Last Friday, Buckingham Palace threw open its doors to the public for the annual three-month long summer opening – the 22nd year running that visitors have been able to wander its wide corridors and gaze at the opulence of its state rooms while the Royal Family holiday at Balmoral in Scotland.
Each year the palace also hosts a themed exhibition to coincide with the opening. While in previous years these have been very grand affairs (diamonds featured in 2012 and the Queen’s coronation was celebrated last year) this year the displays contain much more mundane and everyday items, because the focus for 2014 is on Royal Childhood.
Pay a visit and you’ll discover some surprisingly intimate objects in this year’s exhibition, which features over a hundred items dating from 1762 to the present day. The most touching are the cupboard door which has been used by recent generations of the Royal Family to mark the growth of their children, and Queen Victoria’s childhood report card from two days in the early 1830s when she was just 13 years old. This little book reveals that the young princess’s behaviour could be variable – on one day she was ‘very good’ whilst on the other she was described as ‘very naughty and ‘impertinent’!
Other interesting exhibits include a large display of costumes in the palace’s ballroom, from the charming jacket and kilt worn by a very young Prince Charles in the Highlands to the cutest little sailor suit worn by Prince Harry at a family wedding. Of course the Royal Family’s newest member – Prince George, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who was born last summer – features heavily.
As well as newly released photographs of the young prince, visitors to Royal Childhood can inspect George’s christening robe, the easel and parchment which announced his birth at the gates of Buckingham Palace and what must be the two oddest items on display – two rather sinister looking rocking horses emblazoned with the Presidential Seal which were given as a gift to the young Prince by Barack and Michelle Obama.
To reflect the childhood focus of this year’s opening there also a new dedicated space at the palace for children that compliments the pleasant café at the rear which overlooks the extensive gardens. The family pavilion offers puzzles, games and dress-up items to keep the kids amused.
The summer opening of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Childhood exhibition run through until 28 September this year – more information on ticket prices and opening times can be found on the official website.