A tour of Buckingham Palace in London opens a lot of doors, but the closest we got to Queen Elizabeth was her 1930s Rolls Royce classic still purring on all eight cylinders.
For a donation of 19 British pounds to the National Trust during certain seasons, guests now may join an estimated 2,500 of the queen’s subjects and overseas admirers at the diplomats’ entrance. It lies around the corner from the balcony where the royal family appears on celebratory occasions.
The sovereign-in-residence flag was not waving so we would have to be content with a lengthy display of the Queen’s coronation and wedding gowns, plus dress styles she had worn through six decades as sovereign and head of the commonwealth.
Almost from our entrance and a left turn through the breadth of the palace we were faced with showcases of queenly style ranging from military fatigues worn during the blitz to the present. In the old days the palace guard would have chopped off my typing fingers for revealing this, but the expansion of Queen Elizabeth’s waistline was evident.
Much more interesting than the display of queenly waistlines and even the regal decoration surrounding the throne room were the masterpieces hung throughout the art galleries.
A hushed reverence swept across the slow-moving visitation line as it weaved through the priceless collections of several monarchs featuring, among others, works by Holbein, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer and Canaletto. The main art gallery covers half the length of a U.S. football field and takes advantage of natural light.
In addition, interesting family groups and portraits of past monarchs grace the halls throughout. Matching frames contain a series of paired portraits of sovereigns from George I to George IV with the notable exclusion of George IV’s “unruly queen” Caroline of Brunswick, rumored at the suggestion of Queen Victoria.
More than 350 stately clocks, many of them gilded, grace the palace and require two full-time horological conservators to wind and keep them in working order.
Priceless furniture, veneered with marquetry and inlaid with trophies, flowers and birds adorns many of the west rooms.
Another advantage of the west side of the palace is the sweeping view of the green lawn, today occupied by swans, where the Queen holds garden parties and receptions.
A cup of tea on the terrace and a long walk alongside the garden lawn prove a fitting end to a rewarding experience.