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King Edward VII’s Middle Eastern relics shown at Buckingham Palace

From November 2014 to February 2015, an exhibition in The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace will profile a Middle Eastern journey taken by King Edward VII in 1862, whilst he was Prince of Wales.

Prince Edward was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Before his accession after his mother’s death in 1901, he served as Prince of Wales for 59 years, one month and 14 days.

He is, to this day, the longest-serving Prince of Wales and will only be surpassed by the incumbent, Prince Charles, if Charles remains Prince of Wales until the 10th September 2017.

The Prince’s four-month tour of the Middle East, shortly after the death of his father was the first Royal tour to have an official photographer in attendance. It is through the photographs of Francis Bedford that many of the details of the tour are revealed and they are presented alongside objects which the Prince brought back to the UK from his travels.

During the tour, the Prince made visits to Egypt, Jerusalem, Damascus, Beirut and Constantinople amongst others and met with notable figures including rulers and politicians. The British Government, at the time, were keen to ensure that the W?li of Egypt, Sa’id Pasha, became an ally of the British to ensure the French did not take control of the Suez Canal, should the Ottoman Empire have collapsed.

Pieces of Edward’s journal from the 6th February to the 14th June 1862, detail the Prince’s entourage and journey to the Middle East passing through various countries and cities including Austria, Italy and Greece.

Alongside the Prince’s Tour, the Gallery is also showing an exhibition on various pieces of Gold, spanning the centuries from the Bronze Age to the 20th Century.

The Queen’s Gallery itself has had an illustrious past from its original completion in 1831 to its bombing as part of an air raid, over 100 years later, in 1940.

Initially designed by John Nash, the favoured architect of the Prince Regent and later King George IV, the Gallery was constructed on the south-west corner of Buckingham Palace.

Facing the garden, it was converted into a private chapel for Queen Victoria in 1843 and, after its wartime destruction, was redeveloped as a gallery for the Royal Collection at the suggestion of Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh.

As part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, arrangements were made to expand and modernise the Gallery. The £20million expansion, funded entirely by the Royal Collection though public admissions to The Queen’s Residences, was the most significant addition to the Palace in 150 years.

It kept true to Nash’s original design styles and ideas and, as such, required the expertise of a variety od specialist including stone masons, wood carvers, fibrous plaster and scagliola workers, copper and bronze workers, specialist joiners, blacksmiths, specialist painters and cabinet-makers.

Today, the Gallery presents a programme of changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection.

“Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East” is showing at the Queen’s Gallery from 8th November 2014 to 22nd February 2015. Open daily from 10:00 – 17:30 GMT, tickets start from £4.95 and can be booked online.

Featured Image Credit: Wally Gobertz

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