queen marys dolls house a glimpse into royal life 100 years ago

At a time of turmoil for Britain’s royal family, an exhibition at Windsor Castle provides an insight into the lives of an earlier king and queen.

The silver crown is set with diamonds. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds and seed pearls are peppered through the design. And the red velvet cap inside would be fit to cushion the head of a monarch.

Except that the whole thing is only an inch tall.

The jeweled miniature, a copy of Britain’s Imperial State Crown, is part of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, on display at Windsor Castle outside London, where the everyday objects, luxuries and curiosities of royal life in the early 20th century are reproduced at one-twelfth scale.

Scrutiny of Britain’s royal family was supercharged this past week by the announcement of King Charles III’s cancer diagnosis, which followed the hospitalization of Catherine, Princess of Wales, in January.

But while the modern monarchy finds itself under a sometimes unwelcome microscope, the dolls’ house has for a century allowed visitors to peer inside the rooms of a palace — albeit at a tiny scale.

The house was given to Queen Mary, the wife of King George V, in 1924, not as a child’s toy, but as a carefully constructed depiction of the best of British craftsmanship for a royal who loved all things miniature.

A January 1924 report in The Times of London described how Queen Mary, then 57, had inspected her gift “and expressed the keenest appreciation of its wonders,” which included running water and electric lifts.

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