Adventures in Design: I Love London Part 1
For the past two years I have had the great honor of attending a luncheon at Buckingham Palace honoring the achievements of ARKive and Wildscreen, hosted by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
I love London, nature and the royal family. Once again, I was in heaven.
My friend and sorority sister, Kim Louis Stewart, is a member of the ARKive board and introduced Chris and me to the work of this critical not-for-profit group. Prince Philip is a patron of both organizations whose collective mission is to educate and inspire the public to protect endangered species through the power of wildlife imagery. From the royal family's official website:
"Since visiting Antarctica and the South Atlantic in 1956-57, Prince Philip has devoted himself to raising public awareness of the relationship of humanity with the environment. . . He was the first President of World Wildlife Fund - UK (WWF) from its formation in 1961 to 1982, and International President of WWF (later the World Wide Fund for Nature) from 1981 to 1996. He is now President Emeritus of WWF."
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (This image is from a postcard; he wasn't dressed like this for lunch!)
ARKive works with some of the best wildlife photographers and videographers in the world to build an amazing on-line education resource, available to schools, students, museums - anyone who seeks to learn about and help these at-risk plants and animals. It is currently in use in over 160 countries.
From their website, arkive.org:
"ARKive is a unique global initiative gathering the highest quality videos and images of the world's threatened species into one centralized digital library. We hope this stunning collection of audio-visual records will inspire the public to value and protect the Earth’s endangered species and the habitats in which they live. ARKive's first priority is to complete audio-visual profiles for those species at most risk of extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species."
Please go to their website to learn more about ARKive and this spectacular learning tool. The Discovery Channel is launching a promotional campaign for ARKive so keep an eye out for the new TV spots!
An image from Arkive.org. Spectacular!
Now to the event. Here is the invitation we received for the luncheon:
Dick Emery, OBE, is Wildscreen's new Chairman and co-host of the luncheon. He was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry in the British honors system) by the Queen in 2009 for his contribution to broadcasting and charity.
Did you notice the dress code at the bottom of the invitation? Lounge Suit. So English! Lounge suit is the original term for what we call simply a suit or business suit.
Before we arrived, we received a logistical/protocol document telling us where to enter, what to bring and how to address HRH. A few excerpts:
"Guests should arrive at the Palace for 12.20pm. The police will then direct you to the Privy Purse Door. . . . Upon being presented to HRH, it is customary to give a short bow from the neck for gentlemen and a curtsey for ladies. HRH should initially be addressed as "Your Royal Highness" followed subsequently by "Sir." . . . Photography is strictly forbidden."
The Privy Purse is the department that handles the Royal Family's finances and this entry is used for the daily workings of the Palace (as opposed to the Ambassador's entrance which is more ceremonial). Too bad on the no photography edict!
Here I am arriving at the gates at Buckingham Palace, alongside the Bobby who checked our two forms of identification and invitations. He wasn't supposed to allow photos or to smile!
A few steps inside the gate . . . no, pictures, mum, no pictures please . . .
When we arrived the Queen's flag, called the Royal Standard, was flying above Buckingham Palace indicating that the Queen was in residence. When she's staying elsewhere, the Union Jack is flown. No pictures, mum, no pictures please . . .
An illustration of her flag:
Image via wikipedia.com
Cameras tucked away, we were greeted in the vestibule downstairs by the Palace protocol staff, headed up by the Prince's Equerry. Once all guests had arrived, the Equerry led us upstairs to the Centre Room for refreshments. They lined us up in front of the fireplace for the group photo with Prince Philip. When he came in he greeted our line saying, "Oh, did someone get married?"
The Centre Room has the famous balcony where the royal family greets the public.
From a postcard purchased at the palace gift shop.
The Equerry told us the Centre Room had never been photographed, yet I found the following photo in a souvenir book! You can see through the door to the balcony, with the Victoria Memorial (bronze statue on marble surround) beyond. Framing the door are cloisonne enameled vases and stands of the most intricate detail you can possibly imagine. Above is one of the famous lotus blossom chandeliers made of blown glass.
Image via Buckingham Palace Official Souvenir Guide
And here we are in our lounge suits, happily gathered in this historic and regal room (facing the balcony wall). You can see the lotus blossom chandelier reflected in the mirror behind us.
After the group photo, we moved to the Chinese Dining Room for lunch. The room is absolutely divine, adorned top to bottom with fabulous Chinoiserie (a little history on that later).
I was so enthralled with the Chinoiserie patterns that I had to grab my invitation and start doodling on the back of it!
The ER and crown formed the motif on the china and the other designs are from various pieces of Chinoiserie from around the room. ER stands for Elizabeth Regina, which means Elizabeth is the reigning or regnant queen.
The menu was the essence of spring in England, with morel mushrooms taking center stage.
Throughout the afternoon, the Equerry was very informative, sharing some history of Buckingham Palace that I wasn't aware of. Before moving to the Palace, Queen Victoria and her family lived in the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The exterior of the Pavilion is distinctly Indian in style, while the inside features some of the most extensive and ornate Chinoiserie interiors ever built.
Image via wikipedia.com.
No matter how lovely the place, the queen felt a lack of privacy (Londoners could reach Brighton by rail and practically look in the windows!) and had insufficient room for her family. So she sold the property to the town of Brighton, removing much of the original fixtures for use at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Since the end of World War II the town has been working to restore the Pavilion to its original grandeur.
Image via wikipedia.com.
Notice the panels on the doors and walls in this illustration of a banquet room in the Pavilion and their resemblance to the panels behind us in our group photo above! And the lotus blossom chandeliers! Feels like history coming to life!
On a previous visit to England I found this wonderful book by John Morley, The Making of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton: Designs and Drawings. It's full of beautiful and intricate sketches, illustrations and details about the planning and execution of each magnificent room. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Chinoiserie. It's been a great inspiration to me in designing custom pieces for clients, even influencing the Bardes Interiors and MAZE Home logo artwork.
Image via macmillan.com
When she and her family arrived in 1837, Queen Victoria became the first monarch ever to take residence at Buckingham Palace, though construction on the grounds originally began 200 years before then!
This is how the Palace looked when she first arrived. The Palace had three wings and the ceremonial entry was through the Marble Arch (on the left) and the royal family came and went through the portico in the center.
Image via wikipedia.com
Shortly after moving in - and fixing lots of problems like fireplaces that smoked so badly that they had to put out the fires and suffer the cold - they realized there weren't enough rooms for nurseries and guest sleeping quarters.
Using the proceeds from the sale of the Pavilion, Victoria and Prince Albert built the East Front, the facade that now faces the street, moving the Marble Arch to its current location in Hyde Park. It is the image most people today have of Buckingham Palace. This was the fourth and final wing of the palace, which now forms a quadrangle.
Here's a view of the palace as it looks today, with green arrows at the bottom showing the east section Queen Victoria added. The X's mark the Centre Room where our group photo was taken and the Chinese Dining Room where we had lunch, both of which are decorated with the original Chinoiserie from Brighton Pavilion. The arrow at top shows the original family portico from when Victoria first moved in.
From a postcard purchased at the palace gift shop. Note, the original door to the Palace is in the back wing of the quadrangle.
This map of the palace from wikipedia is a nice reference for some of the main rooms the royal family uses for private and public functions. The Centre or Balcony Room is "M" and the Chinese Dining Room is "N."
My trip to London immediately followed our MAZE Home Store Oscars week so all the local papers were celebrating The King's Speech winning best picture.
When I saw the movie, I loved it but thought the rooms they showed the family living in weren't replicas of the actual rooms in the Palace. I'd seen those rooms on my visit last year and they were very different! As it turns out, I was right! According to The Guardian, they used Lancaster House to stand in for the Palace and several other ornate settings. Apparently it's an even grander building than the Palace!
As we were saying our goodbyes, the Queen's Livery arrived (meaning she was coming home), so we had to leave the Palace right away.
I drank in every little detail, from jewel encrusted tassels hanging from chandeliers to patterns in the Persian rugs to the intricate marquetry on an end table. Lunch at the Palace truly was a feast for the body, mind and soul.
And then things got serious. I found the palace souvenir shop.
Next time: Shopping and the royal wedding in London.