A few weeks ago, along with Sarah, I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Buckingham Palace for a very special preview of the latest exhibition to take up residence in The State Rooms. You might remember that last year, I got a chance to have a glimpse of The Queen's Coronation installation before it opened to the general public, so I was only too eager to return ahead of the crowds and have another look around one of the most opulent locations I've ever had the pleasure of exploring. This year's exhibition, entitled Royal Childhood, focuses on life as a young royal and growing up at Buckingham Palace, incorporating an array of objects, photographs and film footage, as well as personal toys and trinkets from the Royal Family's private archives.
As well as a series of more opulent objects, including Princess Alice's beautiful gilt cradle and the official City of London Congratulatory Resolution marking Prince George's birth, the exhibition also incorporates a series of lovely personal touches which really evoke a sense of the normality of (Royal) family life. From the character adorned chairs used by Prince William, Prince Harry and Princess Beatrice to the door from the nursery at Royal Lodge (c.1930), marking the heights of each of the royal children and anchoring the horseshoes of Princess Elizabeth's first ponies, each carefully selected object here connotes the routine nature of family life, and the traditional hallmarks of growing up which we can all relate to.
The display of clothes which takes centre stage throughout Royal Childhood also contrasts the ceremonial, traditional elements of growing up as part of the Royal Family against the necessity for practical, comfortable daywear. Items of ceremonial dress on display here include a blue velvet walking suit with lace applique worn by a young George V (c. 1868) and the bridesmaid dress worn by Zara Phillips to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York (c.1986). More instantly recognisable outfits include the childhood clothes of Princes William and Harry, and the co-ordinated pale pink jackets worn by the then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret from the 1930s. As well as the more formal items, this display also incorporated a few fun elements, most notably the fairy costume worn by Princess Anne- definitely an outfit I'm sure most little girls (and some grown up ones!) can appreciate!
Perhaps my favourite part of the exhibition was having the chance to explore the Royal toy box and indulge my inner child! One of the most impressive pieces on display here is Y Bwthyn Blach (The Little House), which was made for Princess Elizabeth in 1932. A gift from the people of Wales for her sixth birthday, this house in miniature incorporates a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, equipped with all the mod-cons needed for indulging in some serious fun. Juxtaposed alongside the more traditional learning toys from the Royal Nursery, here we also find a wooden roller coaster, an abundance of rocking horses and enough toy cars to warrant opening a small garage- Prince Andrew's mini Aston Martin DB5 is definitely a highlight worth looking out for here.
Also worth noting is the beautiful film footage which punctuates the exhibition- never before seen, it offers an unparalleled, intimate glimpse at the private moments of Royal Childhood, and really serves to demonstrate the shared rituals of growing up which are so important to all of us.
A big thank you to Buckingham Palace and to Hanae for inviting me along.
Royal Childhood runs at Buckingham Palace until Sunday 28th September.
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)