LONDON An exhibition running until October aims to provide visitors to Buckingham Palace with a rare insight into the Queen's many and varied day jobs.
Marking the annual Summer opening of the palace's 19 state rooms to the public, "The Queen's Year" focuses on the 84-year-old sovereign's hectic calendar.
It includes 10 hats she has worn to the Royal Ascot races since 1967, a video loop showing her first televised Christmas broadcast in the winter of 1957 and a selection of hand-made birthday cards from the 3,000 sent from around the world each year.
The exhibition also boasts treasures from the palace's storage rooms that have never been seen before -- including the Queen's personal saddle used until 1986 in Trooping the Colour, and the impressive 5.5m (18 ft) crimson velvet robe featured in the annual State Opening of Parliament.
"The robe is worn by the Queen every year and had never been shown because it was too large," said co-curator David Oakey.
Last year the Queen undertook nearly 400 engagements in the UK and overseas, but visitors learn she still starts every day in the same way, by scanning the tabloid and broadsheet newspapers.
But don't expect to brush past the monarch in the palace's ornate gilded corridors: the Head of State has moved out for two months to take up residence at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Before she left, she toured The Queen's Year to provide anxious curators with her royal seal of approval ahead of the public opening.
Co-curator Caroline De Guitaut said the Queen "always comes to visit the summer opening of the exhibition before the public. Obviously it's very special for us to get her reaction."
"And for her I think as well it was quite unusual, quite strange to see everything in one go."
Palace staff used to opportunity to publicise the Queen's hands-on approach during Wednesday's inspection by uploading a photo, taken during the private screening, to the Monarchy's new photo-sharing Flickr account.
The image shows the Queen, dressed in a long-sleeved pink dress picked out with shades of blue, followed by the Duke of Edinburgh, walking past a giant photo of herself surrounded by guardsmen wearing bearskin hats in Canada -- one of her duties as head of the Commonwealth.
Odd gifts from regional visits are also on display, including recycled phone coasters from Vodafone, miniature cars from Jaguar, and a Wallace and Gromit model from the cartoon's creators Aardman Animations.
"Then you go to things that are perhaps more familiar ... in terms of opening buildings and laying foundations," De Guitaut added.
"There are various trowels, a mallet for tapping in stone, a bell from "The Admiral' which she launched in 1965 and a plaque of the "Queen's Messenger', which is actually a replica of the nameplate of the Royal Train."
"It gives you an idea of the volume and the variety of the things she does," De Guitaut said.
This year the palace has opened a café, serving royal fare on cardboard crockery, in the West Terrace to refresh the 400,000 guests it expects to visit in the 10 weeks of the show.
The Queen's Year is open until October 1. Tickets cost 17 pounds.
(Editing by Steve Addison)