Norman-Hartnell-sketchThe Queen’s Coronation in 1953 is the subject of a special exhibition opening at Buckingham Palace as part of the palace’s summer opening. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the coronation, the display features an array of outfits including uniforms and robes worn on the historic event on 2nd June, 1953, as well as a series of paintings recording the event, works of art and objects used on the day and film footage and sound recordings. Among the highlights of the exhibition will be sketches made by Norman Hartnell, the principal designer of the outfits worn at the coronation by the Queen, principal ladies of the immediate Royal Family and the Maids of Honour. The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace open on Saturday and remain open until 29th September. An admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Her Majesty The Queen in her Coronation Dress, 1953, Norman Hartnell. Royal Collection Trust/All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile in this, the week of the birth of Prince George, it’s only fitting that we mention a small display at the Museum of London showcasing memorabilia relating to royal babies of years past. A Royal Arrival features baby clothes and other items worn by future monarchs. They include a embroidered skullcap worn by the future King Charles I, a tiny linen vest and mitten which once was worn by the future King George III and a dress emblazoned with the three feather insignia which belonged to the future King Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria. The free display will be on show until October. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

The new commission for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth will be unveiled today. The 4.7 metre high sculpture, Hahn/Cock, is the work of contemporary artist Katharina Fritsch. It will sit on the plinth for the next 18 months.  For more details, see www.fourthplinth.co.uk.

Indian statesman VK Krishna Menon has been commemorated by English Heritage with a blue plaque on his former residence in Highgate. A key campaigner for Indian independence, Menon lived at 30 Langdon Road from 1929 to 1931, having moved to England from Madras in 1924. In 1947, Menon was appointed India’s First High Commissioner in London and among his greatest achievements was his work in keeping the country in the British Commonwealth after independence. Having been a local councillor in St Pancras, he later returned to India and embarked upon a political career there. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/blueplaques/.

The-Future-Was-HereOn Now: The Future is Here. A major new exhibition examining the changes taking place in manufacturing around the world, opened this week at the Design Museum. The Future is Here looks at how everything from “cars to shoes” is manufactured, funded, distributed and bought. Among highlights is a ‘Factory’ where visitors can discover how 3D printing works and see production in process. There will also be the chance to make your own ‘action doll’ and see a sofa designed through a crowd-sourcing process which involved members of the public. Runs until 3rd November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org.

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Fashion-RulesA new exhibition looking at the fashions of three royals over four decades last century opens at Kensington Palace today. Fashion Rules features five rooms of dress displays with a focus on the fashions of Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, Princess Margaret in the 1960s and 1970s and Diana, Princess of Wales, in the 1980s. Twenty-one dresses are included in the display which explores how the royal women negotiated how to dress fashionably while observing the “rules” of the Royal Wardrobe and includes film footage and photography. The dresses include five of the Queen’s evening dresses – one of which is a gown fashioned for the Queen by Norman Hartnell in the colours of the flag of Pakistan, a full-length kaftan and matching turban of ivory sari silk worn by Princess Margaret while on the island of Mustique (on display for the first time), and, two Eighties dresses worn by Diana which have never before been displayed in the UK. Admission is included in entry price. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/. PICTURE: HRP/Newsteam.

The Rolling Stones are back in Hyde Park this weekend as part of a summer of music in the Royal Park. The concert will take place almost 44 years to the day since the Stones first played the park and comes in the wake of their ’50 and Counting’ shows last year. Their first performance in the park – on 5th July, 1969 – saw the live debut of guitarist Mick Taylor and was a tribute to founding member Brian Jones who has died only two days before. For the full programme of Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park, head to www.bst-hydepark.com.

Ngugi2010-2Daniel-Anderson-UnivCommThe British Library is partnering with the Royal African Society to host the UK’s largest festival of African literature – Africa Writes – this weekend. Kicking off on Friday, the three day festival features Ngugi wa Thiong’o, described as “Africa’s greatest living novelist” (pictured), and his son, rising star Mukoma Ngugi, in a conversation chaired by Ellah Allfrey, deputy editor of Granta Magazine. Other programme highlights include a poetry evening, ‘Diaspora Writes Back’; a tribute to Chinua Achebe, the “father of contemporary African literature”; and the writers short-listed for The Caine Prize – the most prestigious prize for African short fiction. For more, see www.africawrites.org. PICTURE: Ngugi wa Thiong’o © Daniel Anderson.

• 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

Westminster Abbey has played a key role in the life of Queen Elizabeth II – it was here on 20th November, 1947, that she was married to Prince Philip (then Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten) and it was here on 2nd June, 1953, that she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II.

First to the wedding. Princess Elizabeth was only the 10th royal to be married in the Abbey (her predecessors included her parents who married here on 26th April, 1923). The ceremony started at 11.30am and the princess, who wore a white dress designed by Norman Hartnell, entered to a specially composed fanfare accompanied by eight bridesmaids and two pages.

Due to post war austerity measures, only about 2,000 people attended the wedding (we’ve previously mentioned that the princess had to save coupons for her wedding dress like any other bride). On the day, the grave of the Unknown Warrior was the only stone that was not covered by the special carpet and the day after the wedding, the now married Princess Elizabeth followed a royal tradition started by her mother, Queen Elizabeth, which involved sending her wedding bouquet back to the Abbey to be laid on the grave.

It was about five-and-a-half years after her wedding that the princess returned to the Abbey to be crowned a queen.

Then Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya (on her way to Australia) when news reached her on 6th February that year of the death of her father, King George VI. After Prince Philip broke the news to her, the new queen chose Elizabeth as her “regnal name”, and the couple returned to England.

Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary, died on 24th March, but it was decided to proceed with the coronation anyway (Queen Mary had apparently asked that the coronation not be delayed by her death).

The coronation, the 38th to be conducted in the Abbey, was the first to be televised (with the exception of the anointing and communion) and was “instrumental” in helping to popularise it in the UK and elsewhere.

The building was closed for five months so preparations could be made for the more than 8,000 wedding guests. The Queen’s coronation dress, meanwhile, was made by Norman Hartnell (as had been her wedding dress) and was made of white satin embroidered with emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

Having arrived from Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, the Queen entered the Abbey at 11.20am and, having been invested with the Regalia while seated in the Coronation Chair, was crowned with St Edward’s Crown at 12.34pm. She left the Abbey at 2.53pm and rode through the streets of London back to the palace.

Of course, the Queen has since attended many other events at the Abbey – including thanksgiving services for their golden and silver wedding anniversaries and last year’s Royal Wedding – since her coronation which we don’t have space to talk about here. But it is worth noting before signing off that the Abbey continues to have a special relationship to her – it is a “Royal Peculiar” meaning it is exempt from any ecclesiastical jurisdiction but that of the Sovereign.

WHERE: Westminster Abbey, Westminster (nearest Tube station is Westminster or St James’s Park); WHEN: Open to tourists everyday except Sunday  (times vary so check the website); COST: £16 an adult/£13 concessions/£6 schoolchildren (11-18 years), free for children aged under 11/£38 for a family (two adults, two children); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org