The ceremonial robes worn by the King and Queen for the coronation in Westminster Abbey have gone on display in Buckingham Palace for the palace’s 30th annual summer opening.

The robes are the main feature of the summer opening exhibition, and while the Palace is eternal, the exhibitions change each year. Therefore, it’s not hugely surprising then considering the huge interest, that this year’s exhibition is about the coronation.

The exhibition, which is usually in a large side room is also this year hosted in the huge State Ballroom, which had doubled up as a replica Westminster Abbey in the weeks leading up to the coronation for the various people to rehearse their roles in the event.

It is however a rather smaller exhibition than in previous years.

Yes, the robes are astonishing to see up close, and the decoration is impressive, and there are a few other items in the exhibition, but if you’re looking for lots of cases with lots of things to see, it’s a bit lacking. Of course, most people will visit to see Buckingham Palace itself, and the exhibition is simply the icing on the cake, and undeniably, in this coronation year, they’ve put out the icing that people will want to see.

The coronation robes themselves.

The King’s robes are actually second hand – as they’re the ones worn by King’s George V and VI for their coronations. The Queen however had a dress made especially, and there are some delightful details if you look around. It was designed by Bruce Oldfield and features silver and gold embroidered floral designs but also in the embroidery are the names of The Queen’s children and grandchildren, and down at the bottom are depictions of Her Majesty’s pet dogs.

The Queen’s robe was made by Ede and Ravenscroft and hand embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. Also on display nearby is the Coronation Necklace, which was originally made for Queen Victoria in 1858 and has been worn at every Coronation since 1902.

Something else on display which I think gained an unexpected understanding when the moment happened was the anointing screen, which shielded the King from view during that very personal moment in the ceremony. Having, obviously, never seen that moment in a Coronation before, the disrobing and the playing of Zadok the Priest as the screens were brought out was quite special.

The exhibition is in Buckingham Palace for the whole summer and is included as part of the main tour. The tours are self-guided with headsets, in multiple languages, which I noted still included Russian.

No photography is allowed, and this year they are now reminding people that the ban on food includes chewing gum after an incident last year that saw one of the richly decorated carpets gaining a new decorative feature.

Talking of carpets, so pause a moment in the Ballroom when looking at the coronation robes and feel the thickness of the carpet you’re walking on, and compare it to all the other rooms in the Palace, and you might notice something.

The Palace’s entrance also has the Diamond Jubilee State Coach on display. That’s the one that carried the King and Queen to Westminster Abbey. It’s usually in the Royal Mews, along with the Gold State Coach, which you can visit on a separate ticket.

The Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace runs until 23rd September 2023 and tickets should be booked in advance from here.

Adult: £30 | Young Person: (18-24) £19.50 | Disabled / Child: (5-17) £16.50 | Under 5: Free

Note – print your tickets out as you can then have them stamped when you leave to turn them into an annual pass — which means you could see next year’s exhibition as well as this years without paying extra.

This year is also the 30th anniversary of the opening of Buckingham Palace to the public, originally intended as a temporary scheme for five years as a way of paying for the repairs to Windsor Castle.

Considering how important a part of the tourist trail a look around the inside of the Palace is, it does seem odd to think back to a time when the most a person could hope for was a sighting of the changing of the guards from the outside of the huge metal railings.

It cost £8 to go inside Buckingham Palace in that first year. Inflation should have pushed that up to £16.37 today. It’s going to cost an adult £30 to go in. However… one thing you couldn’t do in 1993 was convert your ticket into an annual pass. So if you only go once this year and once next year, it could be argued that it’s only £15 per visit.

Now that’s rather better.


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