State rooms and private tour of gardens
2nd September 2022
Buckingham Palace State rooms and garden
On Friday 2nd September twenty seven members of the Aldersgate Ward Club, on a fine morning after some overnight rain, arrived at the appointment place for their much anticipated visit to the Buckingham Palace State Rooms and Gardens. We were greeted by Allan and Siobhan who gave us our tickets and information about how the day would proceed. They reminded us to collect our audio systems which did indeed greatly contribute to enjoyment of the tour. On entering each room it gives us some introductory information about its history and importance to the life of the Royal Family, past and present.
The State Rooms are the public rooms in the Palace where the Queen and members of the Royal Family receive and entertain their guests on ceremonial and official occasions. These nineteen rooms, which mainly reflect the taste of George IV, who commissioned the architect John Nash to transform Buckingham House into a grand palace in 1825. They are indeed very grand, in fact the vibrant wall colours, the huge glistening chandeliers and the amount of gold decoration almost takes one’s breath away.
We pass through the Green Drawing Room and up the Grand Staircase. Climbing its graceful shallow curving steps provides a sense of excitement and anticipation for the rooms that follow and we are not to be disappointed as we reach the very dramatic Throne Room. Central to the room is a pair of throne chairs which are known as Chairs of Estate, and were used for the coronation ceremony of The Queen in 1953. Alongside there is a single throne chair made for Queen Victoria in 1837. When you look up you will see a frieze depicting the Wars of the Roses.
The Picture Gallery displays some of the greatest paintings in the Royal Collection, spanning 500 years. Paintings are changed quite regularly, as The Queen lends works of art to exhibitions around the UK and overseas. Currently we can admire Dutch and Flemish 17th Century works by Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck. The Gallery is used for official entertaining and it is here that recipients of honours wait before being led into the Ballroom for their investiture.
The Ballroom is the largest of the State Rooms and is enormous. It features a musician’s gallery complete with an organ. It was completed in 1855 especially for Queen Victoria who apparently just loved to dance. Today the Ballroom is used for official purposes including State Banquets. It is not hard to imagine the dramatic setting this room makes for entertaining visiting dignitaries, when long tables are laid with fine china and glistening glassware. The East Gallery connects the Ballroom to the Ball Supper Room, a smaller State Dining Room which seats forty eight people. The gallery has an amazing long glass roof and houses some fine narrative paintings depicting events in the life of Victoria and Albert, many by Sir George Hayter.
The Music Room has a trio of wide windows looking onto the gardens. There is an impressive Nash ceiling which is seemingly supported by sixteen blue scagliola plaster columns. The Queen’s three eldest children were baptised here in water brought from the River Jordan. On to the White Drawing Room where we find that intriguingly, the Royal Family can enter the room from their private apartments through an ornate hinged mirror. Lastly we enjoy a display of photographs of The Queen throughout her life. Where she is wearing jewellery, the actual piece is displayed beside the photo, an amazing chance to get up close to such dazzling treasures. As we leave to have lunch in the delightful Terrace Cafe our heads are buzzing with the fabulous and interesting things we have seen during our tour, you want to see it all again but perhaps on another day!
At 2 o’clock we meet up to start our Garden tour. It has got very hot and Bridget, one of the garden staff, takes us to stand in the shade of an avenue of Indian horse-chestnut trees for an introductory talk. This 39 acre garden, a walled oasis in the middle of London, is well known as a setting for the Queens Garden Parties. However, there is so much more to it. We walk under an arch made by two magnificent London plane trees and along an amazingly long Herbaceous Border before coming across a formal Rose Garden with a summer house and an enormous Italian stone vase. Most of the garden is now based on a ‘long-grass policy” to encourage the natural environment and to provide a safe place for all kinds of plants, animals, birds and insects to flourish. We learn that The Queen takes a keen personal interest in all aspects of the garden, and if a plant or tree is to be replaced she likes to choose the position and type herself. Bridget has been such an engaging and knowledgeable guide so that when we leave her there is a sadness that our tour has finally come to an end.
The time has come for some of our group to say farewell and thank you to Allan and Siobhan before we head home. They, on the other hand, are gathering up the sixteen members who are going on to have a delicious Afternoon Tea at Browns in Cardinal Place. Without doubt, we must all feel that we have a most interesting and memorable day.