It’s not the controversial Australian knighthood that makes Prince Philip “one of us”. It’s the fact that this northern summer, the Windsors are once again throwing open the doors of Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms to the hoi polloi. No-one enjoys a ‘sticky beak’ at Open for Inspections more than Aussies. In fact, it’s one of our favourite weekend past-times.
For almost 20 years, the State Rooms at one of the world’s most recognized royal residences have been open for inspection and with the Royal Family safely tucked away at Balmoral for the summer hols, you can rest easy that Sir Phil won’t be on hand to chuck well-meaning insults at the Colonials trooping through.
Last year, clutching our tickets embossed with the royal crest, we mingled with other visitors in the courtyard under welcome signs in Chinese, Japanese and Russian. England’s royal palace obviously has wide appeal in countries where hereditary monarchies have been abolished!
Lavishly appointed and meticulously maintained, this is not your 4 Bed, 2.5 Bath, 2 Car with outdoor dining and formal living variety of Open. Walls are embossed in plush ruby red, clad in forest green damask or dressed in buttercup yellow silk. Dripping with gold painted embellishments, there’s not a Caesarstone benchtop or European appliance in sight!
In May 1825, John Nash, an architect who gained fame designing theatres in 19th century London, was instructed to prepare plans for the royal refurbishment. As a result, many resemble theatrical sets and ascending the Grand Staircase, Nash recreated the dramatic impact of scale seen when entering many London theatres.
Similarly, the Throne Room (who needs a media room when you’re the star?) is stage managed to draw all eyes to the throne dais by using a proscenium arch and extravagant canopy to theatrical effect.
When the Ballroom designed for Queen Victoria in 1855 was finished, it was the high point in creating a splendid court designed to out-dazzle European royalty. Taking creative inspiration from the palaces of St Petersburg, Buckingham Palace became known as the “Headquarters of Taste” placing it in the avant-garde of décor and style in England.
While much of Europe was in turmoil, England benefited from being revolution-free with the legacy that each State Room is decorated with priceless paintings, tapestries, sculptures and the finest French and English furniture. Strolling the 47m Picture Gallery placed at the palace’s core, seventeen glass saucer domes produce a sense of space and light. Receptions are held here under the watchful eyes of previous royal residents captured by Holbein, Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto.
So, lock up the silver and priceless Sevres porcelain collections, it’s Open season at the Palace….
Secure your tickets for the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace before you leave home on www.royalcollection.org.uk or ring +44 (0) 20 7766 7300
Buckingham Palace is open daily from 9.45am – 6pm (last admission 3.45pm).
Subject to availability, on-the-day tickets can be purchased from the Ticket Office at the Visitor Entrance on Buckingham Palace Road from 9.15am.
The Historic Royal Pass provides entrée to the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House and Kensington Palace. To book go to www.hrp.org.uk
Before visiting London and the UK, go to www.visitbritain.com for all the latest information.
Shop in Royal Style
Hats off to the Duchess of Cornwall for setting the standard in statement head gear for ladies of a certain age. Her milliner of choice, Philip Treacy, can be found at 69 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W. www.philiptreacy.co.uk
Burberry have been producing the quintessential English macintosh worn tramping through the damp English countryside since 1856. Burberry, 21-23 New Bond Street, London W1 www.burberry.com
Looking for an old master, Chinese porcelain or French furniture for the Antipodean baronial pile? Christie’s Auction House have been furnishing well-heeled Londoners since 1766. www.christies.com
Queen Victoria issued Asprey London with their first Royal Warrant in 1862 and they’ve been the jewelers of choice for real and rock royalty ever since. 167 New Bond Street. www.asprey.com
Savile Row is short-hand for bespoke tailoring. First issued in 1809, Gieves & Hawkes at No. 1 Savile Row currently hold no less than three Royal Warrants. www.gievesandhawkes.com
Over summer, the royal ‘headquarters of taste’ can be found at the Buckingham Palace Gift Shop. Open from August to September during the summer opening of the State Rooms, all products bear the ultimate stamp of decorum and good taste.
What were the best things about royal residences you’ve visited?
Tags: Britain, British Europe, Buckingham Palace, Buckingham Palace State Rooms, London Highlights, London Shopping, Royal Collection, Royal Palaces of England, Visit Britain, Visiting England, visiting Europe