Charlotte and I recently attended the preview of Royal Childhood Exhibition at Buckingham Palace. While we ‘often’ (few times) have been to the Queen’s Gallery for exhibitions, this was only the second time we were invited to tour Buckingham Palace. And let me tell you, it doesn’t get old.
Most of the reviews I’ve read have rightfully said how brilliant the Royal Childhood exhibition is so while I’ll go into some of the pieces, I’m going to concentrate on the other items I find important: the tech and the family friendliness.
While this was a preview, we were treated just like the ‘normal’ guest would be when Buckingham Palace opens to the public. We started with going through security (understandably) before being provided the option of an audio trail.
TOP TIP: Always take the family and/or kids version – they put the interesting information in these versions.
They have new audio guides this year, which are actually visual and interactive – and even better- it uses touchscreen! You start the guide with an overall tour followed with a list of rooms available. Unfortunately Royal Childhood exhibition isn’t on the video guide but I don’t know many places that add special exhibitions unless they are using Second Canvas or similar.
Almost each room is broken into different areas. Once you tapped the screen to enter a room, the top is always an overall talk on the room. Options then include:
- Curator’s talk,
- Rex (the Queen’s corgi with facts for younger kids)
- Did you Know?
The options varied from room to room but it was a good selection of possibilities.
Did you Know
- There was 20,000 works of art in Buckingham Palace collection?
- 250 clocks and watches in Buckingham Palace with two people who wind each up ever week?
- The White Drawing room – we were taught that stale bread used to be used to clean chandeliers to get the soot off from the candles that were used.
- Blue Drawing room – is not really blue now but was when it was created over 100 years ago however sunlight changed the colours.
- Included matching symbols from suits of arms
As you can see, there are enough choices for all ages on the family version of the guide.
The con with the touchscreen was the touchscreen was a tad sensitive for my fat fingers so I skipped or paused a few of the items but I soon worked it all out. Charlotte also enjoyed being able to go through the tour with her own version but we were able to share and compare along the way and even better we’re still sharing and comparing two days later!
Royal Childhood Exhibition
This exhibition, I’m sure, will please many with the variety of artefacts on display. I was personally touched by the films being shown as while I’m sure they were well scrutinize, they showed the Queen in such a ‘human’ light.
I also really loved:
- Princess Alice’s carved and gilt wood cradle c 1843 on display in the same cabinet as the easel made famous by twitter oh and by displaying the announcement of Prince George of Cambridge on July 22 2013.
- The journals and handwritten items from different monarchs was also very touching. While each were special, such as Princess Elizabeth’s progress book from 1926 or Prince of Wales at 5 years old (future George IV) 1767 handwriting practice book or even seeing Prince William’s 1987 exercise book – the most touching for me was seeing this simple book from young Queen Elizabeth dedicated ‘To Sonia’.
The book, or rather novel, is called The Happy Farm and dedicated ‘To Sonia, My dear little friend and lover of horses.’ I’ve since learned that Sonia was a young friend Princess Elizabeth of York met when she was 4 years old. Sonia lived nearby and was not royalty which (from what is in the article) played a big part of their strong bond throughout their lives.
Hopefully you’ll find your own special object and story within the exhibition too.
At the end of the tour, you’ve two – no three wonderful choices:
a) head to the café for tea and cake (FTW!)
b) head to the Family Pavilion for a lovely time with kids up to 12
c) Do the Nature trail worksheet and find birds, trees and other items on your walk to the exit.
We did all three and none disappointed.
As we were on a special tour, we actually had tea and cake first but it did not disappoint. There isn’t a large selection in the outdoor café but it’s not suppose to be a restaurant, more of a stop-gap option.
The Family Pavilion is a HUGE improvement from last year and it really shows the amount of effort Buckingham Palace is putting into ensuring families have a wonderful time with the tour.
- Fantastic area for under 5’s to play along
- Huge room for the entire family to do the worksheets together
- Kids can dress up (mirror included!) (I’ve asked for more adult clothes, your welcome).
- Ride a Rocking Horse like Princess Elizabeth 1930-35 rocking horse
- Wall-mounted games
- And More!
Hands up – I didn’t do the nature trail as I can just about tell a magpie from a spider but outside of that, nature isn’t my forte. C and Laura did do the trail (with a little cheating along the way). I will say it absolutely added to the visit to Buckingham Palace as it made your look closely at the gardens which you probably would have walked past without notice.
We have to mention the staff. All the way along the tour, we were greeted by incredibly friendly and kind staff. From those in the rooms willing to answer a few questions, to the cafe staff and shop staff and those posted outside in the garden – all asked if we enjoyed our day and some asked what our favourite parts were and then continued to genuinely be listening – not a fault could be found with any of them.
Young People (13-25)
If you’re wondering if you should bring a young person, the answer is a big yes! I’d still suggest you go for a family audio guide as it has the best tidbits of information. There is a fascinating balance of things to see, learn, do or just be exposed to.
We highly recommend going on the tour and seeing this incredible exhibition.