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FeaturesHistoryKing Charles III

Buckingham Palace’s Summer Opening Exhibition to mark 70th Birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales

During the ten weeks of the Summer Opening of the State Rooms in 2018, visitors to Buckingham Palace will be able to enjoy a unique exhibition to mark the 70th Birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales, entitled Prince and Patron, the Royal Collection has announced today.

His Royal Highness’s acknowledged love of art is reflected in work supported by three select charities under his patronage, recalling to mind his own considerable interests in not only art but also travel. His vast inside knowledge of the countless treasures within the Royal Collection has helped to frame this Summer Opening’s Exhibition, His Royal Highness choosing the artworks on display as among his personal favourites.

His Royal Highness also wrote as Patron of the Royal Collection Trust, the foreword to Michael Hall’s recent, ‘Art, Passion and Power: A History of the Royal Collection’. An official history of one of the world’s most magnificent collections, spanning a huge trove of objects from paintings of the great Masters, to the exquisitely crafted beauty of Faberge’s eggs, from the origins of its founding through to the Monarchy in the present day. The exhibition will feature ceramics, textiles, drawings and paintings.

The delightful story ‘The Old Man of Lochnagar’, created by HRH The Prince of Wales as a story for Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, was first published in 1980 when His Royal Highness was aged 32. It has subsequently been made into a musical, ballet and animated film; profits from which have gone towards the work of The Prince’s Trust.

HRH The Prince of Wales’s personal statement to the visitors of the exhibition reads as follows: “I have always been captivated by the astonishing range of fascinating things in the Royal Collection that have been collected or commissioned by my ancestors over the generations.  This is what, for me, makes the Royal Collection so special, representing, as it does, the unique craftsmanship and skill of the people who made them.  As a result, I have long believed that it is vital to preserve and maintain such craftsmanship and this led me to set up three charities.”

His Royal Highness has chosen artworks from three of his featured charities, The Royal Drawing School, The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts and Turquoise Mountain, all of which he is Patron. The Royal Drawing School provides free or low-cost drawing tuition at four campuses across London and collaborates with organisations in Europe, India and the United States of America; any generous donations to the work of the School are regularly recognised by His Royal Highness.

This active interest in charitable works concerning the arts grew not only from his early exposure to the art within the Royal Collection since childhood but also from His Royal Highness’s early involvement with The Prince’s Trust in the 1970s, the arts being a significant sector in which HRH The Prince of Wales has taken a deep interest for the last 40 years, referring to his efforts through The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts for example, as: “do[ing] what I can to continue the living traditions of the world’s sacred and traditional art forms. It is all too easily forgotten how crucial traditions are in handing on the immense richness of human knowledge, wisdom and skill, and giving them new life and new application.” Turquoise Mountain was established in 2006 at His Royal Highness’s instigation, with an aim to reinvigorate cultural heritage and crafts, for the betterment of international communities. Works supported by these three charities will feature alongside the other objects in the exhibition which have been personally selected by His Royal Highness.

It is fitting that the exhibition should be held at Buckingham Palace, the birthplace of HRH The Prince of Wales, on 14 November 1948; he was christened in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace on 15 December.

He was photographed in his christening gown, held by Princess Elizabeth on her lap, surrounded by his baptismal sponsors and godparents Lady Brabourne; Prince Philip (who represented Prince George of Greece); King George VI; David Bowes-Lyon; The Earl of Athlone (who stood for King Haakon of Norway); Princess Margaret; The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, grandmother to Prince Philip, and finally, Queen Mary.

The Royal Collection has announced a brief preview of the exhibition’s highlights, which will include the legendary hooded cloak (or, bernous) of Napolean Bonaparte. It was presented to the future King George IV after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, an all the more appropriate choice, given the close-lying location of the Duke of Wellington’s London residence of Aspley House on Hyde Park Corner, to Buckingham Palace. Made in France of red felt and yellow silk brocade, appliqued with braid border trefoils and silver thread with tinsel tassels, its history has intrigued HRH The Prince of Wales, ever since he first saw it at Windsor Castle. The cloak was taken from Napolean’s carriage after the Battle of Waterloo, therefore constituting a remarkable war trophy on the field. It is believed that Napolean wore such a cloak whilst on military campaigns in Egypt during the 1790s.

Another key exhibit will be the painting in the Royal Collection, by Johan Joseph Zoffany, ‘The Tribuna of the Uffizi’, a viewpoint of the treasures of the famous Florentine gallery, as admired by international visitors on their token Grand Tour. The picture was in itself, part of a commission to record the highlights of the great collection of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and appropriately enough will now form one of the highlights of the exhibition to mark the 70th Birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales.

Prince and Patron will run at Buckingham Palace from Saturday 21, Jul 2018 – Sunday, 30 Sep 2018.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018

About author

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian and writer, specializing in Queen Victoria's family, Russian royalty and the Habsburgs. An independent scholar of royal studies, she has studied historic British and European royalty for nearly twenty years, speaking on the subject for both TV and BBC radio.