If you’re visiting Buckingham Palace this summer, you’ve got an extra treat in store: a special display of outfits worn at the recent coronation, including a special historic piece of royal jewelry!
The Royal Collection has mounted a special display of the coronation outfits worn by King Charles III and Queen Camilla in May, and they’ve kindly sent along some preview photographs of the exhibition for all of us to enjoy.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is the clothing worn by the royal couple during the coronation, including their robes.
Visitors will have a chance to see the ensembles up close and personal in the exhibition, which is located in the palace ballroom.
The Royal Collection also shared some details about the clothes on display. “The King’s cream silk overshirt, worn throughout the service, and the Purple Coronation Tunic, worn for departure from the Abbey, were created especially for the occasion by Turnbull & Asser and Ede and Ravenscroft respectively,” they explain. “Their designs were inspired by similar items worn by King George V and King George VI at their Coronations. The overshirt’s collar and cuffs feature embroidered oak leaves and acorns, while the tunic is made of purple satin and trimmed with gold artillery lace. Shown alongside these will be The King’s Royal Naval Trousers, which are regularly worn by His Majesty as part of his Royal Navy full ceremonial uniform.”
The display also includes several important pieces of insignia: “the Star, Collar and Great George of the Order of the Garter, the oldest order of chivalry in the United Kingdom. The jewelled Great George pendant is thought to have been made for George II and was worn for the Coronations of King George V and King George VI, while the Garter Star was a wedding gift to King George V from the Officers of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Naval Reserve.”
The coronation outfits are shown with the Robes of Estate worn by Charles and Camilla at the end of the ceremony. The Royal Collection explains, “The Robe of Estate worn by The King for his departure from Westminster Abbey was worn by his grandfather King George VI for his Coronation in 1937. It is made of purple silk velvet with gold lace and was conserved by the robemakers Ede and Ravenscroft in preparation for use by His Majesty.”
A few other items used by the King during the ceremony are also included: “Visitors will have the chance to view up close some of the historic vestments worn by His Majesty as he was crowned. These include the Coronation Glove, worn to hold the Sovereign’s Sceptre, and the Girdle (or Coronation Sword Belt), which was worn around The King’s waist so that the Jewelled Sword of Offering could be fastened to it. His Majesty chose to reuse both items, which were worn by King George VI at his Coronation in 1937.”
Queen Camilla’s coronation dress is also displayed, giving visitors the chance to see the detailed embroidery close up. “Her Majesty Queen Camilla’s Coronation Dress was designed by Bruce Oldfield. Structured like a coat dress, the modern ivory Peau de Soie silk dress features silver and gold embroidered floral designs intertwined with celebratory bunting,” the Royal Collection notes.
The Royal Collection notes also add, “Swathes of wildflowers including daisy chains, forget-me-nots, celandine and scarlet pimpernel represent Their Majesties’ affection for nature and the British countryside. The front hem area of the underskirt and the cuffs of each sleeve are embroidered with the floral emblems of the four nations of the United Kingdom (rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock).” This detail photo also shows the Queen’s royal cypher, plus two very personal details. Her Jack Russell terriers, Beth and Bluebell, are both embroidered in the gown’s skirt, as are the names of her children and grandchildren (Tom, Laura, Lola, Freddy, Eliza, Gus, and Louis).
The special shoes worn by Queen Camilla at the coronation, which are also embroidered with her royal cypher, are on display as well.
And so is her Robe of Estate. The Royal Collection explains, “Her Majesty’s Robe of Estate was made in rich purple velvet by Ede and Ravenscroft, and designed and hand embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework using goldwork – a technique that dates back more than a thousand years.”
While King Charles recycled his grandfather’s Robe of Estate for the coronation, this robe was made specifically for Queen Camilla’s use at the coronation, allowing for some personalization in the design. “The robe’s design draws on themes of nature and the environment, featuring the floral emblems of the United Kingdom and a further 20 plants chosen for their personal associations,” the Royal Collection notes.
The numerous flowers incorporate in the design include “Scabiosa, known as pincushion flowers, referencing Her Majesty’s patronage of the Royal School of Needlework as Duchess of Cornwall; Lily of the Valley, which featured in Her Majesty’s wedding bouquet and was a favourite flower of Queen Elizabeth II; and Delphinium, the flower of Her Majesty’s birth month and a favourite flower of The King.”
The Royal Collection adds, “For the first time on a Coronation robe, the design also features insects, including bees, butterflies, a beetle and a caterpillar.”
Even more special features from the coronation will be on display. “Beneath the Ballroom’s magnificent Throne Canopy, visitors will see the Throne Chairs used by Their Majesties for the Enthroning and the Homage,” the Royal Collection says. “During their tour of the Palace’s State Rooms, visitors will also see the Chairs of Estate, which were used during the first stages of the Coronation, in the Throne Room. Both the Throne Chairs and the Chairs of Estate were made for previous Coronations, and were conserved by Royal Household and Royal Collection Trust conservators, with additional conservation and new embroidery by the Royal School of Needlework.”
And speaking of embroidery, the new Anointing Screen made for the coronation is on display as well. “Its central design takes the form of a tree with 56 leaves, representing the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth, and its maroon, gold, blue and red colour scheme reflects the colours of the Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey. The design was selected personally by The King and is inspired by the stained-glass Sanctuary Window in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, which was gifted by the Livery Companies to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. The screen’s four oak poles are made from a windblown oak from the Windsor Estate, planted in 1765, and are topped with two gilded bronze eagles. The screen was gifted for the Coronation by the City of London Corporation and City Livery Companies, designed by the iconographer Aidan Hart, and brought to life through both hand and digital embroidery, managed by the Royal School of Needlework.”
On the far side of the ballroom, you’ll see some sparkle out of the corner of your eye, too.
While the crown jewels aren’t included in this exhibition—you can see them on display as usual at the Tower of London—the Royal Collection display does include the Coronation Necklace. Made by Garrard in 1858 for Queen Victoria, the necklace has been worn at all subsequent coronations: 1902 (Queen Alexandra), 1911 (Queen Mary), 1937 (Queen Elizabeth), 1953 (Queen Elizabeth II), and 2023 (Queen Camilla).
The coronation exhibition will be open to the public at Buckingham Palace five days a week from today until September 24. Visitors will also have the chance to see a few other special touches, including the Diamond Jubilee State Coach. Tickets and additional information can be sourced through the Royal Collection’s website.