On of my dreams in life is to sneak into the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, specifically to see all of the old photographs and mementos from significant events in the last 150 years. While that's never likely to happen, the following books are probably the closest I'll ever get to seeing the inside. The Royal Collection has released many interesting books but I think these stand out as more personal and accessible.
Charles, Prince of Wales: A Birthday Souvenir Album. Released in May 2008 this book is a companion to the exhibit at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the upcoming 60th birthday of The Prince of Wales. This book is a portrait of the prince from his earliest years to the present day, it features mementos, never before seen items and rare photographs. It is divided into sections: Early Years, Prince of Wales, Family Life, and Interests and Charities. It also includes nice personal touches with comments from Prince Charles on his favorite works of art, all personally selected for inclusion in this book.
Five Gold Rings - A Royal Wedding Souvenir Album. Published to mark the Diamond wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip. A first for any British Sovereign. Of all of the books, this one is my favorite. I love royal weddings and to have an insight from the royal family is indeed a treat. Covering weddings from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II it features photos of the wedding dresses, music, illustrations, invitations, presents, jewels and charming mementos evoking memories of these special days.
Noble Hounds and Dear Companions from the Royal Photograph Collection. I admit that I'm not a dog person, I bought this book strictly for the old photographs. It features the pets of each monarch from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. It is interesting to see the royal family in unguarded moments with their pets. The warmth of the relationship clearly evident through the generations. The cover photo is a good example of this. But there's also a certain sad poignancy to this particular photograph; can you imagine the future King George V looking at one of his children this way? Unlike the other books, which rely on mementos to tell the story, this one covers the topic in great detail, with descriptions of each monarch's favorite pets and breed preference at the end.
Queen Elizabeth II - A Birthday Souvenir Album. Released to celebrate the 80th birthday of Her Majesty. Unlike the book to celebrate Prince Charles' birthday, this is less personal but no less interesting. The book starts with a news clipping from the April 21st, 1926 Court Circular, which announces her birth, matter-of-factly, in one sentence. An unremarkable start to a royal life that would be anything but. Instead of page numbers, each year has pages to itself, starting with 1926 and ending with 2006. The book is filled with charming items: christening gifts, dolls, letters, her account of the 1937 Coronation ceremony, ration card, ATS uniform, to name a few. In the later years the items become less personal. Which I think strikes a balance between the person and her role. Something which very few (if any) other publications have achieved.
© Marilyn Braun 2008
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