10 minute read

The QUEEN’S Platinum Jubilee

From Buckingham Palace to Ben Nevis, from pomp and pageantry to peeks behind the scenes, from luxury stays to celebrating in the streets, Britain celebrates the first 70-year-reign of any of its 61 monarchs in inimitable style.

It’s Wednesday 6 February 1952. Twenty-five-year-old Princess Elizabeth is at the Royal Hunting Lodge in Kenya. She has just become Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries. Winston Churchill is Prime Minister, and three-year-old Prince Charles has become heir apparent.

Fast forward 70 years and Britain is celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. This is the first such celebration for the country as Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest reigning monarch.

London will be abuzz with things to do and places to see. Buckingham Palace is re-opening its State Rooms in July, while the Royal Mews, with its coaches, carriages and stables, will unlock its doors in May. Highlights include the Gold State Coach used by the Queen for her coronation in 1953.

The festivities and fanfare will come to a head on one weekend: 2–5 June 2022, with pomp and pageantry and a Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral. Dream Escape can arrange for you to stay in a penthouse suite at the Royal-Warranted Ritz Hotel for a bird’s eye view across Green Park, next to Buckingham Palace where the action will happen. Or experience one of Claridge’s regal suites (see page 28).

Trooping the Colour, also known as the Queen’s Birthday Parade, at Horse Guards Parade along Whitehall will get the weekend started. Introduced in 1805, the name of the ceremony comes from preparations for battle – when a regiment carried a flag with the colours and insignia of their unit so soldiers could recognise a rallying point during a battle.

From a coveted seat on the parade ground, see the Queen take the royal salute and inspect her troops from the Foot Guards, Household Cavalry to the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. Otherwise, line The Mall from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square to see the royal family heading to and from the parade ground. Head to Buckingham Palace for 1pm, when the Queen and her family watch the RAF fly past from the palace balcony. It has been the scene for many informal family moments. Case in point: four-year-old Prince George being shushed by his cousin, Princess Anne’s granddaughter, Savannah Phillips, and stealing the 2018 show.

Soak up the electric atmosphere as “there’s a fantastic camaraderie... Everybody just wants that moment to being able to see the Queen and the royal family,” says Sally Strange, who has been a Dream Escape London Blue Badge Tour Guide since 2011 and has stood outside Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Silver and Diamond Jubilees.

Buckingham Palace
IMAGES © VISITLONDON.COM/JON REID
Trooping the Colour, also known as the Queen’s Birthday Parade... will get the weekend started
Horseguards Parade
IMAGES © VISITLONDON.COM/JON REID

Later that night, there’s the lighting of the beacons across the UK and the Commonwealth at 9.15pm. Places to see the beacons include the Tower of London; as well as Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), Hadrian’s Wall, and Scotland’s Ben Nevis mountain. A bugle call will fanfare the lighting.

Complement the activities with top notch royal refreshment. There’s the Goring Hotel in Belgravia, for example, which was “a favourite place for the young Princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) to have afternoon tea with their parents,” says Sally. And it still serves the late Queen Mother’s choice dish, Eggs Drumkilbo with poached lobster, in its Dining Room.

St Paul’s Cathedral near the City is the place to be on Friday 3 June – where the Queen and her family will attend a Service of Thanksgiving. See the procession along The Mall or Whitehall.

For those who prefer to party: don an Emilia Wickstead midi dress with fascinator or Brioni blazer for the Derby festival at Epson Downs.

There’s Ladies’ Day on the Friday followed by Derby Day on Saturday. See and be seen at the Derby Suite with its easy access to the Queen’s Stand and views of the winning post; as well as the Michelinstarred Chez Roux at the Blue Riband restaurant for a five-course pre-race meal.

End the weekend partying at Buckingham Palace among some of the biggest names in music, join in the mega pageant expected to feature over 5000 people, or go for the more local street party.

Yet London isn’t the only focus for the Platinum Jubilee. Windsor Castle grounds will host an equestrian treat from 12–15 May 2022 with the royal family in attendance.

Called 'A Gallop Through History', the pageant featuring 500 horses and over 1,000 performers will tell the story of events from the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I to Queen Elizabeth II.

“There is a really good bookending there between two of our great female monarchs,” says Simon Brooks-Ward, who is producing and directing the event, which aims to raise £1.2 million for the NHS and key worker charities.

Furthermore, Windsor Castle is also displaying the Queen’s dress and Robe of Estate worn at her Coronation in 1953 from 7 July–22 October 2022.

Windsor Castle
IMAGE © ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST / © HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2018 PHOTOGRAPHER: PETER PACKER

The embroidered white duchesse satin dress was made by Norman Hartnell in his atelier along Mayfair’s Bruton Street, in a period spanning eight months, according to Matthew Storey, collections curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, “Clothing rationing had ended by this time, so, unlike for her wedding dress, it wasn’t a concern for The Queen’s coronation dress, which was kept under wraps until the coronation day," he says. “It was the busiest time in the history of the Hartnell company, with hundreds of people working across many workrooms. Not only did he (Norman Hartnell) have to provide The Queen and her maids of honours’ dresses, he also had to create bespoke dresses for other members of the royal family, including The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, as well as many peeresses," says Matthew, who also curated the Royal Style in the Making show at Kensington Palace (running until 2 January 2022), which includes Princess Diana’s wedding dress.

Cecil Beaton's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation Day, 1953
IMAGES © ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST / © HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2021

The 18-foot-long purple Robe of Estate trimmed with ermine was made by Ede & Ravenscroft, whose shops are still along Chancery Lane and Burlington Gardens, near Savile Row in London. The wheat ear and olive branch decoration with the crowned EIIR cypher was embroidered by the Royal School of Network, using centuries’ old goldwork.

Transferring the design onto the velvet robe was more difficult than it looks, according to Dr Susan Kay-Williams, chief executive of the Royal School of Needlework, where a team of 12 stitched the robe with 18 different metal threads. As “the pile (on the velvet) can go in different directions,” she says.

The EIIR cypher was “stitched directly on (the robe) before they did the outside,” says Susan. Meanwhile, the crown was made separately and applied at the end, as its central position meant that “anyone working on that would have got in the way of everybody else trying to work on the outside,” she says.

A sampler of the goldwork for the Robe of Estate will be displayed at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum from 1 April 2022–4 September 2022 in its exhibition, 150 Years of the Royal School of Needlework: Crown to Catwalk.

In Scotland, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s outfits from her other Jubilees will be on show from July, and in its Queen’s Gallery, more than 30 Old Master paintings from the Buckingham Palace State Rooms will be displayed from 25 March to 25 September 2022.

Alongside these official events, discover a more intimate side of London with Dream Escape's personalised tours. Visit shops and other landmarks that hold a Royal Warrant, showing “the royal seal of approval for a minimum of five years' outstanding service,” explains Sally. “There are only now two people who can actually give a Royal Warrant and that is Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Charles,” she adds.

“You’ll know if a shop has a Royal Warrant because they are allowed to display it (the Queen’s or Prince Charles' cypher) with great pride on the outside of their building and they are allowed to have it on their bags… and indeed on their stationery,” she says.

St James’s is a good starting point. Discover Berry Bros. & Rudd’s fine wine collection along Pall Mall. Wander along St James’s Street to find the royal hatters, Lock & Co, Hatters, and the bootmakers John Lobb. The nearby Jermyn Street also has a smorgasbord of choice – and archives to delve into from the 18th century.

Then there's Turnbull & Asser, shirtmakers to Prince Charles (and James Bond); Floris perfumers; or Paxton & Whitfield, London cheesemakers since 1797. Don't miss Fortnum & Mason department store, which has been selling fine food and gifts since 1707.

The Regency-period Burlington Arcade offers a shortcut to Savile Row, where Henry Poole & Co, founded 1806, and other royal tailors remain. Then relax at The Ritz for an end-of-the-day aperitif – as “the hotel does hold a Royal Warrant given by HRH Prince of Wales back in 2005 for banqueting and catering,” says Sally.

There are only now two people who can actually give a Royal Warrant and that is Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Charles
The Royal Suite at The Goring
The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, where historic carriages still used for royal occasions are on display, will open to the public for the first time since autumn 2020
IMAGE © VISITLONDON.COM/ANTOINE BUCHET

Take in a few coronation landmarks at leisure. Start with a bracing Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, then onto the Royal Mews, before heading into Westminster Abbey where the Queen was crowned in 1953.

Check out the Coronation Chair in St George’s Chapel in the nave of the abbey, on which the Queen sat for her anointing and crowning.

“It is the unique and only item of furniture in the history of the world, as far as we know, that is still being used to this day for what it was designed for 700 years ago….and commissioned for five pounds,” says Sally.

For a more informal look at the coronation (and Jubilee) players, wander over to Hyde Park Barracks, also known as Knightsbridge Barracks.

Nearby is the Victoria & Albert Museum, where formal and informal photographs of the Queen at Buckingham Palace on the day of her coronation are kept. Make an appointment to study them in the Prints and Drawings Study Room on level three, as they are not on public display.

Explore St Paul’s Cathedral along with the Tower of London and its Crown Jewels – as both are within the City of London. At the Cathedral, opt for a private tour that offers views across the nave and into rooms with Sir Christopher Wren’s original wooden model and other little-seen artefacts. While at the Tower, seek out the regalia used during the coronation. There you'll find the orb, sceptres, armills, and other symbols of sovereignty presented to the Queen after she was anointed, as well as the St Edward's Crown. Made for Charles II’s coronation in 1661, the St Edward’s Crown is only used for the coronation’s crowning ceremony.

Tower Bridge of London

Find out more

Sally Strange, Blue Badge Guide “Some of my earliest memories are being taken to see Buckingham Palace by my parents and I truly believe that this appreciation of the royal family and the years of tradition that they represent sowed the seed for my love of history. As a guide, one of the greatest joys is to share the daily pomp and pageantry in the form of The Changing of the Guard or Cavalry Guard. This outward symbol of service and loyalty to a monarch is what makes a visit to London so truly unique. A ‘royal’ tour can take so many forms if you know where to look. The celebrations marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee are going to be remembered for years to come, and after a year of lockdowns there will be no better place to come and celebrate.”

⬥ sally@dreamescape.co.uk

→ dreamescape.co.uk

WORDS | MELANIE ABRAMS