Monday, 12 September 2016

I went up to London to visit the Queen

Well, not the Queen exactly but her house, Buckingham Palace. The palace is open to the public for only a few weeks of summer each year while the Queen is away and my daughter-in-law and I had tickets to visit, thanks to my generous son.  I was pretty excited to be setting foot inside this famous residence, something I never thought I would do. I have watched, with nose pressed against the iron railings and thousands of other tourists, the changing of the guard on a couple of occasions so it felt rather bizarre to be walking right in through the palace doors. Tickets are sold on a timed entry basis which controls the crowds and makes for a more pleasant experience.  We arrived early so killed a bit of time looking through the palace gift shop crammed with fine china and the ubiquitous boxes of chocolates, packets of biscuits, tea and assorted souvenirs.  Then through airport style security and armed with a multi media device, in to the palace. The tour covers 19 state rooms, these are the rooms  used extensively by the Queen and royal family for official occasions and to meet and entertain both subjects and dignitaries. Used as the official Royal residence only since 1837, Buckingham Palace was originally a much smaller house which was demolished then a new house was built which has been added to over many years. Much of the furniture, art and glittering chandeliers were bought by George IV to furnish his home when he was Prince of Wales.

The Queen's stunning coronation gown, patterned with  motifs from UK
 and Commonwealth countries.  Note the tiny waist.

This year, to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday, there is a display of her clothing  from childhood  including her wedding gown, her coronation gown, both utterly stunning, and then on through many ball gowns and street wear worn for formal occasions and visits.  I was intrigued at how tiny her waist was as a young woman. Each garment was accompanied by a large photo of the Queen wearing it. Also on display were dozens of her hats. It was a fantastic display of fashion and style through the decades, showcasing top British fashion designers and all worn by one person.

The tour of the Palace was extensive and wonderful.  Things that stood out for me were:
The White Drawing Room. The large mirror to the left is hinged to conceal a door which allows the Queen discreet access to the room

  • The sweeping staircase leading up from the front entry designed with deliberately shallow steps to make it look longer and grander
  • The throne room, familiar from formal and wedding portraits of the royal family
  • The White Drawing Room which is absolutely magnificent and is where the Queen meets visiting heads of state.  It is familiar from television shots. 
  • The Art Gallery bursting with paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyke, Canaletto, Reynolds, Rubens and many others
  • The sculpture gallery including works by Canova
  • The glorious chandeliers, incredibly ornate ceilings and rare, fine china by Sevres
  • The feeling that this is a palace with life in it.  I have been to many stately homes and there is usually a  lifeless, museum quality to them.  Buckingham Palace was different, it felt lived in but nevertheless fresh and immaculate.
  • The Throne Room - where Royal wedding photos are taken

I absolutely loved this tour.  The personal commentary was perfect and every time I felt I had seen all the wonderful rooms there were to see, there was another one.  I was fizzing about it for days afterwards. Photography inside the palace is not permitted , the photos here are copyright free via the internet.  You can take your own virtual tour if you go to You Tube and key in this address:

Outside the palace we had the opportunity to admire the beautiful and extensive park like grounds, complete with lake and I think if I lived in the palace that is where I would spend most of my time, so quiet, so peaceful and right in the heart of London. Photography is permitted in the grounds so the following photos are my own.

Do take this tour if you are in London in August or September, you won't be disappointed.  It was certainly a highlight of my trip to London.

The rear of the palace, overlooking the grounds

Left: Part of the gardens and lake

Right: That's me at the rear of the palace
Cute little ice cream shop in the Palace grounds