This summer visitors to the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace will enjoy a special display of more than 200 gifts presented to Her Majesty The Queen throughout her 65-year reign.
A paperweight made from a dinosaur bone, a Union Flag badge that has travelled into space, a handbag woven from banana leaves and a BAFTA Award are just some of the intriguing objects on display in the exhibition Royal Gifts at the 25th annual Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace from Saturday, 22 July 2017.
The exhibition explores Her Majesty’s role as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth and Head of Nation through gifts presented by people from all walks of life and from over 100 countries and territories during State Visits, overseas tours and official engagements both at home and abroad.
When receiving a visit from The Queen the host organisation, town or country will often choose to mark the occasion by giving an object that reflects their culture or history. During an official visit to Canada in 1959, Her Majesty was presented with a paperweight made from a fossilised dinosaur bone by the City of Drumheller, Alberta, which is internationally renowned as a centre of palaeontology. The bone has been identified as part of a humerus (upper arm bone), probably from the Hadrosaur family of duck-billed herbivorous dinosaurs, and dated to around 86–66 million years old.
Official gifts are often examples of local craftsmanship and artistic traditions, such as the white Kili bag of woven coconut leaves given to The Queen by President Christopher Jorebon Loeak of the Marshall Islands following the reception at Buckingham Palace for Heads of State and Government attending the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics. Young coconut leaves were used to create the finely woven surface, while the inside of the bag is lined with pandanus leaves. This style of weaving is unique to the Marshall Islands, where the skills have been passed down from generation to generation.
A gift can also record a significant event or moment in a nation’s history, such as the Union Flag badge worn in space by Major Tim Peake CMG, which was presented to The Queen at Windsor Castle in April 2017. The first British astronaut to be a member of the European Space Agency, Major Peake attached the badge to the left arm of his spacesuit before undertaking the first spacewalk by a British astronaut, outside the International Space Station on 15 January 2016. He was inspired to present the badge to Her Majesty by gifts made to monarchs by other great British explorers, such as Captain James Cook and Captain Robert Scott, which are also in the Royal Collection.
The Queen has supported thousands of charities and organisations throughout her reign. In recognition of Her Majesty’s patronage and lifetime support of the British film and television industries, Sir Kenneth Branagh presented The Queen with an honorary BAFTA Award on behalf of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts at a reception for the British film industry at Windsor Castle in April 2013.
A tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997. From the outset of her marriage, The Princess undertook many official duties in support of The Queen, both at home and abroad. As a tribute to The Princess, this work is remembered through a special display in the Music Room, one of the State Rooms open to the public as part of the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.
The centrepiece of the display is the desk at which The Princess worked in her sitting room at Kensington Palace, writing letters and reading official briefings and correspondence. Many of the objects shown on and around her desk have been selected by The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry to reflect their mother’s commitment to duty and their personal memories of her.
Items on display include:
Blue leather blotter and brown leather letter rack
Diana, Princess of Wales always wrote to thank those who had welcomed her on official visits, and the blotter and letter rack were part of The Princess’s desk accessories. The letter rack contains her cypher-embossed writing paper and envelopes.
Made by Cartier, the calendar was a gift to The Princess from President and Mrs Reagan on the occasion of the official visit to the United States by The Prince and Princess of Wales in November 1985.
Leather photograph frame
The frame, which contains photographs of friends and family, always sat on The Princess’s desk.
Burgundy leather briefcase
The briefcase, made by Asprey, was a gift from the Worshipful Company of Glovers to Lady Diana Spencer on the occasion of her marriage in 1981.
Round enamel boxes
These small boxes were commissioned as gifts from Halcyon Days of London for The Princess to give to her hosts on official trips overseas. Among those displayed is one from the official visit to Brazil by The Prince and Princess of Wales in April 1991. It is decorated with an image of the statue of Christ the Redeemer which dominates the skyline of Rio de Janeiro, surmounted by The Prince of Wales’s feathers.
Diana, Princess of Wales loved dance in all its forms, but particularly ballet. These shoes, which she used, were hung on the door of her sitting room at Kensington Palace.
Wooden school tuck box and typewriter
Bearing the name ‘D Spencer’, this box was used by Lady Diana Spencer for treats and taken with her to boarding school. It was kept in The Princess’s sitting room at Kensington Palace. Her childhood typewriter was also kept in the sitting room.
Case of cassette tapes
The Princess loved music and constantly listened to the radio, records and tapes when working at her desk. Among the tapes in the case are albums by Diana Ross, Elton John and George Michael, as well as works from the classical repertoire of opera and piano concerti.
Buckingham Palace offers a number of wonderful special visits and private tours for groups. The information on the website: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/buckinghampalace/plan-your-visit/visiting-in-a-group will help you to plan your day. If you have any questions about a group visit, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org