Get Ideas Above Your Station with ‘Diamonds A Jubilee Celebration’
Written by Jaillan Yehia
‘The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury’ said Charlie Chaplin. Well you get used to luxury pretty quickly on a visit to Buckingham Palace.
Get ideas above your station with a visit to the Palace’s Summer Opening and Diamonds A Jubilee Celebration Exhibition…(read on for my tips on getting the most out of the ticket price, including how to get free re-admission for a year)
At the end of your visit to Buckingham Palace you exit via a short walk through the grounds, past the lawn on which so many garden parties have been held. As you near the outside world the sound of coaches and buses grows louder and traffic fumes begin to fill your nostrils replacing the delicate fragrance of the Royal grounds. Finally you are unceremoniously spat out onto the busy, traffic-choked thoroughfare that is Grosevenor Place.
Having spent the last few hours in the company of the grand state rooms, filled with ornate porcelein, sublime works of art by old masters and any number of guilded treasures, currently including a selection of the Queen’s unspeakably beautiful and rare diamonds, it is a terrible shock to the system to be returned to everyday life.
But before you resume a life of normality you learn a fact or two about the palace – that much of it lies below ground for example, or that it has its own branch of the Post Office, as well as the fact that Marble Arch stood in front of the palace to commemorate the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo until it was moved to where it now stands in 1847.
3 for 2 On Luxury
You might not expect diamonds to be a bargain but currently an entrance ticket to Buckingham Palace gets you an additonal and extra-sparkly layer of luxury in the shape of the diamond exhibition. You get to see inside the state rooms, including the famous throne room where all official portraits are set.
As you make your way around the palace you also get a pretty spectacular art and sculpture exhibition – the highlight of which is the Picture Gallery, a 50 metre-long toplit room filled with Rubens’, Van Dycks, Rembrandts and Vermeers, to name but a few artists. Currently and perhaps most impressively you get the diamond exhibition, a unique display of over 10,000 royal diamonds which includes breath-taking diamond jewellery and diamond-encrusted items such as swords, fans and snuff boxes.
It’s quite startling to see Queen Victoria’s tiny diamond crown measuring just 10 cm in diameter in real life – this symbol is utterly part of our mental picture of the only other monarch to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee. Equally iconic is the jewellery on display which was cut from the world’s largest diamond, the famous Cullinan diamond, a 1000-carat mega-stone that was so unusually large that when it was discovered no-one believed it could be a precious stone – and which took 8 months of labour to carve up into 9 pieces, 7 of which are reunited here.
There’s also a selection of tiaras, either on display for the first time or familiar to us from having been worn by the Queen on stamps and banknotes, along with the finest pink diamond ever discovered, set into the Williamson Brooch.
Buckingham Palace Biros Are A Girl’s Best Friend
Although we were permitted to take the photos of the diamonds you see here on preview day, no photography could possibly do the jewels justice. You can’t take pictures in the rest of the palace at all, which in this Instagram-it age is unspeakably frustrating (but completely understandable) and I had to turn off my iPhone as a precaution while staff radioed ahead for emergency biro and sheets of A4 so I could take some low-tech notes instead.
The fact that I didn’t give the biro back may even make me an honoroary member of that exclusive club of people who’ve confessed to stealing things from Buck House (more ashtrays and loo roll than Rembrandts). I feel sure that if you did have impure thoughts about stealing a little souvenir one of the many efficient and knowledgeable staff stationed all over the Palace would somehow know before you even knew it yourself, so you’ll have to content yourself with the ingenious selection of Royal memorabilia in the gift shop you pass on your way out – out to resume your commoner’s life which I can guarantee you now will feel well below the luxury to which you become all-too-quickly accustomed.
Visiting Diamonds A Jubilee Celebration
The exhibition is open until Sunday 07 October 2012, but will be closed along with the Palace from 9 to 30 July 2012.
For more info see the Royal Collection website
Savoir There Tips:
– A free audio tour is included – I’m not always a fan but this makes the tour so much more interesting
– Make sure you have time for a coffee and cake at the cafe overlooking the gardens at the end of your visit
– Buy your ticket from the website, over the phone or in person not through an agent and you can return free as many times as you like for a year. Remember to get your ticket validated on the way out for this – and this is the same at all of the Royal Collection locations.
– The Queen’s Gallery also has interesting exhibitions, and is currently showing a never-before-seen selection of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomy drawings
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