If you visit Alnwick Castle over the Jubilee weekend, you will not only see various special events, but inside the State Rooms, you will find a variety of connections to the Queen from throughout her reign.
Newly on display for 2012 are a set of coronation robes and a coronet that belonged to Helen Percy, the 8th Duchess and grandmother of the present Duke. Duchess Helen was Mistress of the Robes to the Queen Mother from 1937 until 1964, and so was a very important part of the coronation of the present Queen’s father, King George VI.
If you look behind the robes you will also see a large portrait of Helen by the famous society artist Philip de Laszlo – there is a smaller portrait on our Grand Staircase of Helen wearing the robes. Take note of the details of the robes, such as the Percy lions on the train, and our guides will tell you how even the smallest details of the costume would show they would be worn by a Duchess – did you know that four rows of black dots on the ermine of a coronation robe signifies a Duke or Duchess, whereas three is for an Earl or Countess, and two for a baron or baroness? Watch out for this next time a state occasion is broadcast on TV!
One of our eight paintings by the master Italian view painter Canaletto is of Windsor Castle – obviously not a Percy property, but in fact a Royal residence the artist painted for Sir Hugh Percy, later the 1st Duke. On the right of Canaletto is a much more modern Percy – George, Earl Percy and eldest son of the present Duke, was painted in the 1990s to commemorate the day he was a page to Her Majesty at the Opening of Parliament.
All around the State Rooms are photographs of the Queen – not just from her state visit in June of last year, but also from the past. Look out for a spectacular wedding photograph of Hugh and Elizabeth Percy, the 10th Duke and Duchess, from 1946. The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth, of course) was at the wedding, as was her sister Princess Margaret, their parents the Queen Mother and George VI, and George’s mother, Queen Mary. It was a very big occasion!
When the Queen and Prince Philip visited Alnwick in 2011, they sat down to lunch in the State Dining Room. Ask our guides and they will be able to show you photographs of a royal place setting, and where at the table Her Majesty would have sat.
The Royal visit was a very special day for everyone at Alnwick, and we’re sure you will get a flavour of our pride in the Queen, our Duke and Duchess and the Percy family history during your visit. Happy Jubilee, and God Save the Queen!