Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, opens its state rooms to visitors today with an exhibition of dresses and diamonds worn by the monarch for official visits and family events.
Touring Canada and the U.S. in 1957, a slender queen wore a crinoline-style dress, embroidered with blue flowers made of beads and shells. For a Group of Eight summit dinner last July in Edinburgh, a filled-out monarch wore silk and lace, embroidered with oversized red flowers. She was clad in an orange garment with turquoise butterflies at a 1992 German state visit.
The queen has made 256 official visits to 129 countries since she was crowned in 1952, usually wearing silks or satins in pastel shades, covered with flowers and leaves made of sequins and beads. The dresses were designed ``to make the queen visible during state occasions at which many hundreds of people may be present, according to the press office of the Royal Collection.
The palace opens its 19 state rooms every summer with an exhibition that celebrates the royal familys history. While its shows dont state any message, they touch on the U.K.s relations with other nations or members of the former empire. Last years show featured dresses worn by the monarchs mother for an official visit to Paris on the eve of World War II.
Norman Hartnell, who designed many of the Queen Mothers crinolines, also designed for her daughter, including her wedding dress in 1947 and coronation dress in 1952. The queens dress for last years G8 summit was designed by Angela Kelly, her senior dresser, and Alison Pordum, her in-house dressmaker.
Jewelry on display includes a diamond necklace and bracelet that feature 21 diamonds given to Princess Elizabeth in 1947 for her 21st birthday by the South African government, and a brooch with a heart-shaped 18.8 carat diamond -- one of eight Cullinan diamonds given to Queen Mary in 1910 by South Africa.
The original Cullinan diamond, mined in South Africa, weighed more than 3,000 carats. It was a gift to King Edward VII in 1907, and was later cut up. Some of the stones wound up in the imperial state crown and scepter.
The queen pays for her own dresses and doesnt accept clothes as gifts, said Emma Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Royal Collection, which is staging the exhibition. Jewelry given to the queen as head of state belongs to the Royal Collection, while personal and family gifts are hers to dispose of, she said.
The monarch doesnt report how much she spends on dresses. Royal Household accounts show she spent 1 million pounds ($1.8 million) last year on catering and hospitality, 500,000 pounds on housekeeping and furnishings, and 300,000 pounds on ceremonial functions.
The way to the exhibition is through the state rooms, furnished with 18th-century gilt chairs, clocks and Sevres porcelain bought by George IV after the French revolution. The galleries include paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Canaletto.
The Queen first opened her primary residence to the public about 13 years ago to raise money for the restoration of another of her homes, Windsor Castle, which was gutted by fire.
Admission is 14 pounds ($25.89), an increase of 50 pence on last year, for adults to see the staterooms and exhibition with an audio guide before exiting through palace gardens. Admission fees go toward maintaining and expanding the royal collection. Bloomberg USA