Click the button for the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic and how it is impacting the royals

British RoyalsFeatures

Tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales opens at Buckingham Palace

John MacIntyre from Paisley Scotland (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

In a press release on Friday 21 July, the Royal Collection Trust announced that a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales would be made in the form of a special display in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, as part of the Summer Opening, to mark the 20th anniversary of her death, on 31 August 1997. The display particularly acknowledges the important work undertaken by the Princess to support The Queen, both in the UK and overseas. At Kensington Palace, the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales is being marked by the temporary ‘White Garden’ which has been installed for the spring and summer within the Palace’s Sunken Garden, as well as in the Palace’s own special major exhibition mounted this year, entitled “Diana: Her Fashion Story”, tracing the Princess’s life through her evolving fashion style across two decades.

The central Music Room at Buckingham Palace is the room among the Palace’s State Rooms where guests are presented to The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and visiting Heads of State. It is also a room that has acquired a certain tradition for royal christenings as well as royal entertainment – hence the presence of the grand piano by John Broadwood & Sons. Much of the furniture that fills the Music Room is associated with George IV, who probably acquired many of the pieces for his fashionable mansion of Carlton House on Pall Mall when he was Prince Regent; for example, the gilt bronze chandeliers that are a key feature of this room were probably moved to Buckingham Palace from Carlton House. The Queen’s three eldest children were christened here – Charles, Prince of Wales, Anne, Princess Royal and Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The Duke of Cambridge was photographed in the Music Room following his own Christening Service in 1982 when he wore the christening gown that had once been used by the future Edward VII in 1842.

The commemorative display in the Music Room for Diana, Princess of Wales, has a most appropriate centrepiece – the desk from the Princess’s sitting room at Kensington Palace, from which she conducted much of her correspondence, wrote her letters and read official briefings. Many objects that feature in the special display have been personally chosen by The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry as pieces best thought to represent their mother in tribute, as well as to be symbolic of their own private memories of her. They include such personal items as the blue leather blotter and brown leather letter rack, used by the Princess up until her death, as well as a burgundy leather Asprey briefcase, made for Lady Diana Spencer by the Worshipful Company of Glovers, to mark her marriage to the Prince of Wales in 1981. Also included are official gifts, such as the silver Cartier calendar, presented to the Princess by President and First Lady Mrs Reagan during the State Visit to the United States in 1985.

Certain objects clearly held deep sentimental significance for Diana, Princess of Wales. These include the ballet shoes that she kept – the Princess was Patron of the English National Ballet – which she hung on her door at Kensington Palace, as well as the ‘tuck box’ which she used for storing sweets during her time at boarding school, with the words, “D Spencer” on the lid. (Photographs prior to her marriage to the Prince of Wales show Lady Diana Spencer wearing a necklace with the initial “D”, one of which was taken in 1980 at the Spencer ancestral seat of Althorp in Northamptonshire, an image now in the Hulton-Deutsch collection – the “D” necklace was a personal item that she appears to have kept, being photographed wearing it after her marriage to the Prince of Wales.) A poignant touch perhaps is added, through the presence of a fountain pen at the ready, amidst all the desk accessories – a respectful tribute no doubt to the tireless spirit of the Princess, which expressed itself so readily in charitable and official duties, indeed, as if the desk was still very much in daily use today – something emphasised further by the vase of pastel pink roses on the desk, amidst the display.

Buckingham Palace opened today for the official Summer Opening and will this year remain open until 1 October 2017.

About author

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian, writer and researcher. An expert on past British and European royalty as an academic subject, she speaks on matters royal historical for both TV and radio. She specializes in the family of Queen Victoria and Russian royalty, with a particular interest in royal weddings, speaking on historic royal weddings at Windsor for BBC Radio Berkshire prior to the first British Royal Wedding in 2018. She responds to media enquiries ranging from the BBC to private individuals. She was elected a member of the Royal Historical Society in 2017.