31st July - 7th October, 2012
Once again it is the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace and ` Diamonds : A Jubilee Celebration ` is part of a visit.
There are only a few working Royal Palaces remaining today, and Buckingham Palace is the premier amongst them. It has been owned by Monarchs down the centuries, who, in turn, brought in their own Designers and Architects to make significant alterations.
The Palace is gloriously set between two of London`s great parks, St. James`s and Hyde Park, at the end of a long avenue.
The Dukes of Buckingham were the owners until mid 18th century when problems arose over the lease which enabled George 111 to acquire the property as a private residence, and he ordered it to be remodelled by Sir William Chambers. It is important to realise that the Ceremonial Centre for the Court remained at St. James`s Palace.
George 1V on his accession, converted the house into a palace suitable for the business of Monarchy. He chose John Nash as his Architect. This was a challenging project as funds were short and he had to incorporate the shell of the original building into the new palatial buildings. The exterior was faced in Bath stone and detailed in a French Neo Classical manner which appealed to George 1V`s extravagant and opulent taste.
William 1V never resided at the Palace, and had work completed by the less theatrical Edward Blore. He smoothed out projections and removed a dome and turrets from the roof line.
Quenn Victoria was the first of all the Monarchs to live in the Palace and found it unsuitable size wise for family life and State Occasions. She, therefore, had the Palace made into a complete quadrangle by closing the East side of the courtyard with a new wing. The Marble Arch was removed, and it is preserved at the top of Park Lane. New apartments were added, designed by Edward Blore and built by Thomas Cubitt starting in 1847. a state supper room and ballroom were designed by Nashe`s pupil James Pennethorne.
On Edward V11`s accession, he decided the Palace looked a little neglected, and arranged for much renovation envolving highly decorative motifs which do clash a little with Nash`s work.
When George V and Queen Mary came to Buckingham Palace, they had the Blore front refaced in Portland Stone in a new design by Aston Webb. The magnificent gates and railings and the palatial look of the building are due to his inspiration.
Today, Queen Elizabeth 11 and Prince Philip reside at Buckingham Palace, and the perfectly organised Court Ceremony proceeds with faultless precision, which it has done since the Middle Ages.
The State Rooms on view during a visit are those that were designed and built as public rooms of the Palace, in which the Monarch received, rewarded and entertained their subjects and visiting Dignitaries. They are in frequent use today. They are furnished with Treasures from the Royal Collection, including paintings by Van Dyck and Canaletto, Sculpture by Canova, Sevres Porcelain, and both English and French furniture.
The Throne Room and Picture Gallery are stunning for their decor and historical interest. The Picture Gallery , designed by Nash, has four marble chimney pieces, each showing a pair of female figures holding a palette and brush, and at the centre a medallion of a great painter, namely, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Durer and Van Dyck.
`Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration ` is a spectacular Exhibition, which explains how Monarchs have used diamonds in regalia, jewellery, and precious objects for centuries. The purity, beauty and value of thse stones have made them appropriate for symbols of Sovereignty. A large number of The Queen`s personal jewellery in on show.
Throughout history Buckingham Palace and the jewels have undergone transformation, the former architecturally, and the latter,through re-cutting and re-setting.
Among many glittering exhibits one can see `The Diamond Diadem `, a widely recognised piece of the Queen`s jewellery. It is made of 1,333 brilliant diamonds, with pearls, silver and gold. It was made for the Coronation of George 1V, and our Queen wore it on the way to her Coronation, and always wears it at State Opening of Parliament.
In the Exhibition there is The Queen`s Sout African necklace and bracelet, made of platinum and diamonds. It was a 21st Birthday gift from the Union of South Africa. At one time it was shortened to make the bracelet.
Further exhibits include Queen Victoria`s fringe brooch, Queen Alexandra`s Kokoshnik Tiara complete with diamonds and white and yellow gold. the latter being a traditional Russian Headress. The English and Russian Royals were related and this style set a trend.
Out of many more beautiful pieces, I personally, felt the Queen`s Williamson Diamond brooch to be just perfect.. It is considered to be the finest pink diamond ever found. It is set as the centre of a brooch in the form of a jonquil flower, the petals, stalk and leaves are made from 170 small brilliant cut diamonds - quite divine.