Tiny treasures from Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House go on show at Windsor Castle

NO ARCHIVING. MANDATORY CREDIT: Royal Collection Trust/© His Majesty King Charles III 2024
Visitors to Windsor Castle will be able to see a collection of the house’s intricate items up close from January 18. Credit: Royal Collection Trust/© His Majesty King Charles III 2024

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House – the largest and most famous in the world – is to be celebrated at Windsor Castle this year to mark the 100th anniversary of its creation.

The perfect 1:12 scale replica of an Edwardian residence, complete with electricity, working lifts, running water, luxurious royal suites and functional below-stairs servants’ quarters, was built for King George V’s consort as a gift from the nation after the First World War.

Visitors to the Berkshire castle will be able to see a collection of the house’s intricate items up close in a centenary display in the grand Waterloo Chamber from January 18.

Tiny treasures on show will include a miniature concert grand piano, which is fully strung and with functioning keys, and scaled-down Crown Jewels inset with real diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and seed pearls.

There is also a little Hoover vacuum cleaner – a relatively new invention in the 1920s – a Singer sewing machine complete with thread and minuscule scissors that can actually cut, and a copper kettle made from a coin with the King’s head still visible on its base.

The Queen Mary's Dolls' House is the largest and most famous dolls' house in the world. Credit: Royal Collection Trust/© His Majesty King Charles III 2024

More than 1,500 of the leading artists, craftspeople and manufacturers of the early 20th century including Faberge and Cartier worked on a three-year project to create the beautifully furnished rooms.

Kathryn Jones, the display’s curator, said: “Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is a constant source of fascination for visitors to Windsor Castle, as irresistible to adults as it is to children.

“We are thrilled that we can bring the tiny treasures of the dolls’ house to a wider audience in this anniversary year.”

It was completed in 1924, with lavishly decorated bedroom suites for the King and Queen, a day nursery, a grand saloon with a pair of red velvet and silver thrones, a dining room and a sweeping staircase in an impressive marble-style entrance hall.

The aristocratic mansion has been re-lit to simulate daylight rather than moonlight ready for the anniversary celebrations.

Murals by decorative landscape painter Philip Connard and artists Dorothy Cohen and Winifred Hardman have been restored in the room where the house was displayed from 1925.

The dolls house includes a scaled-down Crown Jewels inset with real diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and seed pearls. Credit: Royal Collection Trust/© His Majesty King Charles III 2024

For the first time, the house’s interior has been filmed from a dolls’ eye view perspective with footage on the Royal Collection’s website, giving viewers the chance to explore settings including the Queen’s bedroom, library, kitchen and day nursery in closer detail.

One of its most famous features is its library, for which more than 170 of the era’s foremost authors including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vita Sackville-West, AA Milne, Thomas Hardy and Aldous Huxley penned miniature books.

Some such as Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw refused the request.

Camilla, a voracious reader and patron of a number of literary charities, has written a foreword to the book, The Miniature Library Of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House by Elizabeth Clark Ashby, with excerpts from selected works – some for the first time.

A new Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House souvenir range is also available in Royal Collection Trust shops.

The house also has a fully stocked wine cellar filled with bottles of fine wine, champagne, London gin and barrels of whiskey. Credit: Royal Collection Trust/© His Majesty King Charles III 2024

Queen Mary – King Charles III’s great-grandmother – was known to be a fan of all things small and decorative and the original idea came from her childhood friend, George V’s cousin Princess Marie Louise.

Its designer was leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who described it as “a miniature mansion such as the King & Queen might live in… in every detail complete”.

The house also has a fully stocked wine cellar filled with bottles of fine wine, champagne, London gin and barrels of whiskey.

The champagne bottles were filled using tiny glass pipettes but the bubbles had to be removed to make this possible.

The special display of items from the dolls’ house is included with a ticket to Windsor Castle from January 18 and throughout 2024.


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