The Royal Barge, Spirit of Chartwell by Joseph Bennett
As Elizabeth II processes along the Thames in the Spirit of Chartwell on June 3, take a close look at the glorious red, gold and purple garlands of flowers hung around the bow and the displays on deck. You might notice some rather unusual blooms. Proteas, perhaps. Or a wattle flower. For Rachel de Thame, garden designer and television presenter, is planning a design inspired not just by the Queen’s own gardens but on the Norman Hartnell coronation gown of 1953.
Rachel de Thame said: "I’m extremely honoured to have been invited to contribute to the preparations for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant celebrations. When Her Majesty steps on board the Royal Barge, she will be surrounded by the delightful sight and fragrance of flowers from her different realms. As well as looking beautiful and being filled with meaning, the display should highlight to those watching around the world, the rich horticultural heritage of the UK and the Commonwealth.”
While designing the coronation gown, Norman Hartnell was sent back to the drawing board seven times but the eighth design finally found favour with its embroidery of flowers symbolising the Commonwealth. As well as the familiar leeks, roses and thistles he wove in silver ferns for New Zealand, wattle for Australia and proteas for South Africa. He even included a four leaf shamrock, for luck.
The question is whether Mark Fane of online nursery www.crocus.co.uk, who is creating the display with artist Kitty Arden and a team of 40, will follow Hartnell’s lead and include lotus flowers for India and Sri Lanka and jute, cotton and wheat for Pakistan?
This article was first published in the June 2012 issue of Saga Magazine. For more fascinating and thought-provoking articles like this, subscribe today.