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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Admiral-Arthur-PhillipA memorial to Admiral Arthur Phillip, described as the “father of modern Australia”, was unveiled in Westminster Abbey back in July. Admiral Phillip (1738-1814) commanded the ‘First Fleet’ which left the UK in 1787, transporting convicts and military to the new colony Phillip founded as New South Wales. Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attended the memorial’s dedication service on 9th July which was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall, who credited Admiral Phillip – a “modest, yet world-class seaman, linguist and patriot”- with laying the foundations “on which was developed the Commonwealth of Australia”. Among other dignitaries who attended was Dame Marie Bashir, the Governor of the Australian state of New South Wales, who described Admiral Phillip as “enlightened, far-sighted and indeed humane” and paid tribute to his attempts to actively foster harmonious relations with the Aboriginal people. Carved from Sydney sandstone, the memorial is set in the floor of the nave of the minster close to memorials of David Livingstone, Thomas Cochrane and Isaac Newton. The memorial stone is among a number of projects around Britain instigated by the Britain-Australia Society to mark the bicentenary year of Admiral Phillip’s death. For more on the abbey, see www.westminster-abbey.org. PICTURE: Andrew Dunsmore/Westminster Abbey.

Westminster-Abbey3Sunday marks 60 years since Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and Westminster Abbey – site of that event – is celebrating with a series of events. These include a special 60th Anniversary of the Coronation Service on Tuesday (4th June) to be attended by the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and members of the royal family as well as a public lecture to be given by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres on Friday night (7th June – booking is essential), a concert performed by the abbey choir (13th June), and a new exhibition in the chapter house featuring archive images of the 1953 coronation ceremony and of preparations which took place at the abbey. Meanwhile the Coronation Chair, used in most coronations since the 14th century and having just undergone conservation work, is the subject of a new display in St George’s Chapel, and two new commemorative stained glass windows have been installed in King Henry VII’s Lady Chapel – the first commissioned by the abbey for more than a decade, they have been designed by artist Hughie O’Donoghue. For more on the abbey’s celebrations, see www.westminster-abbey.org.

Composer Benjamin Britten is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library tomorrow. Poetry in Sound: The Music of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) looks at the poetic and literary influences on the work of the man often described as the greatest English composer since Purcell. In particular it examines his collaboration with WH Auden and the interplay of his work with authors such as William Blake, Wilfred Owen, Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Shakespeare. As well as composition manuscripts, the exhibition features photographs, concert programmes and unpublished recordings of his music. There are a range of events accompanying the exhibition which runs until 15th September. An admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk.

The Keats House 2013 Festival is underway this week with activities ranging from poetry readings to felt-making demonstrations, free family workshops and musical performances. The programme of events runs until 2nd June, all under this year’s theme of ‘Health is My Expected Heaven’: The Body and The Imagination. Poet John Keats lived at the house in Hampstead, not far from Hampstead Heath, from 1818 to 1820 and it is the setting for some of his most acclaimed poetry including Ode to a Nightingale. It was this house that he left to travel to Rome where he died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. For more on the festival programme, follow this link.

On Now: Silver Service – Fine dining in Roman Britain. This free exhibition at the British Museum recreates the experience of dining late in the Roman era and uses the Mildenhall Great Dish, Britain’s finest late Roman silver dining service, as an example of the type of large platter on which food for sharing would have been presented. The exhibition, which runs until 4th August, is free (keep an eye out for our upcoming Treasures of London on the Mildenhall Great Dish). For more information, see www.britishmuseum.org.

UPDATED: Excitement has been building for months ahead of this weekend’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations which include a 1,000 boat flotilla which will sail down the Thames on Sunday, the Diamond Jubilee concert on Monday and National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday which will be followed by a ceremonial procession back to Buckingham Palace.

• First to the flotilla. The formal river procession will be held between 2pm and 6pm, starting upriver of Battersea Bridge and finishing downriver of Tower Bridge. The Queen and her family will be boarding the Royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, near Albert Bridge at 2.30pm and will travel upriver at the centre of the flotilla with the aim of pulling up alongside HMS President, near Tower Bridge, at 4.15pm.

The flotilla will be one of the largest ever assembled on the river and feature rowing, working and pleasure boats of all shapes and sizes decked out for the occasion. In addition as many as 30,000 people will be aboard passenger boats and there will also be music barges and boats spouting geysers as well as specially constructed craft like a floating belfry. It is estimated that it will take the flotilla around 75 minutes to pass any static point along the route.

Downriver of London Bridge, near the end of the pageant’s seven mile (11 kilometre) course, a gun salute will be fired and the procession will pass through an ‘Avenue of Sail’ formed by traditional sailing vessels, oyster smacks, square riggers, naval vessels and others. For more on the pageant (including the location of large viewing screens – these positions will be regulated from 8am onwards – and road closures as well as an interactive map of the route), head to www.thamesdiamondjubileepageant.org.

• Diamond Jubilee Concert and Beacons. To be held outside Buckingham Palace, close to the Victoria Memorial, on the evening of Monday, 4th June, the concert – which starts at around 7.30pm and features everyone from Elton John to Paul McCartney and Shirley Bassey – will be televised live by the BBC (unless you’re lucky enough to have one of the 10,000 balloted tickets meaning you get to have a picnic in the palace gardens and see the concert). For those who can’t go but would like to experience some of the atmosphere, Royal Parks are setting up screens along The Mall, in St James’s Park and in Hyde Park.

At 10.30pm that night, the Queen will light the National Beacon outside Buckingham Palace, the last in a network of beacons to be lit across the country. More than 4,000 beacons will be lit by communities across the UK and in Commonwealth countries around the world between 10-10.30pm that night (for more on the beacons, see www.diamondjubileebeacons.co.uk).

• National Service of Thanksgiving and Carriage Procession. On Tuesday, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will leave Buckingham Palace at 10.15am and travel by car to St Paul’s Cathedral via the Mall, through Trafalgar Square, down the Strand and Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s. There they and the 2,000 invited guests will attend the National Service of Thanksgiving, conducted by the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Rev Dr David Ison (the Archbishop of Canterbury will preach).

At 11.30am, the Queen and Duke will then head to Mansion House for a reception (via St Paul’s Churchyard and Queen Victoria Street), hosted by the Lord Mayor of London David Wootton, Court of Aldermen and Court of Common Council. Other members of the Royal family will attend a reception at Guildhall. At 12.30pm, the  Queen and members of the Royal Family will then head to Westminster Hall (via Queen Victoria Street, St Paul’s Churchyard, Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street, the Strand, Whitehall and Parliament Square), entering through the Sovereign’s Entrance of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) at 12.40pm. There, they will attend the Diamond Jubilee Lunch.

At 2.20pm, the Queen and Prince Philip will lead a carriage procession from the Palace of Westminster to Buckingham Palace (via New Palace Yard, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and The Mall), riding in a 1902 State Landau. They will be followed by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in a State Landau, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate) and Prince Harry in another State Landau. If it’s raining, these will be replaced by the Australian State Coach, Queen Alexandra’s State Coach and the Glass Coach. Military personnel will line the route, a 60 gun salute will be fired and a Guard of Honor will await them in the Buckingham Palace forecourt.

At 3.30pm, the Queen and members of the Royal Family in the carriage procession will appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to wave to the crowds and witness an RAF flypast and a Feu de Joie – a celebratory volley of rifle fire – which will be given as a salute in the palace forecourt.

There’s plenty more happening over the weekend including many local street parties – far too much for us to record here. So for more, head to the official Diamond Jubilee site, www.thediamondjubilee.org (or The Big Lunch for local lunches – www.thebiglunch.com). You can purchase a copy of the official souvenir programme online at www.royalcollectionshop.co.uk/diamond-jubilee-1/diamond-jubilee-official-souvenir-programme.html or download it at www.itunes.co.uk.

Reckon you can take a good photo? We’re looking for great images of this weekend’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations (just email us at exploringlondon@gmail.com).

Want to read more about the Queen? Why not check out Sixty Glorious Years: Queen Elizabeth II, Diamond Jubilee, 1952-2012, Queen Elizabeth II: A Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Album, or Debrett’s: The Queen – The Diamond JubileeFor related music, check out Diamond Jubilee: A Classical CelebrationThe Diamond Jubilee Album or Gary Barlow & the Commonwealth Band’s Sing EP (featuring Prince Harry).

Like your Royal Family large? The largest ever photograph of Queen Elizabeth II, her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and their four children has been displayed on South Bank building, Sea Containers, in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The iconic picture of the family – which also includes Earl Mountbatten, uncle to Prince Philip, and Princess Anne’s then husband Mark Phillips – was taken during 1977’s Silver Jubilee by an unknown photographer. The 100 by 70 metre image, which weighs nearly two tons, took eight people more than 45 hours to put into place on the building’s facade overlooking the Thames. It was erected by the owner of Sea Containers as a tribute to be seen during this weekend’s Jubilee Flotilla (and also to hide development work taking place behind as the building is transformed into a Mondrian hotel – Europe’s first – and office space.

• It’s Museums at Night weekend which means its your chance to see some of London’s best museums after hours. Culture24’s annual event, which runs from 18th to 20th May, features more than 5o late openings and special events in London – from after dark visits to Aspley House, the former home of the Duke of Wellington, to the chance to hear about the history of ‘Bedlam’, one of the world’s oldest psychiatric facilities, at the Bethlem Archives & Museum and Bethlem Gallery, and a “Cinderella shoe” workshop at the Design Museum. As well as organisations like the British Museum and National Gallery, among the lesser known museums taking part are the Cuming Museum in Southwark, the British Dental Association Museum, and the Ragged School Museum in Mile End. For all the details, follow this link

Saturday sees the opening of a new V&A exhibition featuring more than 60 ballgowns dating from 1950 to the present day – the first exhibition to be held in the newly renovated Fashion Galleries. Among those gowns on display as part of Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 will be royal ballgowns including a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Catherine Walker’s ‘Elvis Dress’ worn by Princess Diana (pictured), and gowns worn by today’s young royals. There will also be gowns worn by celebrities including Sandra Bullock, Liz Hurley and Bianca Jagger and works by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Jenny Packham and a metallic leather dress designed by Gareth Hugh specifically for the exhibition. Runs from 19th May to 6th January. Admission charge applies. See www.vam.ac.uk for more. PICTURE: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The man credited with popularising the modern-day limerick, Edward Lear, has been honored with a green plaque at his former house in Westminster. The Westminster Council plaque was unveiled on Saturday – what would have been his 200th birthday – at 15 Stratford Place where he lived from 1853 until 1869. Lear, who was born in Holloway and raised in Grays Inn Road, was famous for his work The Owl and the Pussycat, and as well as for his writings, was also noted as an artist and illustrator. Councillor Robert Davis reportedly had a go himself at a limerick in honour of the artisy: “There once was man named Lear, who lived in a spot close to here. This plaque unveiled today, is a fitting way, to pay tribute on his two hundreth year”.

• On Now: The Queen: Art and Image. Having been on tour across Britian, this exhibition features some of the most remarkable images ever created of the Queen opened at the National Portrait Gallery this week. Containing works by Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz, Pietro Annigoni and Andy Warhol, the exhibition is the most wide-ranging exhibition of images in different media ever devoted to a single royal sitter. Highlights include full-length 1954-55 painting by Annigoni (pictured, right, it’s displayed with his 1969 portrait), Lucian Freud’s 2000-01 portrait and Thomas Struth’s recent large-scale photograph of both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as well as a never previously loaned 1967 portrait by Gerhard Richter and a specially commissioned holographic portrait. Runs until 21st October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Regent by Pietro Annigoni, 1954-5. The Fishmongers’ Company

Following her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, took up residence in Buckingham Palace and have resided there ever since.

The Queen and her family’s appearance on the palace’s balcony to wave to crowds at events like Trooping the Colour and last year’s Royal Wedding have become symbols of her reign.

We’ve already written about some of the history of the 775 room palace (see our earlier post here), so today we’re looking specifically at the palace as the residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

While the focus for visitors to the palace is on the grand state rooms (of which there are 19 located in the west block facing the palace gardens – they include the Throne Room and State Dining Room), the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh live in private apartments on the north side of the palace while rooms on the upper floors of the palace’s north and east sides are occupied by other members of the Royal Family. A large part of the ground floor and palace’s south wing are occupied by service quarters and members of the Royal Household.

As well as weekly meetings at the palace – including audiences with the Prime Minister, foreign and British ambassadors, clergy and senior members of the civil service, the Queen also hosts a variety of grand events at the palace throughout the year. These include the Diplomatic Reception given for members of the diplomatic corps in the autumn (more than 1,500 people attend from more than 130 countries), three large garden parties in the summer and grand State Banquets which are held in the Ballroom on the first evening of a visit from a foreign head of state. The Queen is also noted for the small private lunch parties she holds to which community leaders are invited.

The head of the 1,200 strong Royal Household is the Lord Chamberlain (since 2006 The Earl Peel), a non-political office responsible for the organisation of ceremonial activities at court as well as the palace’s upkeep. Under him are the various departments heads – these include the Comptroller, who heads the Lord Chamberlain’s Office (this oversees everything from State Visits to the Royal Mews), the Keeper of the Privy Purse (responsible for the management of the sovereign’s financial affairs) and the Master of the Household (responsible for domestic and staff arrangements as well as catering and official entertainment, this position dates back to 1539).

A typical day in the life of the Queen when at the palace involves her spending the morning at her desk where she reviews a sample of incoming letters (an estimated 200 to 300 arrive each day almost all of which are answered by her staff) and meets with her Private Secretaries to deal with official papers which arrive in the famous ‘red boxes’.

The Queen will then often hold a series of audiences during which she’ll meet with a range of people – from retiring senior members of the armed forces to newly appointed ambassadors and judges and people who have won awards for excellence in a particular field. She may then participate in an investiture at which honors and decorations are presented (about 25 of these are held every year, usually in the palace Ballroom).

Lunch is often private although as previously mentioned, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are known for hosting small lunch gatherings for a range of people. In the afternoon, the Queen will often attend engagements outside the palace (she attends about 430 engagements and audiences a year) before possibly meeting with the Privy Council.

Evenings are spent reviewing a report of the day’s parliamentary proceedings, meeting with the Prime Minister (something she does every Wednesday when both are in London), attending further engagements or hosting events at the palace.

And, of course, when the Queen is in residence, Buckingham Palace is also home to the Queen’s corgis – Monty, Willow and Holly – and dorgis (a cross between a corgi and a dachshund) – Cider, Candy and Vulcan.

For more on Buckingham Palace and the life of the Queen, go www.royal.gov.uk.

WHERE: State Rooms, Buckingham Palace (includes special exhibition Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration) (nearest Tube stations are Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner); WHEN: 9.45am to 6.30pm, 30th June to 8th July and 31st July to 7th October; COST: £18 an adult/£10.50 a child (under 17s/under fives free)/£16.50 concession/£47 family; WEBSITE: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/buckinghampalace.

PICTURE: Christa Richert/sxc.hu

• The Cutty Sark, the world’s last surviving 19th century tea clipper, reopens to the public today following a £50 million, six year conservation project. The project to restore the Greenwich-docked ship has involved raising it more than three metres so visitors can walk underneath and see for themselves the sleek lines which helped the vessel set a then record-breaking speed of 17.5 knots or 20mph in sailing from Sydney to London. As well as raising the ship three metres, the project has involved encasing the ship’s hull in a glass casing to protect it from the weather – this area also contains the museum’s extensive collection of more than 80 ships’ figureheads, never been seen in its entirety on the site. The ship’s weather deck and rigging, meanwhile, have been restored to their original specification and new, interactive exhibitions on the vessel’s history have been installed below deck. Originally launched in 1869 in Dumbarton, Scotland, Cutty Sark visited most major ports around the world, carrying cargoes including tea, gunpowder, whiskey and buffalo horns and made its name as the fastest ship of the era when carrying wool between Australia and England. The ship became a training vessel in the 1920s and in 1954 took up her current position in the dry dock at Greenwich before opening to the public. In November 2006, the ship’s rig was dismantled in preparation for a restoration project – this received a setback on 21st May, 2007, when a fire broke out aboard the ship and almost destroyed it. The ship – which was officially reopened by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured) yesterday – is now under the operational management of the umbrella body, Royal Museums Greenwich. For more (including the online purchasing of tickets), see www.rmg.co.uk/cuttysark or www.cuttysark.org.uk. PICTURE: National Maritime Museum, London.

• A large statue of Genghis Khan has invaded Marble Arch. The 16 foot (five metre) tall sculpture of the Mongolian warlord, created by artist Dashi Namdakov, was erected by Westminster City Council as part of its ongoing City of Sculpture festival which is running in the lead-up to the Olympics. The statue has sparked some controversy – Labour councillors at Westminster have reportedly suggested Dambusters hero Guy Gibson would be a more suitable subject for a statue than the warlord Khan. The Russian artist, who has an exhibition opening at the Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair next month, told the Evening Standard he simply wanted to honor Khan on the 850th anniversary of his birth.

• Development of a new West End theatre, the first to be built in the area in 30 years, has been given the green light. The new 350 seat theatre will be part of a development project located between Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street which will also feature office and retail spaces. The site was occupied by a pickle factory in the 19th and 20th centuries and from 1927 was the home of the Astoria cinema, remodelled as a live venue in the 1980s. Live music was last presented there in 2009 when the site was compulsorily acquired for the Crossrail project.

• On Now: Crowns and Ducats: Shakespeare’s money and medals. This exhibition at the British Museum explores the role of money in Shakespeare’s world and looks at how coins – a frequently recurring motif in Shakespeare’s work – and medals were issued to mark major events. Objects in the display include Nich0las Hilliard’s ‘Dangers Averted’ medal of Elizabeth I and William Roper’s print of the Queen, the first to be signed and dated by a British artist, as well as a money box such as might have been used at the Globe and a hoard of coins, including a Venetian ducat, deposited in Essex around the time of Shakespeare’s birth. Almost every coin mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays will be on show – from ‘crack’d drachmas’ to ‘gilt twopences’. Runs until 28th October in room 69a. Entry is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

Queen Elizabeth II looks over gifts exchanged by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in a display which forms part of the Victoria Revealed exhibition at Kensington Palace.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited palace last week to officially reopen the building following a £12 million, two year renovation project aimed at “transforming the visitor experience”.

The works have involved restoring the palace gardens – which will now be permanently open to the public free-of-charge – and reconnecting the palace with the surrounding parklands of Kensington Gardens partly through the provision of a new entrance. Landscape designer Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s plan – which centres on a statue of Queen Victoria – features new lawns and avenues and a “maze-like path” inspired by 18th century “wilderness walks”.

There is also a new visitor reception area and “orientation hub” as well as a new courtyard terrace and cafe to complement The Orangery, shop and learning centre.

Victoria Revealed, a new permanent exhibition at the palace looks in intimate detail at the life of the Queen who once lived here and features everything from her black silk baby shoes to her wedding dress and the mourning clothing she wore following the death of Prince Albert as well as archive film footage showing the celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee of her reign in 1897.

The palace reopens on 26th March.

WHERE: The Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens, Kensington (nearest Tube stations are High Street Kensington or Queensway); WHEN: Daily 10am to 6pm (until 31st October); COST: £14.50 adult/£12 concession/children under 16 free (online booking discounts available, Historic Royal Palaces members free); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace.

PICTURES: Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk