of some exhibits, the Library has issued a parental guidance warning for under 16s). Runs until 19th August. For more, see www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/comics-unmasked/index.html. PICTURE: Jack the Ripper’s victims, Illustrated Police News, 1888 © British Library Board.

The history of the white wedding dress goes under scrutiny at the V&A with its Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition opening on Saturday. The display includes more than 80 extravagant outfits from the museum’s collection – they include the Anna Valentine embroidered silk coat worn by The Duchess of Cornwall for the blessing of her marriage to The Prince of Wales in 2005, a purple Vivienne Westwood dress chosen by Dita von Teese for her wedding in 2005 and Dior outfits worn by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale on their wedding day in 2000. Some of the earliest examples in the chronological display including a silk satin court dress from 1775 and a ‘polonaise’ style brocade gown with straw bergere hat dating from 1780 lent by Chertsey Museum. The exhibition will also explore the growth of the wedding industry and the increasing media focus on wedding fashions. Admission charge applies. Runs until 15th March. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

The golden era of Italian film during the 1950s and 1960s and the birth of celebrity culture – did you know the term paparazzi was coined in the 1960 Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita? – are the subject of a new exhibition which opened at The Estorick Collection this week. The Years of La Dolce Vita features 80 photographs from the period depicting Italian movie stars and the Hollywood “royalty” like John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor who were working in Italy at the time. Juxtaposed against Marcello Geppetti’s images of this “real-life dolce vita” are behind-the-scenes shots from the set of La Dolce Vita taken by cameraman Arturo Zavattini. Runs until 29th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.estorickcollection.com.

The first British exhibition to explore the role of architecture in the Italian Renaissance opened at the National Gallery this week. Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting looks at the works of Italian masters such as Duccio, Botticelli and Crivelli with highlights including Sebastiano del Piombo’s The Judgment of Solomon – on display in London for the first time in 30 years – and Andrea del Verrochio’s The Ruskin Madonna. Five short films also form part of the display. Entry to the exhibition in the Sunley Room is free. Runs until September 21. For more information, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Send all items of interest for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

We take a break from our regular series this week to bring you some images from the second half of the Olympic Torch Relay as it made it’s way around London toward tonight’s Opening Ceremony…


Day 67 (24th July): Tennis player Oliver Golding holds the Olympic Flame in between the Olympic Rings at Kew Gardens, London.

London Underground employee John Light carries the Olympic Flame onto an underground train at Wimbledon Station.

Day 68 (25th July): Former World Cup winning footballer Gordon Banks carries the Olympic Flame down Wembley Way, at Wembley Stadium.


Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, pose with  young entrepreneur Jay Kamiraz and Paralympian Scott Moorhouse as they kiss together Olympic torches in Tottenham.

Day 69 (26th July): Disaster mapping charity volunteer Wai-Ming Lee passes the Olympic Flame to mountain rescue team leader John Hulse in front of Buckingham Palace in the presence of Prince William, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Wheelchair basketballer Ade Adepitan carries the Olympic Flame on Millennium Bridge.

Student Ifeyinwa Egesi holds the Olympic Flame inside the Globe Theatre.

For more on the Torch Relay, see www.london2012.com/torch-relay/

ALL PICTURES: LOCOG.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were married at Westminster Abbey, a highly significant property in the Queen’s story which we’ll be looking at in more depth shortly, on 20th November, 1947 (and, as did other brides in post-war Britain, the princess had to collect coupons for her wedding dress).

Following their honeymoon at Broadland – the home of Lord Mountbatten in Hampshire and at Birkhall, Balmoral, in Scotland, in 1949, they and their baby son, Charles, moved into Clarence House, their home for the next three years.

The house, which still featured Victorian decor, was refurbished although post-war austerity ensured the decor and furnishings – many of which were wedding presents – remained simple. The house still contains a Georgian dining table and 20 ladder-back chairs which were the gift of the Royal Warrant Holders Association and a mahogany sideboard and four side tables which were a present from Queen Mary, the Queen’s grandmother.

Princess Anne, second child of the Queen and Prince Philip, was born in the house in 1950.

Clarence House was originally built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of John Nash (he also designed Buckingham Palace) and was designed as the home of George III’s third son, Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence and his wife Adelaide, and incorporated some of the Tudor buildings of St James’ Palace.

Indeed, Prince William Henry liked the house so much that on succeeding to the throne as King William IV in 1830, he decided not to move to Buckingham Palace and instead remained at Clarence House.

Later occupants have included Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and two of her sons, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught as well as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who moved in after the property was vacated by Queen Elizabeth II and remained living at the house until her death in 2002.

Today Clarence House is the official London residence of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as Prince Harry.

Clarence House is usually open for tours during summer but will not be opening this summer due to the Paralympic and Olympic Games blocking the entrance from The Mall. For details on the 2013 opening, see www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/clarencehouse.

PICTURE: ChrisO, Wikipedia

In the first of a new special series written in honor of the bicentenary of the birth of author Charles Dickens (he was born on 7th February, 1812), we take a look at the Charles Dickens Museum.

Housed in one of Dickens’ former London residences at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury, this property is now the focal point for people wanting to find out more about the writer and his life as evidenced by the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, on Tuesday to officially mark Dickens’ birth.

Dickens lived in the property from 1837 to 1839 and it was here that significant family events, such as the birth of two of his children – Mary and Kate – and the death of his wife Catherine’s 17-year-old sister Mary took place (Mary’s tragic death is believed to be the inspiration for that of the character Little Nell in the novel The Old Curiosity Shop). It was also at the property that he wrote some of his most famous novels, including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Pickwick Papers.

A growing demand for space, however, led Dickens to move his household to 1 Devonshire Terrace in 1839. The Doughty Street house meanwhile, the only one of Dickens’ London homes to have survived, remained a residential property but in 1923 it was threatened with demolition and subsequently acquired by the Dickens Fellowship. The museum opened there two years later.

The museum now claims to hold more than 100,000 Dickens-related artifacts. The house is displayed as it might have been when Dickens lived there – artifacts on display over four floors include his personal possessions and furnishings as well as manuscripts, letters, first edition copies of some of his books and portraits, including R.W. Buss’ spectacular (and unfinished) Dickens’ Dream, showing the author at his country home of Gads Hill Place in Kent surrounded by many of the characters that he had created.

It’s important to note that from 9th April, the museum will be closed as it undergoes a £3.2 million project, called Great Expectations, which will involve the restoration and expansion of the museum. It is expected to reopen in December this year in time to celebrate a Dickensian Christmas.

For more on events celebrating Charles Dickens and his works this year, see www.dickensfellowship.org or www.dickens2012.org.

WHERE: 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury (nearest Tube stations are Russell Square, Chancery Lane or Holborn). WHEN: 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday (last admission 4.30pm) COST: £7 adults/£5 concessions/£3 children (under 10 free); WEBSITE: www.dickensmuseum.com.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were among those to pay their respects at a new memorial remembering those 155 Britons who were among the 225,000 people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami last week. The 115 tonne memorial, located in gardens at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, was designed by architecture studio Carmody Groarke. It is sculpted from granite quarried from France and was funded by a £550,000 grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Carmody Groarke was also involved in the design of the 7 July Memorial which, located in Hyde Park, commemorates the 52 people killed in the suicide bombings which took place in London in 2005. It was unveiled by Prince Charles in 2009.