This post is for Monday, 25 July.
Today, Kerri and I are going to Buckingham Palace to see the palace but, more importantly an exhibit of Queen Elizabeth’s fashions over 90 years in celebrations of her 90th birthday. The exhibition opening only two day before our visit. We are lucky to be in London during the short time it is on at the palace. We booked our tickets last night for 1:30 expecting the crowds to be large.
Of course, as we found our way to the entrance we discovered we were correct. It was packed. I feared we might never get in even with tickets purchased in advance. However, I underestimated the organizational skills and calm of the British. It was amazing. Everyone on the staff that we came into contact with was so helpful and polite and simply made the visit incredibly easy despite the huge numbers of people. I was impressed with how well the crowds were treated and moved about with ease. We began the process of going in at the appointed time. We had to go through intense security and we not allowed to photograph in the palace of course. Everywhere we turned, we were greeted warmly and kindly and with respect. Exactly what you might expect being a guest in the home of the queen.
The walk through included all the rooms of state in the palace and the exhibition which was set up in three very large rooms – the Ball Supper Room, the Ball Room and the State Dining Room I believe. We saw the Grand Entrance and Grand Hall, Grand Staircase, Guard Chamber, Green Drawing Room, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery, the Blue Drawing Room, the Music Room, the White Drawing Room, the Minister’s Staircase, Marble Hall and finally the Bow Room. I list them all so if you want to google them you can see what they look like.
I did find some image online and from the guide book I purchased so I include them here to prime the pump so to speak.
The exhibition of the queen’s clothing was extensive and the crowds were enormous. The audio guides slowed down the movement of the crowds. I didn’t take one so I was able to move a little more quickly but sometimes it difficult to get very close to see what was what. The first section was early and included the christening gown (now a reproduction for the modern royals), the gowns Elizabeth and Margaret wore to their father’s coronation in 1937.
The rest of the exhibition included a group of dresses worn to various weddings, dresses worn for state visits to other countries, dresses worn for state occasions in England, a look at her millinery and the milliners she has used over the years and some of the various designers that have dressed the queen during her life. I found the following images on line to give you an idea of the scope and scale.
After leaving the exhibition which was in the central part of the tour of room, we went into the Picture Gallery for one and I discovered one of my favorite paintings. Franz Xaver Winterhalter is one of my favorite portrait painters (along with John Singer Sargent and Thomas Gainsborough). Her painting of Queen Victoria and her young family was hanging in this gallery. So excited to see this in person. The detail of his work comes through even when reproduced in books.
Exhausted we left the palace for walk out the back which included a gift shop. The most unexpected part was the beautiful and tranquil setting in the back of the palace.
Once we exited the palace grounds, we found the nearest tube stop and headed back to the dorm to rest and get ready for the evening’s performance. Tonight we saw The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. This is the second of the Young Chekhov series showing at the National. The production was first rate. They used the base set from the previous production we saw with some hefty additions. They retained the water element creating a strong symbolism when Nina (the seagull) walks through the water to the house. The actors which included Anna Chancellor as Arkadina (I saw her play Amanda in Private Lives broadcast to the cinema a couple of years ago) was superb and the play while not as funny as Platanov was incredibly entertaining until the suicide of Konstanin which was a little disconcerting but appropriate. My only issue with this production was the time setting. For some reason, beyond understanding, they chose to set it in what appeared to be the 1930’s. For me, this makes absolutely no sense. I don’t see how these people could have existed after the revolution. Chekhov’s plays proceed and tosome extent foreshadow the revolution. I found myself trying to make sense of this choice to the point that I was taken out of the story and the events taking place on the stage.