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Culture

"A Very Special Lady"

A new exhibition at the British Embassy in Berlin reveals a hitherto less-known aspect of Queen Elisabeth's 50 year reign.

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More than a monarch - Queen Elisabeth II, at the Berlin exhibition

In recent weeks, her smile covered numerous newspapers and magazines. Her image appeared on television screens and websites, and the story of her life was told more often than ever before.

Indeed, during the recent Golden Jubilee celebrations, the Queen was the centre of attraction all over the world – including Germany. But despite a wide diversity of media coverage, one image appears to prevail – that of the wise, committed, experienced, yet somewhat stiff and formal British sovereign.

A new exhibition in Berlin has broken with this tradition. The British Embassy’s "Golden Jubilee Photo Exhibtion", which opens on Friday, proves that the British Queen, born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in 1926, is anything but stiff and formidable.

Leopard-skin and black socks

At the exhibition, the Queen can be seen wearing black socks (with an apricot coloured dress) during a visit to a mosque (1997), a fashionable leopard-skin coat (1962), or wearing a long white "gamis", the traditional muslim dress during a visit to Pakistan in 1999.

Additional photo material shows other members of the Royal Family rarely seen before in public, such as Prince Charles with a moustache (1975), a dismayed Queen and family as their horses lose at the Derby (1993), or two-year-old Prince Charles with his mother - before she became Queen.

Fotoausstellung in der britischen Botschaft in Berlin

The exhibition, which took six months to prepare, comprises of more than a hundred photos from both British, and German photo achives - "a walk down memory lane", according to the British ambassador in Berlin, Sir Paul Lever.

Monarch, animal lover and sportswoman

However, "it is the exhibition’s variety which makes it special", Pat Ramsey from the embassy says. Indeed, it shows the Queen as monarch, animal lover and sportwoman, and is accompanied by numerous quirky facts about the Queen’s 50 year rule.

Facts and figures include how, in 1972, Queen Elisabeth was presented with two tortoises by the Seychelle Islands, a 7-year-old elephant bull called "Jumbo" by Cameroon, and a canary in 1965 in Germany.

Walking through the Embassy’s sun-filled conservatory, visitors can learn that the Queen has consulted 10 prime ministers, has signed 3135 laws, and has visited 128 countries on 251 official overseas state visits, including the 5.4 square mile Cocos Islands.

And did you know that Queen Elisabeth has owned 30 corgis, that her current dogs are called Pharos, Swift, Emma and Linnet, and that she has sent 75 000 Christmas Puddings to Palace employees ?

Five trips to Berlin

In addition, a large part of the exhibition is dedicated to the Queen’s five trips to Berlin.

Images on show include the Queen in 1965 at the Berlin Wall, pictured with the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1978, and with Berlin’s mayor Eberhard Diepgen, both in the eighties, and in 2000, at the opening of the British Embassy – the Queen’s first opening of an embassy abroad.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, the ambassador said "we thought about how we could invite guests to come to the embassy for the Golden Jubilee".

Whereas millions took to the streets in London to take place in the Golden Jubilee celebrations over the last weekend, German Royal Family fans had to make do with watching the festivities on television. "With the exhibition, people in Berlin can get their own feel for the Golden Jubilee celebrations".

"We would like to share our thanks for a very special lady", he said.

The exhibition is open to the public from June 7 - July 3 2002 (except for June 12-14), Monday to friday 13.00 - 17.00.

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