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Royal Gifts at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace

Release date: Monday, 3 April 2017

Buckingham Palace sign


Visitors to the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace this year will enjoy the special exhibition, Royal Gifts, which will be on display throughout the magnificent State Rooms.

More than 250 objects from some 100 countries and territories will explore Her Majesty's role as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth and Head of Nation.  The exhibition will include gifts given during State Visits, overseas tours and official engagements and those presented to mark significant moments in The Queen's life.

During a State Visit, whether incoming or outgoing, it is customary for gifts to be exchanged as a symbol of goodwill between the two countries.  The Vessel of Friendship, a model of the 'treasure ship' sailed by the 15th-century Chinese navigator and diplomat Zeng He, was presented to Her Majesty by President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China during the State Visit to Buckingham Palace in October 2015. 

Official gifts are often examples of local craftsmanship and artistic traditions, such as the colourful beaded Yoruba throne presented to The Queen by the People of Nigeria in 1956.  Beadwork and royalty are closely associated in Yoruba culture, and large quantities of beads are considered a sign of wealth and status.  The interlaced motifs on the throne hold spiritual meaning, including respect for ancestors.  

To mark significant occasions in Her Majesty's life, such as birthdays and Jubilees, gifts are received from around the world.  In 2016, to celebrate The Queen's 90th birthday, Salt Island, one of the British Virgin Islands, presented Her Majesty with a linen bag containing salt.  This gift reflected the tradition, reintroduced in 2015, of the Island paying the monarch an annual rent of a pound of salt on their birthday. 

Royal Gifts will include over 100 items given during Her Majesty's many visits around the UK.  Among them is a gilded bronze owl, a small-scale replica of the owls designed by John Thorp for the plinths outside Leeds Civic Hall and inspired by the bird in the coat of arms of the City of Leeds.  On a visit to Aldgate East Tube Station in 2010, The Queen was presented with a Buckingham Palace London Underground sign while meeting staff at the station.