Art & Antiques

Her Majesty’s commitment

HM The Queen has done far more for the arts than the mainstream media have us believe. This is epitomised by her great work in extending the fabled Royal Collection to the benefit of the general public. During her reign The Royal Collection has gone from being a private collection to something the general public have enormous access to. Far from being a woman devoted to solely to horses and country pursuits, the Queen has an ongoing dramatic impact on the world of Arts & Antiques and in particular the Royal Collection.

From the origins of a side gallery built by Buckingham Palace in 1962, a series of exhibitions were created featuring the works of major artists such as Holbein and Van Dyck and these exhibitions were followed by an infrastructure started by the appointment of sir Oliver Millar in 1972 as surveyor of Pictures. Millar’s job then evolved into becoming the inaugural Director of the Royal Collection which was essentially a new department of the royal household. This department currently has 32 curators and 32 conservation staff who have spent many years developing the magnificent assemblage that is the Royal Collection into pristine order. The 1962 project culminated into the creation of the Queens Gallery in 2002 superseding an old defunct side annex of the Palace.

The Royal Collection descriptively is one of the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. Comprising almost all aspects of the fine and decorative arts and running to more than a million objects, the Collection is a unique and valuable record of the personal tastes of kings and queens over the past 500 years.

Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, the greater part of the King’s magnificent possessions was sold by order of Oliver Cromwell, and the Royal Collection has largely been formed since the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

The most important additions to the Royal Collection were made by Frederick, Prince of Wales; George III; George IV; Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; and Queen Mary, consort of King George V.

The Royal Collection is held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and the nation. It is not owned by her as a private individual.

The Collection includes the majority of the contents of some 13 royal residences and former residences across the UK, most of which are regularly open to the public. These include Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Hampton Court, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Osborne House and the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. Here, works of art can often be seen in the historic settings for which they were originally commissioned or acquired.

At The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh, and in the Drawings Gallery, Windsor Castle, aspects of the Collection are shown in a programme of temporary exhibitions. Touring exhibitions and loans to exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the world are part of a commitment to broaden public access and to show works of art in new contexts.

Over 3,000 objects from the Royal Collection are on long-term loan to museums and galleries around the United Kingdom and abroad, including the British Museum, The National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the National Museum of Wales and the National Gallery of Scotland.

The administration of the Royal Collection was entrusted in 1987 to a new Department of the Royal Household. The Department has over 400 staff with a Management Board of nine directors. It is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection, and manages the public opening of the official residences of Her Majesty The Queen and the official London residence of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

In 1993 the Royal Collection Trust was established as a registered charity with the following charitable aims:
That the Royal Collection is subject to proper custodial control and that the works of art remain available to future generations;
That the Royal Collection is maintained and conserved to the highest possible standards and that visitors can view the Collection in the best possible conditions;

That as much of the Royal Collection as possible can be seen by members of the public and that the Royal Collection is presented and interpreted so as to enhance public appreciation and understanding;

That access to the Royal Collection is broadened and increased (subject to capacity constraints) to ensure that as many people as possible are able to view the Collection; That appropriate acquisitions are made when resources become available.

The income from the public opening of Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and from associated trading activities, is received by the Royal Collection Trust and devoted to these charitable purposes. During 2010-11 the Trust accomplished the following:

  • More than 400 works of art were conserved
  • 9 exhibitions were staged
  • 80 public lectures were given by staff
  • 8 books were published
  • 2.1 million people visited Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mews and The Queen’s Galleries
  • 105,000 admissions were free of charge, the majority under the 1-Year Pass scheme
  • 94 works of art were lent to 41 exhibitions in UK and 13 other countries
  • 5 awards were received for publications and visitor services

The activities of the Royal Collection Trust are undertaken without recourse to public funds or the National Lottery.

The Royal Collection Trust has six Trustees, who meet three times a year under the Chairmanship of HRH The Prince of Wales. When reviewing future activities, the Trustees ensure that these aims continue to be met and are in line with the Charity Commission’s General Guidance on public benefit.

The Royal Collection Trust is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales (2713536), and is a charity registered in England and Wales (1016972) and in Scotland (SCO39772). Its registered office is held at York House, St James’s Palace, London SW1A 1BQ.

It is something of a statement of fact that The Queen has supervised ordered and easy lending of major works of art to an extent that puts bank managers to shame. Practically every major exhibition contains an image or two lent by the sovereign on a scale far surpassing any other private wealthy patron of art.

The input astonishes even the most knowledgeable members of the Art & Antiques trade. Lindsey Knapp, the former equine sports injury specialist and now director of the established sporting art dealer Victoria Gallery, is about as perfectly placed as anyone alive today to comment on the Queen’s dual status as a patron of Country Sports, Equestrianism and The Arts in equal measure.

Having studied and worked with horses as a profession, Knapp was at the cutting edge of working on sports injuries in horses from 1980. She studied under Sir Charles Strong and was assisted in her work by Mary Bromley who introduced the Chartered Physiotherapists register for working alongside veterinary surgeons. All her work was referred by Veterinary Surgeons and she treated horses trained by John Dunlop, Josh Gifford, including working with top show jumpers, polo ponies, hunters, eventers and children ponies. Lindsey’s then husband was Simon Knapp, veterinary surgeon to HRH The Queen, who then and today is involved with Her Majesty’s horses in the Royal Mews, Racing and Polo.

Today from her vantage point within her sporting art gallery located inside the spectacular grounds of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire, Knapp concisely comments “As fundamentally a sports and horse person and also a collector and seller of rare sporting arts and antiques it is perfectly plain and clear to me that despite her public accessing of most aspects of the Royal Collection, The Queen’s magnificent contribution to the Arts remains enormously underrated”.

Lindsey Knapp, Victoria Gallery

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