A Royal Welcome: Buckingham Palace Behind the Scenes

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Buckingham Palace and Forecourt.

The Palace and forecourt. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel, all rights reserved.

Buckingham Palace is known worldwide not only as a Royal Residence, but also as one of the finest settings for some of the most impressive and interesting exhibitions.

The latest exhibition at the palace, A Royal Welcome, is part of the 2015 Summer Opening.

A Royal Invitation to Buckingham Palace

Every year the Royal Family welcomes over sixty thousand guests to Buckingham Palace, including important visitors to receptions, Garden Parties, Investitures and private audiences.

During her reign, Her Majesty The Queen has received over one hundred Heads of State on formal State Visits to the UK.

Buckingham Palace usually hosts 25 Investitures and three Garden Parties every year. Approximately 8,000 guests attend each Garden Party. On average they consume 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and more than 15,000 cakes!

Queen Victoria hosted the first Buckingham Palace Garden Party in the 1860s. A Garden Party is the Royal Family’s way of acknowledging public service by people from all walks of life, and an invitation to a Garden Party is highly treasured.

A Royal Welcome Answers the Questions You Really Want to Ask

A Royal Welcome is the response to questions so often asked by visitors to Buckingham Palace. The exhibition takes us behind-the-scenes showing what goes into the planning of events at the Palace.

Visitors enter the State Rooms through the Grand Entrance, a privilege reserved only for those coming to the Palace at The Queen’s invitation, such as Prime Ministers and Heads of State.

Australian State Coach, a gift from the Australian people.

The Australian State Coach is the most modern coach in the Royal collection. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel, all rights reserved.

As they enter the Palace, visitors see the magnificent Australian State Coach. The coach was a gift from the Australian people to Her Majesty the Queen to mark the Australian Bicentennial in 1988.

Drawn by six horses, the coach is the most modern in the Royal collection, with electric windows, heating, and hydraulic stabilisers.

In March 2015 the coach carried the Duke of Edinburgh and Señora Rivera, wife of the President of the United Mexican States, in the procession of the State Visit.

State Banquet Buckingham Palace

Here, you can see a table set for a State Banquet. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel, all rights reserved.

Displays throughout the State Rooms recreate the settings for key events such as a State Banquet for 170 guests, an Investiture, a Garden Party for thousands, and even a private audience.

Enjoy the colourful spectacle of a lavishly set banqueting table with glittering silver-gilt centrepieces and candelabra from the magnificent Grand Service in the Royal Collection.

Specially commissioned time-lapse films show behind-the-scene preparations from the preparation of food to the choice of wines.

We see the placing of 2,000 pieces of cutlery for 170 guests at a State Banquet as well as the creation of a Bombe Glacée Sultane – a chocolate ice cream dessert.

A re-created kitchen scene features some of the key ‘tools of the trade’ including the copper moulds use to make those delicious Bombe Glacée Sultane desserts.

Silk Dress Worn by Queen Elizabeth to State Banquet

The Queen wore this silk dress, designed by Angela Kelly Couture. Copyright image courtesy of Royal Collection Trust, used with permission. All rights reserved.

One important aspect of any royal event is choosing the the Queen’s clothes.

A Royal Welcome reveals the decision-making process involved in planning Her Majesty’s wardrobe, which takes place several months in advance.

At Garden Parties, the Queen often wears a brightly coloured dress coat with a matching hat so that she stands out in the crowd.

In bad weather she carries a transparent umbrella with matching trim, so that she remains visible to her guests. For example, in May 2013, she wore a pink dress and matching hat and coat with bell sleeves designed by Angela Kelly Couture.

For a State Banquet, Her Majesty usually wears something pale, such as the silk dress designed by Angela Kelly Couture. The neutral background sets off colourful insignia, which is always chosen in honour of the visiting guest.

During her visit to Singapore in 1972, the Queen received the Badge and Riband together with the Star of the Order of Temasek. In 2014, she wore these historic items to honour the President of Singapore on his State Visit to the UK.

Kokoshnik Tiara

The Kokoshnik Tiara was made in 1888 for the Princess of Wales. Copyright image courtesy of Royal Collection Trust, used with permission. All rights reserved.

A Royal Welcome also showcases some of the jewellery worn by The Queen during various State Visits.

One of the most stunning pieces of jewellery is the Kokoshnik Tiara. Made by R. & S. Garrard & Co., in 1888, for Alexandra, Princess of Wales, the diamond-encrusted tiara is a traditional Russian folk headdress.

The Queen recently wore the Kokoshnik Tiara at the State Banquet for the United Mexican States in 2015.

An Interview with Curator Anna Reynolds

Anna Reynolds, Royal Collection Trust Curator, spoke exclusively to Decoded Arts to discuss the exhibition.

Decoded Arts: Was this exhibition more difficult to plan because it is so different to previous shows?

Anna Reynolds: I wouldn’t say it was necessarily more difficult – each exhibition has its own challenges. For this one, we really relied on the co-operation of the households. We had to work really closely with the departments that make a State Banquet happen. That’s been really interesting, but obviously there’s a lot more people involved than there might be usually.

Decoded Arts: How long have you been planning A Royal Welcome?

Anna Reynolds: We start planning for the Summer Exhibition as soon as the previous year’s opens. So last year it was Royal Childhood. As soon as that opened we started thinking, what shall we do next year? We didn’t have a particular anniversary to celebrate by the time we opened this year, so it’s not a diamond anniversary, or coronation.

So we thought, maybe we can try and answer some of those questions that we get every year from visitors. They’re always really interested in ‘where are the kitchens’ or ‘where are the Queen’s hats stored?’ All those sorts of things are really behind-the-scenes things. They aren’t usually seen during a visit to the Palace.

Decoded Arts: So where are the kitchens?

Anna Reynolds: They are in the basement area. They are quite close to the Ballroom so the food comes up from the kitchen before a State Banquet. It goes into a room that runs alongside of the Ballroom, called the State Annex, where it’s uncovered and brought into the Ballroom.

Decoded Arts: I just have to ask – where are the Queen’s hats stored?

Anna Reynolds: They’re stored on the Dressers’ Corridor, as part of the Dressers’ Workroom.

Decoded Arts: With so much material to choose from how did you decide what to include?

Anna Reynolds: Well, we had choices as always in terms of jewellery and dresses and items to include in the displays. We’ve really tried to focus on the Singapore State Visit in 2014. The way we’ve set the table very much imitates how it looked for the visit, and in that sense, we’ve also included the Queen’s dresses from that visit and most of the jewellery she wore. That helped us narrow down our selection.

Decoded Arts: When we came in we saw the Australian State Coach. Can you tell us more about that please.

Anna Reynolds: It was presented by the people of Australia to the Queen in 1988. It was made by Mr Frecklington, who has made other coaches for the Queen. It has a kangaroo on the side, so it’s very clear that it’s the Australian State Coach.

Decoded Arts: Do you have a favourite item, and why?

Anna Reynolds: It’s hard to think of something more stunning than the Kokoshnik Tiara, which has 488 diamonds in it. It was worn recently by the Queen, but it was made for Princess Alexandra so it’s nice to see something that has such a history.

Copper Bombe Moulds at Buckingham Palace

The kitchens in the Royal Palace still use these Victorian Bombe Moulds. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel, all rights reserved.

But then, some of the things that I think are more unusually interesting are the items that are on display where we’ve re-created the kitchens. You can see the beautiful Victorian copper jelly moulds. They are still beautiful items in their own right and they are still used all the time in the kitchens. I think that idea of continuity and tradition is really interesting.

A Royal Welcome at Buckingham Palace

A Royal Welcome offers a fascinating glimpse behind-the-scenes in a Royal palace, from the kitchens to the Queen’s office.

Curator Anna Reynold’s publication, entitled A Royal Welcome, accompanies the exhibition. The book, like the exhibition, answers all the questions you might have – how is the Queen’s wardrobe chosen? How do they prepare a State Banquet or a Garden Party and what happens at an Investiture?

A Royal Welcome is a ticketed exhibition at Buckingham Palace, open from 25th July to 27th October 2015.