The Queen’s old toys, including two treasured rocking horses, Parisian dolls attired in French haute couture and the little wicker pram she enjoyed pushing as a two-year-old are to go on display.
The exhibition at Buckingham Palace, Royal Childhood, will allow a small glimpse into the toy boxes and wardrobes of generations of young royals.
It demonstrates no expense was spared in entertaining a young princess “Lilibet”, as her family called her and her little sister, Margaret. While inexpensive toys, such as Knockemdown Ninepins, a popular wooden skittles game in the 1920s, and a pink rabbit-shaped tea set feature, the future Queen’s wendy house was extravagance itself.
The miniature thatched cottage Y Bwthyn Bach, or the Little House, presented by the people of Wales to the six-year-old princess in 1932, was constructed in the grounds of Royal Lodge, Windsor, and boasts electric lighting and running water. Still used by younger royals today, its miniature kitchen will be recreated for the exhibition, which runs from 26 July to 28 September during the summer opening of Buckingham Palace’s state rooms.
Anna Reynolds of the Royal Collection Trust, curator of the exhibition, said: “From well-loved dolls to rocking horses, rattles and outfits, visitors to the palace this summer will see over 100 items that span more than 250 years of royal childhood, many on display for the first time.”
Among the most spectacular exhibits is the silver-gilt Lily Font, commissioned by Queen Victoria for the christening of her first daughter, Princess Victoria, in 1841, which has been used at almost all major royal baptisms since, including that of the newest royal, Prince George, in October.
On show, too, will be George’s silk satin and lace christening robe, which is a replica of the original royal christening robe commissioned by Victoria.
While George was recently photographed in a cosy, personalised sweater, the exhibition features the more formal outfits foisted on his forebears. These include the velvet “walking suits” the young George V was forced to wear, and the sailor-suit pageboy outfit George’s father, the Duke of Cambridge, wore for Prince Andrew’s 1986 wedding.
A tiny pair of velvet shoes belonging to Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Prince Albert Edward, have an inscription on the sole revealing they were worn by the future Edward VII at the age of eight months.
A silver baby’s rattle was given to the future George IV as an infant in 1763 by his governess, and later passed to Queen Victoria.
The exhibition will bring together family and official gifts held by the royal collection presented to royal children as well as previously unseen photographs and film footage.
Toys on display will range from jigsaws to train sets. Among the earliest items are a doll’s house created by a carpenter on the royal yacht for George III’s daughters, and dolls made by the young Victoria, inspired by the characters she had seen at the ballet and opera.
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