Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Royal Fanfare Exhibit at Toronto Reference Library

The Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge St. has been under-going a multi-year renovation and revitalization project.  At least part of this seems to be finished now and has resulted in the opening of a Balzac's Coffee attached to and accessible from inside the library, as well as an expanded TD Gallery exhibition space.

This Balzac's Coffee location is a welcome edition to our neighbourhood since previously the closest one was in the Distillery District and it is always packed.  I particularly like their cold, frothy Cafe Frappe drink that comes with 2 shots of espresso.  I didn't exactly complain about the apple caramel muffin either!  I've always admired the signs that they make up for each of the Balzac locations.  In particular, I'm amused by the ultra corny one for Stratford Ontario that reads "Alas poor Yorick, we brew him well."  The new one for the Reference Library shows a man leaning against a huge coffee mug while sitting on a stack of books including one by Honor√© de Balzac.

The exhibit currently showing in the TD Gallery is called "Royal Fanfare".  It features photographs, engravings, books and souvenirs from past Kings and Queens of Europe.  The memorabilia depict important ceremonies including birthdays, funerals, coronations and royal visits associated with monarchies through history and across different European countries.  Comparing the pomp and pageantry from the various eras, its interesting to see that although there are minor differences in style of dress, decorations and modes of transportation, overall not that much has changed throughout the centuries.

Some of the images are extremely old including one of ceremonial decorations created for Francois, Duc d'Anjou's arrival in Antwarp, Belgium in 1582, King James II of England's marriage to Queen Mary of Modena in 1685, elaborate lighting displays celebrating the inauguration of King Charles VI of France  in1717 in Ghent Flanders, and fireworks in honour of the1739 marriage between Philip of Spain and Louise, daughter of King Louis XV.

While the historic photos and etchings were impressive, much more personal and interesting were the souvenirs and memorabilia of the various monarchs.  A board game called The Royal Genealogy Pastimes of the Sovereigns of England dates back to the 1700s and features English kings and queens ranging from Saxon times through to George III.  Acknowledging his brutality towards his wives, landing on the square for Henry VIII triggers the largest penalty and causes you to go back to the beginning of the game. 

There was a jigsaw puzzle where each piece represents a different royal family.  A rose covered place card signed by Queen Victoria as a young girl was a birthday present for her mother.  One interesting item was called a "Jacob's Ladder".  It consists of a series of panels strung together with ribbon with a handle at the top.  The handle is used to flip the panels to expose the drawings on the other side.  This particular ladder had a painting of Queen Victoria on one side and Prince Albert on the other.

 More recent souvenirs included a King George VI chocolate bar, commemorative stamps of Queen Elizabeth II as a child, and a paper doll kit in her image with clothing such as a sailor's suit, pajamas, cape and crown.

There was a very informative video that gave more information about all the items in the exhibit.  It was too long to watch on our first visit, but we'll have to return for a more thorough viewing.

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