Buckingham Palace, The Seagull

This post is for Monday, 25 July.

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Buckingham Palace as we walked around to enter on the far side. This is the home of the royal family and for a few months each year during the summer and early fall, it is open for tours.

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.

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This image was used for all the publicity for Fashioning a Reign.

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.

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from the guide book – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the White Drawing Room – 1966

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from the guide book – The Grand Staircase during an event of Queen Victoria’s time and on the right as it appears today.

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.

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Elizabeth and Margaret in front with Queen Mary. These are the gowns in the exhibit.

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.

A member of the staff makes final adjustments to one of the displays. These dresses were from an earlier part of her reign, late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

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Sketch by Norman Hartnell of the coronation gown. He did eight sketches before he got to what she wanted. It was full of symbolism including silks only from England and the beading included he Tudor rose for England, the thistle for Scotland, the leek for Wales, the shamrock for Ireland, wattle for Australia, the maple leaf for Canada, the fern for New Zealand, protea for South Africa, lotus flowers for both India and Ceylon, and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton, and jute. Unbeknownst to the queen, a single four leaf clover was added on the left of the dress, just where her hand would brush throughout the day. In order to carry and distribute the weight of all the embroidery, the dress was lined in taffeta and three layers of horsehair.  This was included in the exhibition.



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Dresses from the 1960’s and 1970’s. I do remember the blue one was for the 1972 Montreal Olympics.

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Wedding Dress. Note the extensive interlinings that give the skirt those crisp folds. Typical of the New Look in 1947.

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On many of the displays, pictures of her wearing the dresses were included. This was great for giving context to the gowns.

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This image gives a sense of the size of the exhibition. I believe this is in the Ballroom of the palace.

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.

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from on line – the Winterhalter painting of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the young family – Prince Edward is with the queen, the Princess Royale is to the far right. Year 1846

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.

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Walking out – this is the back door. The white awning are set up during this time when tours are open. They include a cafe. We are standing about where the gift shop was located.


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The walk out included this small lake. It was a beautiful day and the walk (about 10 minutes to the exit) helped us recover our senses from the intensity of the visit to 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.

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Before the show on the bank of the Thames River just outside the theatre.



















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Anna Chancellor as Arkadina. Photo found on line.