Last week, I finally did the decent thing. I took The King’s Ginger back to where it truly belongs. To visit the Queen in Buckingham Palace!
Well, Her Majesty wasn’t actually in, seeing as how she doesn’t live there anyway. But the audio tour as I meandered through the State Rooms learning about her ancestors was utterly fascinating. From the history behind the magnificent rooms, the grand staircases and architectural features, the grandeur took my breath away. Sadly, photography was strictly forbidden inside. So here is some back-story, to set the scene…
Buckingham Palace hasn’t always been a royal residence. After its humble(ish) beginnings as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham in 1705, a few decades later in 1761 it became a private house for Queen Charlotte, spouse of George III. It wasn’t until 1837, and the coronation of Queen Victoria, that it became an official royal palace. There, Victoria and her beloved Albert started their family: their nine royal offspring consisted of five princesses and four princes. The second child to be born was, of course, Prince Albert Edward; later (much, much later) to be known as Edward VII.
Nice frock Prince Albert is wearing on the far left though.
The family portraits and paintings of each of the royal children were all gorgeous, but my favourites were those of the princesses by court painter Franz Winterhalter. Here’s Princess Alice, looking amazing, and probably not out of place at a modern-day festival.
As mentioned earlier, taking photographs inside the Palace is expressly forbidden as you might expect, meaning that I have little option but to locate these pictures elsewhere online!
The real purpose of my trip came around halfway through the State Rooms tour, as I passed out of the gilding, flocked wallpaper and intricate ornamentation into something even more exciting, expensive and gorgeous…
Not a plastic bag and a book (that would be silly), but the amazing Diamonds exhibition! It was amazing. Everything in its glass cases was priceless and unbelievably exquisite (although quite often rather ostentatious, but wouldn’t you if you were a monarch) especially its pièce de résistance….
The Cullinan Diamond in its original and uncut form of 3,106 carats, was discovered in 1905, right in the middle of King Edward’s reign, and is the largest diamond ever found. From its birthplace in the mines of Pretoria, South Africa, it was transported to London and inspected by the King, before being given to him two years’ later as a token of loyalty. The Cullinan Diamond was noted for its exceptional purity and fabled blue-white colour… and when the powers-that-be decided it should be cut, given the rather rudimentary tools available at the time, it’s no surprise that it took weeks and weeks for the chosen (Dutch)man Joseph Asscher to even make the first cut. Poor man must have been sweating buckets.
The largest stone, Cullinan I, weighs over 530 carats, is pear-shaped and is usually set into the Sovereign’s Sceptre, as seen above. Poor old Edward only owned Cullinan I and II (a cushion-shaped 317-carat stone now set into the Imperial State Crown) for a year – from 1909 till his death in 1910. During that time, Queen Alexandra wore them as an astonishingly large brooch.