The Queen opens royal manuscripts exhibit at British Library

PUBLISHED: 15:52 14 November 2011

The Queen opens the Royal Manuscripts - The Genius of Illumination exhibition at The British Library. She is pictured being presented with an exhibition catalogue by chairwoman of the British Library Baroness, Tessa Blackstone. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Queen opens the Royal Manuscripts - The Genius of Illumination exhibition at The British Library. She is pictured being presented with an exhibition catalogue by chairwoman of the British Library Baroness, Tessa Blackstone. Picture: Polly Hancock


The Queen has given the royal seal of approval to a groundbreaking new exhibition at the British Library charting the development of royal manuscripts.

Wearing a pastel green skirt and jacket, and clutching a black patent leather handbag, the Queen greeted patrons of the library last Thursday (November 10).

She was also met by distinguished guests, including Camden Mayor Cllr Abdul Quadir, as she opened the new show Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination.

Admiring crowds lined the entrance to the library in Euston Road, King’s Cross, to catch a glimpse of the Queen and Prince Philip.

Once inside, the royal couple were shown round the exhibition, which includes a prayer book owned by Elizabeth of York, the wife of Henry VII, and many lavishly decorated gold leafed books dating back as far as the ninth century.

And in a fitting example of how the riches of the past can be accessed through the innovations of the modern world, the Queen was shown The European Monarch Motets for Henry VIII - in both its richly illustrated original, and on an iPad as part of the library’s growing digital collection.

It was this music manuscript, presented to the Tudor king in 1516 that the Queen lingered over the longest, beckoning Prince Philip over to show it to him.

Dr Andreas Clarke, who showed her the manuscript, said: “She seemed to really enjoy looking at it. It is a beautiful manuscript and I explained the concept to her.

“The first illumination is of a walled garden that represented England, when I explained that to her she seemed quite amused.”

Dr Kathleen Doyle, who helped to guide the Queen round the exhibition, said: “She was very gracious. I showed her three personal prayer books that were owned by earlier Queens.

“She sounded very interested.

“It is the first time I have met royalty and I was very nervous. We were practicing our curtseys all last night.”

The exhibition brings together 154 gilded handwritten books owned by Kings and Queens of England from the ninth to the 16th centuries.

Many of these richly embroidered texts were produced in Europe, and reveal the close affinity of English royalty with fashionable continental styles, particularly from the French Court.

Baroness Tessa Blackstone, chairwoman of the British Library, told several hundred invited guests: “Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is a rare opportunity to see these works together.

“It is a great art exhibition containing some of the most beautiful examples of decorative art, and offers a unique insight into the lives of the people who created them.

“They capture monarchs’ lives, offering mature monarchs a model in which to base their actions, and young princes exemplar to follow.

“They are truly a window into the medieval world.”

The exhibition runs until March 12, 2012.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories


Homeland actress Nazanin Boniadi joined Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of jailed West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, at a special performance of a play to raise awareness of his wife’s plight.


Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Or so the saying goes. However it was only Camden’s political activists and left-wing campaigner Owen Jones who braved the snow on a freezing Saturday morning.


Hoaxers made bomb threats to schools in Camden, Haringey and Barnet this morning in a plot targeting around the country.

A group of 15 budding politicians have launched their campaigns to become Camden’s next youth MP.


Crouch End pupil Jude Rogers beat stiff competition to win an award for his film at BFI Southbank.


An 85-year-old former amateur boxer who kept his sexuality a secret for decades is to take to the stage as a drag queen.


A rap artist has paid tribute to his roots by releasing a song inspired by the W7 bus.


A drug dealer who attacked and seriously injured a police chief has been jailed for five years and four months.


Melange, with locations in Barnet and Crouch End, has opened a third in Belsize Park. Here co-owner Justina Markauskaite talks about removing the borders between cuisines and why they put family at the centre of everything they do

Toni Krok, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007, has set up a charity to help people living with the condition and their families adjust to the challenges it brings.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now