In August 2016, I left the Isles of Scilly and travelled to Penzance ready to board the sleeper train for a very special, much anticipated trip to London. Along with my-sister in-law, the Secretary of Catford WI (West Kent), I was going to see a display of the Queen’s wardrobe covering her entire life and reign. The venue was Buckingham Palace, the pre-ordered tickets were strictly by timed entry and the event was to mark her Majesty’s 90th birthday.
Just prior to boarding the train, the sign flashed up: ‘Cancelled’. Impossible, we all thought, the train is there! However, as we were gradually to discover, a huge trackside fire at St Erth had made our sleeper train journey an impossibility. Some stressful hours later we were coached around the blazing inferno and put aboard a spare train – not cleaned, with no sleeping compartments and with minimal facilities. Given a hot drink and a slice of fruitcake and with nowhere to sit comfortably, let alone sleep, I would make my destination with little time to spare.
The exhibition was an absolute treat, covering, through her wonderful wardrobe, every aspect of the Queen’s life, marking significant events from her childhood to the present day. Each decade of fashion, including accessories and jewellery as well as clothes, was represented. Her christening gown, State robes, uniforms, her beautiful wedding dress and the magnificent Coronation dress were among the highlights for me. I would have gone for the Coronation dress alone, gazing in awe at the details and finery. As head of State and Commonwealth the Queen’s clothes had to respect religious and diplomatic conventions, often referencing and symbolically complimenting the nations being visited.
Her Majesty famously championed British designers and couture. So much colour, style and beauty to relish, all in the splendour of Buckingham Palace and its fine gardens.
By the end of the visit my long, difficult journey and lack of sleep and food, combined with the fairy tale setting and sheer wonder of all the magnificent royal fashions, meant I felt as if it had all been a beautiful dream. I treasure the memory of that day.
– Karrie Skaife, St Mary’s Isles of Scilly WI