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THE QUEEN MUM'S SECRETS; House opens doors for the first time Private life revealed as Clarence.


THIS was the Queen Mother's private and exclusive world which will be revealed to the public for the first time today.

Prince Charles is throwing open the doors of Clarence House two days after he and Camilla Parker Bowles took it over as his official residence.

The mansion, close to Buckingham Palace, has been lavishly refurbished with pounds 4.5million of taxpayers' money plus pounds 1.6million paid by Charles for decorations.

But though the result is not meant as a shrine to the Queen Mother her presence is everywhere.

Elegant rooms harking back to a vanished age when her late night parties were the talk of London capture her flair and style.

Portraits show the royal matriarch as a young woman, Queen and grandmother. Paintings and bronzes of her favourite racehorses line the walls of the Horse Corridor. Touchingly there is also a portrait standing on an inlaid table showing the Queen's corgis Billy and Bee.

The Queen Mother, whose memory is cherished by her favourite grandson, moved into the stately Pall Mall home after the death of her husband King George VI in 1952.

From that day until she died at 101 last year she carefully protected its intimate secrets from prying eyes as jealously as she shielded her private life.

During her long life, she amassed a valuable art collection which was inherited by the Queen but remains at Clarence House. The collection includes works by John Piper, W S Sickert and Augustus John. One of the prince's favourite portraits of his grandmother, by Graham Sutherland, hangs in the tasteful Morning Room decorated in light blue with Chippendale furniture. Plasterwork on the ceiling shows the Queen Mother's crown.

To his grandmother's belongings - which include fabulous English porcelain - Prince Charles has added some pieces from his own art collection and others from the Royal Collection.

In a personal touch, framed photographs of Princes William and Harry are on display while the Queen Mum's bookshelves feature 13 titles by racing author Dick Francis. In the Hall leading to the Horse Corridor the Queen Mother's Garter Banner, taken from St George's Chapel at Windsor after her death, hangs in her memory. The Garden Room houses the Queen Mother's desk which has already been used by Charles, a prolific letter writer.

Alongside a photo of a teenage Wills are two pictures of the Queen, a photo of a young King George VI and a bust of King George V.

The distinctive Lancaster Room is also among the five ground floor rooms visitors will be able to tour. None of the private upper floor apartments is open to the public. After the tour the public will be able to buy souvenirs from a gift shop.

Official pictures released yesterday carefully avoided revealing the secrets of Charles's own bedroom and the suite for Camilla.

Charles moved into his new home from York House - his cramped apartments at nearby St James's Palace - on the 103rd anniversary of the Queen Mother's birth.

Camilla originally planned to move into the Queen Mother's private bedroom. But when she realised the fury her plans provoked among courtiers and public, she chose other rooms with Charles footing the bill.

The Queen Mum's old room, packed with her favourite stylish furniture, will now be used by Charles as a family sitting room. Wills and Harry will also have their own rooms.

Charles previously lived at Clarence House between the ages of one and three when the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, and Prince Philip moved there following their marriage in 1947.

This is the first time the home has opened to the public. It was built in 1825 by John Nash for the Duke of Clarence, who later lived there as William IV.

This year's summer tour is already almost sold out with 45,000 of the 46,000 tickets available bought in advance.


CHARM: 1923 portrait as Duchess of York; ELEGANT: Lancaster Room captures the Queen Mother's stylish taste; ADORED: A 1970 painting by Peter Biegel of royal corgis Billy and Bee in the Morning Room; FAVOURITE: Sutherland portrait of Queen Mum; SERENE: 1945 portrait; SUMPTUOUS: Main Hall leading to the Horse Corridor; PRINCESS: Elizabeth in 1948; INTIMATE: Light blue Morning Room where Queen Mum entertained guests
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 6, 2003
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