Lonely Planet Writer

See the gifts fit for a Queen in new exhibition coming to Buckingham Palace

Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for 65 years and a new exhibition opening 22 July will show off some of the most interesting gifts she’s amassed in that time.  

The exhibition will show off gifts given to the queen.
The exhibition will show off gifts given to the queen. Image by Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

As the longest-reigning British monarch, the Queen is also the most travelled sovereign in British history, and has been overseas on more than 250 occasions during that time. When meeting with dignitaries around the world, the giving and receiving of gifts is often an important part of the exchange. Now, those gifts will be on display at this year’s Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace in London.

This throne is one of a pair presented to The Queen by the Yoruba people of Nigeria in 1956. Beadwork and royalty are closely associated in Yoruba culture, and large quantites are considered a sign of wealth and status.
This throne is one of a pair presented to The Queen by the Yoruba people of Nigeria in 1956. Beadwork and royalty are closely associated in Yoruba culture, and large quantites are considered a sign of wealth and status. Image by Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

There will be more than 250 objects from about 100 countries and territories around the world on display. The objects “will explore Her Majesty’s role as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth and Head of Nation”.

One of the objects will be “the Vessel of Friendship” a model of a treasure ship sailed by the 15th-century Chinese navigator and diplomat Zeng He, that was given to the Queen by President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China during the state visit to Buckingham Palace in October 2015. Visitors will also be able to see a colourful beaded Yoruba throne that was given to the Queen by the people of Nigeria in 1956. According to the Royal Collection, the interlaced motifs on the throne hold spiritual meaning, including respect for ancestors.

This totem pole, carved by the First Nations of Canada's north-west coast, features the mythical thunderbird at the top, with its wings outstretched. The Thunderbird is believed to bring thunder by flapping its wings.
This totem pole, carved by the First Nations of Canada’s north-west coast, features the mythical thunderbird at the top, with its wings outstretched. The Thunderbird is believed to bring thunder by flapping its wings. Image by Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Queen was also given a totem pole in a 1971 visit to Canada by the Kwakiutl people of Canada’s north-west coast. The pole is topped by a mythical thunderbird with outstretched wings.

A staff member from Buckingham Palace displays a Linen bag containing salt from the British Virgin Islands presented to Queen Elizabeth II, during a Preview of the Royal Gifts Exhibition, on April 3, 2017 in London. The exhibition includes gifts given during State Visits, overseas tours and official engagements and those presented to mark significant moments in Her Majesty's life.
A staff member from Buckingham Palace displays a Linen bag containing salt from the British Virgin Islands presented to Queen Elizabeth II, during a Preview of the Royal Gifts Exhibition, on April 3, 2017 in London. The exhibition includes gifts given during State Visits, overseas tours and official engagements and those presented to mark significant moments in Her Majesty’s life. Image by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Last year, to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, one of the British Virgin Islands, Salt Island, gave her a linen bag containing salt, which is part of a tradition reintroduced in 2015, where the island pays the monarch an annual rent of a pound of salt on their birthday. Some of the gifts are even more local, like a Buckingham Palace London Underground sign that was presented to the Queen by staff on a visit to Aldgate East Tube Station in 2010.

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