Throughout 2024, Royal Collection Trust will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and its remarkable library at Windsor Castle.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest and most famous dolls’ house in the world, was built between 1921 and 1924 as a gift from the nation to Queen Mary following the First World War. It is a perfect 1:12 scale replica of a period residence, and one of its chief wonders is the library.
This captured the literary culture of the 1920s through miniature books penned by the era’s foremost writers, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Vita Sackville-West to A. A. Milne and Thomas Hardy. A new publication, The Miniature Library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, by Elizabeth Clark Ashby, explores the stories behind the creation of the Dolls’ House Library with a foreword by Her Majesty The Queen and excerpts from selected works, some of which are reproduced for the first time. A full interview with the author will appear in the spring issue of Fine Books.
The house is very much a working residence with electricity, lifts and running water. Its scaled-down rooms range from a fully stocked wine cellar and ‘below-stairs’ spaces to grand entertaining salons.
This year, visitors to the Castle can see a special centenary display of items usually contained within the Dolls’ House, staged in the magnificent Waterloo Chamber. These range from a tiny concert grand piano, fully strung and with functioning keys, to miniature Crown Jewels inset with real diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and seed pearls. Items from the kitchens and servants’ quarters include a vacuum cleaner (a relatively new innovation in the 1920s); a sewing machine, complete with thread and minuscule scissors that can actually cut; and a copper kettle made from a coin, with the King’s head still visible on its base.
Kathryn Jones, curator of the special display, said: "Queen Mary's Dolls' House is a constant source of fascination for visitors to Windsor Castle, as irresistible to adults as it is to children. We are thrilled that we can bring the tiny treasures of the Dolls' House to a wider audience in this anniversary year."
The Miniature Library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House by Elizabeth Clark Ashby
The room at Windsor Castle that was created to house the Dolls’ House almost 100 years ago has also been re-presented to mark the anniversary. Designed by the house’s architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, it features murals by the decorative landscape artist Philip Connard together with the artists Dorothy Cohen and Winifred Hardman. These murals have been expertly restored and re-lit, so that visitors can appreciate the fine-detailed scenes of elegantly dressed figures promenading and relaxing in the grounds of a series of royal residences, including Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and Hampton Court.
The Dolls’ House itself has been relit to simulate daylight rather than moonlight, and the room’s ornate corner niches have been restored and filled with miniature plants and flowers, which were originally created as part of a seasonal scheme for the Dolls’ House Garden.
The special display of items from the Dolls’ House is included with a ticket to Windsor Castle throughout 2024.