The “Royal Gifts” exhibition opens Saturday in Buckingham Palace at its 25th annual Summer Opening, during which visitors will enjoy a special display of more than 200 gifts presented to Queen Elizabeth throughout her 65-year reign.
A paperweight made from a dinosaur bone, a Union Flag badge that has travelled into space, a handbag woven from banana leaves and a BAFTA Award are just some of the intriguing objects on display in the exhibition.
According to the palace, the exhibition explores Queen Elizabeth’s role as head of state, head of the Commonwealth and head of nation through gifts presented by people from all walks of life and from over 100 countries and territories during state visits, overseas tours and official engagements both at home and abroad.
Sally Goodsir, the assistant curator of the exhibition, told Xinhua that the whole exhibition displays gifts for the queen from as many countries as possible.
When receiving a visit from the queen, the host organization, town or country will often choose to mark the occasion by giving an object that reflects their culture or history.
During an official visit to Canada in 1959, the queen was given a paperweight made from a fossilized dinosaur bone by the City of Drumheller, Alberta, which is internationally renowned as a center of paleontology.
The bone has been identified as part of a humerus (upper arm bone), probably from the Hadrosaur family of duck-billed herbivorous dinosaurs around 66 to 86 million years old.
Official gifts are often examples of local craftsmanship and artistic traditions, such as the white Kili bag of woven coconut leaves given to the queen by President Christopher Jorebon Loeak of the Marshall Islands following the reception at Buckingham Palace for heads of state and government attending the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics.
Young coconut leaves were used to create the finely woven surface, while the inside of the bag is lined with pandanus leaves. This style of weaving is unique to the Marshall Islands, where the skills have been passed down from generation to generation.
A gift can also record a significant event or moment in a nation’s history, such as the Union Flag badge worn in space by Major Tim Peake CMG, which was presented to the queen at Windsor Castle in April 2017.
The first British astronaut to be a member of the European Space Agency, Peake attached the badge to the left arm of his spacesuit before undertaking the first spacewalk by a British astronaut, outside the International Space Station on Jan. 15, 2016.
He was inspired to present the badge to the queen by gifts given to monarchs by other great British explorers, such as Captain James Cook and Captain Robert Scott, which are also in the royal collection.
The queen has supported thousands of charities and organizations throughout her reign. In recognition of her patronage and lifetime support of the British film and television industries, Sir Kenneth Branagh presented the queen with an honorary BAFTA Award on behalf of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts at a reception for the British film industry at Windsor Castle in April 2013.
This summer also marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana, who was killed in a car accident on Aug. 31, 1997, had undertaken many official duties in support of the queen, both at home and abroad during her marriage to the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles.
As a tribute to the princess, her work is remembered through a special display in the Music Room, one of the State Rooms open to the public as part of the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.
The centerpiece of the display is the desk at which the princess worked in her sitting room at Kensington Palace, writing letters and reading official briefings and correspondence.
Many of the objects shown on and around her desk have been selected by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry to reflect their mother’s commitment to duty and their personal memories of her.
The Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, including the special exhibition Royal Gifts and the tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, runs from July 22 to Oct. 1.