The rolling birthday celebration came to a conclusion with a couple of remaining activities. First, I did break down and go to see Mamma Mia (the movie) last weekend as I was quite skeptical that any of the actors could carry a tune in a bucket. Better than I had expected but let's not underestimate the power of good orchestral accompaniment and a chorus of strong background singers. Still an entertaining movie....
The culmination of the birthday weekend came from Sunday's ALL day tour of the interior of Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews, and the Queen's Gallery. Thanks to the power of the internet (everything is self-service in UK and in a language I can actually read and understand), I had purchased the day's tickets well in advance along with the souvenir booklet, as I knew better than to expect photos to be allowed inside the Palace.
First stop: the Queen's Gallery. The Queen's Gallery is a permanent space dedicated to changing exhibitions of items from the Royal Collection, which is the wide-ranging collection of art and treasures held in trust by The Queen for the Nation. Constructed forty years ago on the west front of Buckingham Palace out of the bomb-damaged ruins of the former private chapel, the Gallery is now open to the public on a daily basis.
Today's tour involved two exhibitions, (1) Amazing Rare Things, natural history drawings and watercolours in the Royal Collection, including drawings by da Vinci, and (2)Treasures from the Royal Collection, an exhibition of paintings, furniture, and decorative arts. It was very enjoyable and the perfect first stop.
Second stop: the Royal Mews. The Royal Mews houses the State vehicles, both horse-drawn carriages and motor cars, that are used for coronations, State Visits, royal weddings, the State Opening of Parliament and official engagements. It is truly one of the finest working stables in existence, and also provides a unique insight into the Royal Department that transports the Queen and other members of the Royal Family by coach or car.
For most of the year, the stables are home to the working horses that play an important role in The Queen's official and ceremonial duties. They are mainly Cleveland Bays, the only British breed of carriage horse, and the Windsor Greys, which by tradition always draw the carriage in which The Queen is travelling. As they may be on duty, undergoing training or having a well-deserved rest away from London, the horses are not always on view.
The Royal Mews Horse Barn, Harness Room, and Training Ring.
Most of the horses were "on vacation" when we toured but we could see 2 of the Windsor Greys and the Cleveland Bays. (That gray one would not sit still for a photo - didn't he know the papparazi wanted a photo?!). Good to know even horses get annual leave.
Visitors can see the Gold State Coach which was last used during The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 to carry Her Majesty and Prince Philip to the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral. It takes two days to remove it from the building where it is housed. Yep, pretty amazing.
There are a few other carriages used for official Royal business, including the one used for Royal brides (first photo), the Scottish coach (second photo) and the Australian coach (last photo).
Lastly, there are the Rolls Royces and the Bentley...yes, just what is in my garage. Interesting factoid: the Queen can stand up in the interior of this car.
Last stop: Tour of the State Apartments of Buckingham Palace. Indeed, last but not least. One of the few working palaces in the world today, it houses both the administrative offices and home of the Queen and Royal Family. During today's tour, we visited 19 State Rooms, including the State Ballroom which had been styled for a State Dinner.
Sadly, no interior photos were allowed of the Palace State Rooms, but you can see a great description of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms and State Banquet.
A few outside shots of Buckingham Palace and palace garden.
And so the birthday extravaganza comes to a close.