Royal Childhood, Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, until 28th September 2014.
Buckingham Palace, as this view of the Picture Gallery suggests, is a veritable treasure house of Old Masters, English paintings, porcelain (especially French), great furniture, clocks and sculpture. To many of us it is the place where the Queen entertains visitors whether heads of state or more ordinary mortals invited to the annual garden parties and investitures. A seat of State and Royal business!
That is why this year’s exhibition Royal Childhood is special for it reminds us that it has also been a family home from the time George III purchased it in 1762. Indeed the east front with its famous balcony was commissioned in 1845 by Queen Victoria to give more ‘accommodation for our little family, which is fast growing up’. She and Prince Albert had nine children. In the last century Her Majesty the Queen and her sister Princess Margaret moved into the Palace in 1936 when their parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, and of course the Queen has raised her own children there since her own accession in 1952.
What huge fun this exhibition is for it reminds us that despite some of the necessary formalities, such as the birth announcement displayed on the easel in the forecourt as happened with the birth of Prince George of Cambridge last year, that children are very much the same in their love of dressing up, recording their growth in height, toy cars, rocking horses, exercise books, and making things such as pottery.
Among the highlights for me were the doll’s house belonging to two of George III’s daughters and the silver-gilt Lily Font used for royal christenings but these are just two of the many wonderful things reflecting nine generations of royal children. Certainly when I saw the pedal cars – there was a thunderstorm outside – I thought what fun it would be to race up and down the Picture Gallery in them. I hope that it proves as nostalgic and enjoyable an exhibition for all who visit it.