Frances has many years' experience writing about exhibitions in art galleries and museums.
Royal Gifts on Display at Buckingham Palace
The Royal Collection presents, Royal Gifts, a wonderful display of gifts received by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The exhibition forms part of the 2017 summer opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.
Royal Gifts: Symbols of Peace and Goodwill
Queen Elizabeth, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, has received many gifts over the years and every one of them is a special symbol of peace, goodwill, and friendship between nations. The Royal Collection Trust now presents an exciting exhibition featuring more than 250 items from 100 countries and territories.
Royal Gifts examines the Queen's role as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth, and Head of Nation. While some of these gifts were presented to commemorate important events Her Majesty's life, such as birthdays and anniversaries, others were received during official engagements, overseas tours, and incoming State Visits. The incredible variety of gifts ranges from a 'treasure ship' to a bag of salt.
The 'treasure ship' or Vessel of Friendship presented by President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China, 2015.
Royal Gifts – Highlights of the Exhibition
The Vessel of Friendship from China
When President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China made a State Visit to Buckingham Palace in October 2015 he presented Her Majesty with The Vessel of Friendship, a model of the 'treasure ship' sailed by the 15th-century Chinese navigator and diplomat Zeng He.
Mounted on hardwood, the gold and bronze ship features cloisonné decoration showing a dove, an olive branch medallion and traditional Chinese symbols of friendship and peace.
A Tree of Life from Mexico
This Tree of Life was presented to The Queen by the President and First Lady of Mexico, Mr Enrique Pena Nieto and Ms Angelica Rivera, during their State Visit to Buckingham Palace in March 2015.
A remarkable work of art, the Tree is decorated with colourful symbols representing British culture and the interests of Queen Elizabeth. The Tree depicts Her Majesty at the top centre of the sculpture wearing a bright yellow outfit which just goes to show how well the Mexicans did their research. The Queen always likes to wear a bright colour so that she stands out in a crowd!
Further down she is shown riding a grey horse. The Duke of Edinburgh is depicted riding a black horse. The scene includes her official residences, uniformed Guardsmen and Westminster Abbey. The Tree is presented in a red leather box bearing a gold embossed symbol of Mexico and inscribed 'MEXICO / PRESIDENTIA DE LA REPUBLIC'.
Trees like this are a popular artistic form dating from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Modelled in clay, the tree has a central trunk with elaborate branches similar to a candelabra. Originally, these sculptures showed important figures and symbols of indigenous Mayan, Mixtec and Aztec religions. With the arrival of European Catholics they started to depict the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Life is still popular in Mexican art and appears in an ever-widening range of styles and media.
Tree of Life presented by President and First Lady of Mexico, Mr Enrique Pena Nieto and Ms Angelica Rivera, 2015.
Totem Pole from Canada
When Queen Elizabeth visited Canada in 1971 she received a wooden totem pole. Beautifully carved by Kwakiutl craftsmen from Canada's north-west coast, the pole stands at 78 centimetres high. It is topped by the mythical Thunderbird Tsoona with its wings outstretched. The Thunderbird is believed to bring life and create thunder by flapping its Wings.
In 1958 a 100-foot-tall totem pole was presented to Her Majesty by the people of British Columbia to mark the centenary of the Province. That pole now stands in Windsor Great Park.
Totem Pole Carved by Kwakiutl Craftsmen of Canada's North-west Coast
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Silver Bowl of Fruit presented by President Kenneth Kaunda, 1991.
A Silver Bowl of Fruit from Zambia
Whilst visiting Namibia and Zimbabwe in 1991 The Queen received this extraordinary silver bowl of fruit presented by President Kenneth Kaunda and the Government and People of Zambia.
This exquisite item contains silver models of the fruits grown in Zambia: banana, pear, apple, orange, tangerine, plum, pawpaw, cherries and grapes.
A Painted Bus from Pakistan
This tin model of a very colourful bus was presented by the British High Commission Drivers during The Queen's visit to Pakistan in 1997. The bus is decorated with floral and bird motifs. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are depicted together with the flags of the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
Truck art, which has become increasingly popular in Pakistan since the 1940s, combines traditional motifs from Sikhism and Islam with modern pictures and images of national leaders.
Painted Model Truck presented by British High Commission Drivers of Pakistan, 1997.
Salt from Salt Island
Many gifts reflect national traditions. Salt Island, one of the British Virgin Islands, formerly paid British monarchs an annual rent of a pound of salt on their birthday. The tradition was reintroduced by the Governor-General John Duncan in 2015 and in 2016 he sent The Queen a linen bag containing salt to mark her 90th birthday. 2016 was also the fiftieth anniversary of The Queen's first visit to the British Virgin Islands. The scene on the bag depicts an islander, Clementine Smith, collecting salt from the edge of a pool.
Salt from Salt Island presented by Governor-General John Duncan on The Queen's 90th Birthday in 2016.
Banana Leaf Portrait from Rwanda
The Queen is probably the world's most portrayed woman, but just imagine one made of banana leaves!
During an audience in December 2006 President Paul Kagame of Rwanda presented Her Majesty with a framed portrait based on The Queen's official Golden Jubilee photograph.
Several shades of dyed banana leaves are woven together creating an almost smooth surface and intricately shaded portrait.
The Queen wears the Grand Duchess Vladimar tiara, with pearl drops, the sash and star of the Order of the Garter and the family orders for her grandfather George V and her father George VI.
Banana Leaf Portrait of Her Majesty the Queen presented by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, 2006.
What Do You Give the Woman Who Has Everything?
So what do you give the woman who has everything? A box of chocolates just won't do. Royal Gifts can be seen during the 2017 Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. It will certainly provide some new ideas for that special gift! Tickets and further information can be obtained from The Royal Collection.
© 2017 Frances Spiegel