In 2011, it was The Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress that saw tourists flock to Buckingham Palace. The Ball Room set up for a State Banquet was the exclusive showing for 2008. And this summer, when Her Majesty The Queen leaves for Balmoral for her summer holiday, Buckingham Palace will stage a brand new exhibition in the State rooms: Royal Childhood.
Since George III made the Palace a family home in 1761, the infamous London landmark has seen numerous births and christenings of Royal children, including all 4 of Queen Elizabeth’s children. Victoria even had another wing built in 1845 to accommodate her growing brood, which reached 9 in total, and so there are many plenty of items to exhibit, charting the history of Royal babies for over 250 years.
The display, open from 26 July – 28 September, comes from the Royal Collection and the Royal Archive, no doubt inspired by the birth of Prince George last year.
The collection gives us a glimpse of how childhood works for the Royals, who, in the past often had very different upbringings to the rest of the country; it includes toys that heirs to the throne played with, and both official gifts to Royal children, as well as family gifts, like a woollen blanket for Princess Alice, embroidered by her mother, Queen Victoria.
Some of the interesting items to go on display include: Prince William’s sailor suit, worn as a page-boy at the Duke of York’s wedding; a small pair of velvet shoes for an 8-month-old Prince Albert (future Edward VII); a dolls’ house created by a carpenter on the Royal Yacht for George III’s daughters; George III’s silver rattle from his governess, used by all his children and the christening gown that Prince George wore last year at his christening (a replica of the original Victorian lace gown).
The silver-gilt Lily Font will be displayed in the Music Room, where Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince William were baptized. This font was made for Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria’s first child, in 1841, and has been used for the majority of Royal christenings ever since, including Prince George’s in October last year.
A number of Princess Elizabeth’s childhood toys will also go on display: a rabbit shaped tea set, a wicker pram for dolls, as well as rocking horses belonging to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, bearing rosettes with their initials.
One of the most spectacular pieces will be a recreation of a play-house kitchen. The kitchen is part of a miniature thatched cottage, with electricity and water, given to a 6-year-old Princess Elizabeth by the people of Wales on the occasion of her birthday and was constructed at Royal Lodge, Windsor. It is still used by the youngest of the Royal Family today.
Clothes and toys are not the only items that will be displayed: never before seen family photos and films of Royals as children will be shown, making this an exhibition not to be missed, for Royalists and London tourists alike.
Proceeds from entry will go to the upkeep of Royal Palaces.
A Souvenir book will also be available to purchase, titled: ‘Royal Childhood: A Souvenir Album’, including pictures and descriptions of the displays.
photo credit: Royal Collection Trust, (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014