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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

Archant

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.

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