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As part of the nationwide celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this June, the capital is hosting a series of not-to-be-missed royal exhibitions in honour of the occasion. Regal landmarks across the city, from Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace to the Tower of London, are being taken over by special displays dedicated to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, showcasing iconic imagery, dazzling royal jewels and a truly spectacular floral installation. Here we’ve rounded up the key royal exhibitions to add to your diary this summer.
Power & Image: Royal Portraiture & Iconography at Sotheby’s
28 May - 15 June
Sotheby’s is celebrating the Platinum Jubilee with a month of exhibitions, events and auctions, a highlight being Power & Image, a deep-dive into 500 years of royal portraiture. For this, the world-renowned auction house has collated portraits of the seven queens regnant of Britain, from the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I – on loan from Woburn Abbey – through to a brightly-hued depiction of Her Majesty by Andy Warhol.
In addition to the exhibition, a panoply of glittering tiaras will be on display, charting the history of this jewelled ornamental band which was originally exalted to courtly fashion by Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress Joséphine. Other events include a Jubilee Arts Festival – to include readings and talks by Joanna Lumley, Michael Morpurgo and Tristram Hunt, musical performances and book launches – and the “British Art: The Jubilee Auction” – a sale dedicated to the best of British art, including a new work of The Queen by Chris Levine.
Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession at Buckingham Palace
22 July – 2 October 2022
Every summer, Buckingham Palace throws open its doors to allow members of the public to explore some of its glorious State Rooms. This year, in honour of the Platinum Jubilee, visitors will also have the opportunity to view a special display dedicated to the Queen’s accession to the throne in February 1952.
Exhibits on show will include the remarkable series of portraits taken by Dorothy Wilding that formed the basis of the Queen’s image on stamps, as well as items of Her Majesty’s personal jewellery worn for the portrait sittings. Keep an eye out in particular for the spectacular diamond The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, which was given to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present by her grandmother, Queen Mary, on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Philip on 20 November 1947.
Life Through a Royal Lens at Kensington Palace
Until 30 October 2022
Bringing together some of the most iconic images ever taken of the Royal Family, this new exhibition at Kensington Palace explores the royals’ long-enduring relationship with the camera, starting 200 years ago with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s patronage of photography during its infancy and going right up until the present day.
Highlights include work by Cecil Beaton – whose images redefined modern royal portraiture – depicting the Queen and the Queen Mother (two of his most faithful sitters) and a never-before-seen image of Diana, Princess of Wales by David Bailey, as well as intimate shots by Annie Leibovitz, Norman Parkinson and Lord Snowdon, the husband of Princess Margaret.
Superbloom at the Tower of London
1 June – 18 September 2022
Who can forget the incredibly moving installation of 800,000 ceramic poppies that filled the moat surrounding the Tower of London to mark the First World War centenary commemorations in 2014? Now the London landmark is hosting an altogether cheerier display to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne, transforming that same moat into an immersive floral spectacle.
Over 20 million seeds have been sown in the mediaeval moat to create an explosion of colour, where visitors can weave through a field of blooms accompanied a specially commissioned soundscape by contemporary Scottish composer Erland Cooper. Named ‘Music for Growing Flowers’, the original score has been designed to enhance the installation’s emotional impact while softening the noises of the city. Alongside the ethereal soundscape you’ll also find a series of sculptural elements, designed to make you feel right at home amidst the bees and the butterflies.