An idea about the Royal Collection

October 29 2013

Image of An idea about the Royal Collection


Lord Adonis, the former Labour Cabinet minister, wrote an article in The Times last week about the Royal Collection. He was uncomfortable with the fact that so much of the collection is out of sight from the public. His 'serious proposal' was to turn St James' Palace into a permanent gallery for the collection. 

It's not a new idea, and has been doing the rounds for some years. I remember someone authoritative telling me, years ago, that an early gesture in any reign of Charles III would involve something like this. The question is perhaps (to be conspiratorial) this - why is Adonis writing an opinion piece in the Times on the matter, and why is he doing it now? Is someone trying to float the idea?

If so, then good luck to them. St James' Palace is used for royal functions and the offices of Princes William and Harry, but it is not a place of residence. It probably could be turned into a gallery to show more of the Royal Collection. The Queen's Gallery is a wonderful place for exhibitions, but too small for anything beyond a temporary hang. 

The trick with any larger space for the Royal Collection will be to accept that the collection is primarily a working one, one that is by definition dispersed among royal palaces (including non-residential palaces like Hampton Court) not just to decorate but to form part of historical settings often centuries old. So by all means have more space to display the Royal Collection. But don't turn it into a static display which changes the whole purpose of the Royal Collection.

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