Every summer the doors of Buckingham Palace are opened to thousands of tourists hoping to get a glimpse of the Queen’s formal home and office. The once-in-a-lifetime tour lets visitors explore the famous hallways and rooms of one of the few working royal palaces in the world. Each year, the London homestead hosts a rare exhibition for guests and 2015’s offering – “ A Royal Welcome” – is a special behind-the-scenes look at how staff prepare for state banquets and garden parties .
Here, Anna Reynolds, a curator at Royal Collection Trust writes exclusively for Hello! about the preparations for the opening of this summer’s exhibition.
Planning for the exhibition began about a year ago, which is a relatively short time scale for a project of this size. One of the highlights this year is that, for the first time, visitors will enter the state rooms through the Grand Entrance , walking in the footsteps of presidents, astronauts, film stars and all the other guests who have been welcomed by the Queen.
This summer, visitors will see the magnificent palace ballroom laid for a state banquet. It takes the royal household team about 10 days to prepare the room for around 170 guests, from setting up the horseshoe-shaped table to laying the table with thousands of items of glittering silver-gilt from George VI’s Grand Service and arranging the beautiful centrepiece flowers.
One of the biggest challenges was how to give visitors a sense of what happens behind the scenes. During the state visit for the president of Singapore in October 2014, all the preparations for the banquet were filmed for the display – the food being prepared in the kitchens, the historical silver-gilt being polished by the footman’s team from the silver pantry and the wine being decanted by the royal cellars team.
The service is perfectly orchestrated – every person knows his or her role and timings are co-ordinated by a set of discreet traffic lights in the ceiling so plates are put down on the table simultaneously.
Visitors will be able to see recreations of part of the kitchens, the wine cellars, the pantries [...] and the dresser's workroom. Also on display are a number of dresses worn by the Queen at past banquets, including one designed by the great British couturier Hardy Amies.
The summer opening of Buckingham Palace continues until September 27; visit royalcollection.org.uk. Anna Reynolds' book A Royal Welcome (royalcollection.org.uk/shop) accompanies the exhbition.