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Royal Collection Opens Special Summer Exhibition at Buckingham Palace
Royal Collection worker Caroline de Guitaut poses for photographs with a collection of hats Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has worn to the Royal Ascot horse race meeting over the years during a media event held to preview 'The Queen's Year' exhibition at Buckingham Palace in London. The exhibition, which is part of the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at the palace, opens to the public on July 27 and includes displays of robes, gifts, uniforms, dresses and jewellery, giving visitors an insight into the principal national and ceremonial events in the royal year. AP Photo/Matt Dunham.

LONDON.- The Queen’s Year, the special exhibition at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace, presents the spectacle and variety of the royal calendar, from the Royal Maundy Service and the Trooping the Colour ceremony to the State Opening of Parliament and Her Majesty’s Christmas broadcast. Every year The Queen undertakes hundreds of duties as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Head of the British Armed Forces, and Patron of around 600 charities. In 2009 there were over 250 engagements in Her Majesty’s official programme, including 145 Audiences, 24 presentations of credentials, 12 Investitures, 11 regional visits, eight meetings of the Privy Council, six large-scale receptions, four garden parties, two inward State Visits, one outward State Visit, and numerous luncheons and dinners for special groups and individuals.

The exhibition brings together examples of Her Majesty’s ceremonial dress with day and evening wear to reflect the full range of events in the royal diary. Ancient symbols of authority and historic ceremonial objects are shown alongside gifts presented to Her Majesty on visits around the United Kingdom. The centrepiece of the exhibition is The Queen’s magnificent Robe of State, on public display for the first time, and the uniforms of officials and attendants at the State Opening of Parliament.

The Royal Maundy Service takes place on Maundy Thursday, the last Thursday before Easter. The ceremony has been associated with royalty since at least the 13th century, although the tradition of royal participation was revived by The Queen’s grandfather, King George V. After attending the Maundy Service, The Queen distributes Maundy coins to those who have provided outstanding service to their community or church. The coins are held in red and white purses and carried on 17th-century Maundy Dishes by The Queen’s ceremonial body guard, the Yeomen of the Guard.

The Queen has enjoyed a lifelong association with equestrianism. Throughout her reign she has been Patron of the Royal Windsor Horse Show and has attended Royal Ascot every summer since 1945. Her Majesty has had many successes at both events, and several of her trophies are included in the exhibition, alongside her distinctive racing colours – a purple body with gold braid, scarlet sleeves and a black velvet cap with gold tassel. Ten of Her Majesty’s Ascot hats from the past five decades are included in the display, including one worn this year.

In June, Horse Guards Parade in London becomes the setting for one of the most symbolic of all royal events, Trooping the Colour. The occasion celebrates both the Sovereign’s official birthday and The Queen’s position as Colonel-in-Chief of the Household regiments. It derives from the practice of carrying the regimental colour along the ranks of soldiers so it could be recognised as a rallying point during battle. The event has been associated with the Monarch’s birthday since the reign of George II. The Queen first took the salute in 1951, deputising for her father, King George VI. The exhibition includes a regimental tunic and plumed tricorn hat worn by Her Majesty at Trooping the Colour. It is shown with The Queen’s saddle, on public display for the first time.

In mid June, The Queen leads the celebration of the Solemnity of the Garter at Windsor Castle. The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the oldest and highest order of chivalry in the country, and its spiritual home is St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The honour of Knight Companion is the gift of the Sovereign and recognises service in senior public office and contribution to national life. On Garter Day, Her Majesty hosts a luncheon for the Knights at Windsor Castle. A spectacular 19th-century Royal Worcester porcelain service, bearing the badges of the United Kingdom’s senior orders of chivalry, is used to decorate the table. On display are The Queen’s Garter Mantle and Hat, and her Garter Collar with the diamond Marlborough Great George, which was worn at Her Majesty’s Coronation in 1953.

During Holyrood Week in late June or early July, The Queen stays at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, her official residence in Scotland. Her Majesty’s arrival is marked by a ceremony at which the City Chamberlain of Edinburgh hands The Queen the keys to the city. The Queen is attended by her personal body guard for Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers and the Lord High Constables, whose uniforms are shown in the exhibition.

Every year The Queen grants over 100 private meetings, known as Audiences, to leading figures in public life. A large number of these are with new High Commissioners or Ambassadors, who present to The Queen their formal credentials from their country’s Head of State. They are accompanied by the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, whose uniform is shown in the exhibition. The Diplomatic Reception, attended by over 1,500 guests from more than 130 countries, is the largest of a series of receptions given by The Queen at Buckingham Palace each year for groups from different parts of national life.

The Queen is Head of the Privy Council, the oldest form of legislative assembly in the United Kingdom. The 400 Privy Counsellors include all members of the Cabinet, a number of government Ministers, leaders of the Opposition parties, senior judges, and appointments from the Commonwealth. Privy Council meetings, chaired by The Queen, are usually held every month at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. The Council grants Royal Charters of Incorporation to Government, universities and benevolent and professional organisations, and appoints members of regulatory bodies. The Privy Council also attaches currency to coins and fixes the dates of annual Bank Holidays. Proclamations of the Privy Council become official once passed under the Great Seal of the Realm, which has been used since The Queen’s Coronation in 1953. The exhibition recreates the table arrangement used at every Privy Council meeting, including the silver inkstand, pen tray and candlestick.

Every year, 25 Investitures take place at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Around 100 honours are presented on each occasion, recognising contributions to national life in fields such as public or military service, commerce, industry, charity or education. Her Majesty personally undertakes around half of the Investitures, with the remainder carried out by The Prince of Wales or The Princess Royal. The exhibition includes the sword used by The Queen to confer the accolade – the act of ‘dubbing’ a new knight.

The State Opening of Parliament marks the beginning of the parliamentary year. Bringing together the three elements of the legislature – the House of Commons, the House of Lords and The Queen – it represents the constitutional principle of the Crown in Parliament. The crimson-velvet Robe of State, first worn by The Queen to her Coronation in 1953, is exhibited for the first time, alongside His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh’s full dress uniform of Admiral of the Fleet. Also on display are the uniforms of officials and attendants who play a part in the ancient ceremony – the State Trumpeter, the Gentleman at Arms, the Herald, the Page of Honour and the Lady in Waiting. The exhibition includes the historic symbols of royal power that precede The Queen through the Palace of Westminster – the Great Sword of State, the Mace and the Cap of Maintenance.

The exhibition reflects The Queen’s personal involvement in the life of the nation through her many regional visits. In 2009 Her Majesty visited schools, museums, a hydro-electric plant, an umbrella factory, a sailing academy, the Olympic Park and a Test match. So that The Queen will be easily visible on ‘walkabouts’, great care is taken with the colour and style of Her Majesty’s outfits, three of which will be on display. The exhibition also includes a wide range of gifts presented to The Queen by the people of the United Kingdom. Among them is a model of Wallace and Gromit with Morph, given by the Aardman Animations studios in 1996, and a Buckingham Palace Underground sign, presented to Her Majesty on her visit to Aldgate East Tube Station this year.

A number of Her Majesty’s dresses are shown throughout the exhibition, including three evening dresses by the great British couturier, Norman Hartnell. The gowns were worn by The Queen on the State Visit to the Netherlands in 1958, to the 1962 Royal Film Performance of West Side Story (with the ‘Vladimir’ tiara, shown for the first time with its beautiful pearl drops) and at the Ghillies Ball at Balmoral in 1971.

The exhibition is accompanied by the book The Queen’s Year, published by Royal Collection Publications, price £9.99 (hardback).

The Queen’s Year is part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, 27 July – 1 October 2010.

London | Buckingham Palace | The Queen's Year |

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