LondonLife – Christmas lights in the West End…

Christmas is looming so here’s our first look at some of London’s Christmas light displays…

Christmas lights in Regent Street. ALL PICTURES: Jed Leicester/PinP
Christmas lights in South Moulton Street, Mayfair…
Christmas tree and lights at Covent Garden.
One of the Selfridges Christmas windows on Oxford Street.
Harrods Brompton Road frontage decorated for Christmas.

This Week in London – Christmas at Hampton Court Palace; the V&A’s couture Christmas Tree; and, the stories of Asian and African foundlings…

Festive Fayre returns to Hampton Court Palace this weekend with visitors having the chance to do some Christmas shopping, sample some festive treats and enjoy live music. The festival, which runs from Friday to Sunday, takes place ahead of the launch of the palace’s Christmas light trail – Palace of Light – next Wednesday (7th December). Inspired by Henry VIII’s heraldic beasts, it features an array of installations, ranging from a sea-monster lurking in the Great Fountain Garden to polka-dot panther lanterns in the Wilderness. Created by the award-winning outdoor event producers Wild Rumpus, the light trail can be visited until 2nd January. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

Christmas tree installation, designed by Miss Sohee PICTURE: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A has unveiled its couture Christmas Tree installation for this year – a work by London-based Korean fashion designer Miss Sohee. On display in the Cromwell Road Grand Entrance, the installation reimagines the traditional Christmas tree as a three metre long couture gown, which combines Sohee’s signature style of vibrant silhouettes and intricate embroidery with religious statuary found around the museum. The installation can be seen until 5th January. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.

On Now – Tiny Traces: African & Asian Children at London’s Foundling Hospital. This exhibition at The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury explores the newly discovered stories of African and Asian children in the care of the hospital in the 18th century, following the stories of more than a dozen children through personal items, physical artefacts, works of art and archival documents. In a parallel thread, works of art by artists including Zarina Bhimji, Hew Locke, Kehinde Wiley, Alexis Peskine, Deborah Roberts and Shanti Panchal form a dialogue with the historic narratives. Admission charge applies. Runs until 19th February. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

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This Week in London – 12 Days of Christmas at the Tower; Museum of London celebrates its London Wall closing; and, William Beatty at the Old Royal Naval College…

The Tower of London is getting into the festive spirit with a celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Twelve installations have been installed at the Tower, each representing as different aspect of the fortress’s unique history – from nine wreaths representing “nine rowdy ravens” to five gold coins representing the Mint once housed there. There’s also the six Queens of King Henry VIII and three “lordly lions” – a reference to a gift presented to King Henry III and housed in a Lion Pit at the tower. Visitors will have the chance to collect a map at the start of their visit and follow a trail to find the installations at they explore the Tower. Christmas at the Tower of London runs daily until 3rd January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/.

The Museum of London is preparing to close its doors at its London Wall site as it moves to its new location in Smithfield and to celebrate it’s holding two free weekend festivals. The first, to be held this weekend, will feature family-friendly activities including arts and crafts, dance, face painting and theatrical performances while the second, to be held on the weekend of 3rd and 4th December (after which the museum will close), will feature a celebration of London’s music scene from the 70s to the present day with a DJ sets, a late night film festival and museum’s first ever 24 hour opening. Visitors on both weekends can also take part in London Biggest Table Football competition for a chance to win an England shirt signed by Harry Kane and to see the museum’s collection in a new light thanks to an illuminated display. For more on the festivals, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london.

Now On: Blood and Battle: Dissecting the life of William Beatty. The life and work of renowned 19th-century naval surgeon and physician, Sir William Beatty, is explored in this exhibition at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The display – which marks 200 years since Beatty, who had served as ship’s surgeon on HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar (and who wore the musket ball that killed Nelson in a locket on his watch chain for the rest of his life afterwards) – took up the post of Physician to the Royal Hospital for Seamen – explores Beatty’s work as a ship’s surgeon, his time at Greenwich Hospital and how he was honoured by being knighted and appointed Physician Extraordinary to George IV and the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) as well as his outside interests including his involvement in developing the London – Greenwich Railway. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://ornc.org.

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8 locations for royal burials in London…8. Kensal Green Cemetery…

Princess Sophia’s grave at Kensal Green Cemetery. PICTURE: Stephencdickson (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The oldest of London’s so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries established in the 19th century, Kensal Green is the burial place of a few members of the royal family dating from the Georgian and Victorian eras.

The ninth child and sixth son of King George III, Prince Augustus Frederick, the Duke of Sussex, died at Kensington Palace at the age of 70. In his will, he specifically requested he not have a state funeral and so was buried at Kensal Green on 4th May, 1843. His rather plain grey monument which is surrounded by concrete bollards, is located in front of the cemetery’s main chapel.

Opposite his grave is the tomb of his sister Princess Sophia, the 12th child of King George III. She, too, died at Kensington Palace – on 27th May, 1848 – and wished to be buried near her brother instead of at Windsor.

King George III’s grandson, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, was also buried at Kensal Green. A military man (and ally of Queen Victoria), he served as commander-in-chief for 39 years before being forced to resign in 1895. He died in 1904 at Gloucester House, Piccadilly, in 1904 and was buried at Kensal Green with his wife the following day.

WHERE: Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Road, Queen’s Park (nearest Tube station is Kensal Green); WHEN: Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sundays 10am to 5pm; COST: Free: WEBSITE: www.kensalgreencemetery.com.

LondonLife – Reflected skyline…

PICTURE: Dimitry Anikin/Unsplash.

The Docklands reflected in The Thames.

This Week in London – 10 years of Christmas at Kew; British and Chinese at the British Library; and, The Horror Show! at Somerset House…

Christmas returned to Kew this week with the launch of its 10th festive light trail. This year’s display features some past favourites as well as new light installations including Feathers by Pyrite Creative which features 16 floating UV feathers which sway in the breeze, LuminARTi’s Willow Hives which illuminate natural forms, and Illusion Hole by UxU Studio, a geometrically arranged pattern situated on the lake which presents visitors with an optical illusion in which water formed by light appears to flow into an unknown abyss. The popular Fire Garden has returned along with the Christmas Cathedral and a series of breath-taking projections dance across the surface of the Palm House and adjacent lake, set to a memorable soundtrack of much-loved Christmas classics. The display can be seen until 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org/christmas.

Frank Soo at the Victoria Ground, Stoke, 1933. PICTURE: The Sentinel & StokeonTrentLive

A free exhibition exploring British Chinese communities and culture opens at the British Library tomorrow. Chinese and British celebrates the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK and presents personal stories and artefacts. Highlights include a hand-drawn map of China by Shen Fuzong – the first recorded Chinese person to visit the UK in 1687, a detailed doll’s house model of a Chinese takeaway, Ling Shuhua’s 1953 autobiography, Ancient Melodies, which was dedicated to Virginia Woolf who offered advice on drafts of her memoir, a fan made of bamboo slats and paper from mulberry bark in Hangzhou and pair of hand-embroidered shoes belonging to Kathy Hall, a London-based practitioner of traditional Chinese opera. There’s also trench art produced by Chinese Labour Corps workers during World War I, cigarette cards featuring Frank Soo, the first player of Chinese origin to play in the English Football League, and Rosanna Lee’s 2022 film Parallel which follows a family during their weekly ritual of going out for dim sum at the Pearl Dragon restaurant in Southend-on-Sea. The exhibition can be seen until 23rd April. For more, see www.bl.uk.

On Now: The Horror Show!: A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain. This display at Somersert House, divided into three acts – ‘Monster’, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Witch’, explores how exploring how ideas rooted in horror have informed the last 50 years of creative rebellion, looking beyond horror as a genre and instead “taking it as a reaction and provocation to our most troubling times”. The display features more than 200 artworks and culturally significant objects including Chila Burman’s If There is No Struggle, There is no Progress – Uprising (1981), Derek Jarman’s last feature and magnum opus, Blue (1993), and a striking presentation of Turner Prize winning-artist Tai Shani’s The Neon Hieroglyph (2021). Admission charges apply. Runs until 19th February. For more, see somersethouse.org.uk. ​

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8 locations for royal burials in London…7. Westminster Abbey (near the High Altar)…

We return to Westminster Abbey for the location of yet another royal tomb – this time that of another of King Henry VIII’s wife, Anne of Cleves.

The back of the tomb with inscription. PICTURE: VCR Giulio19 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0/image lightened)

Anne, who lived in England for some 17 years after her marriage to King Henry VIII was annulled after just six months in July, 1540, died at Chelsea on 17th July, 1557, during the reign of Queen Mary I (she was the last of King Henry VIII’s wives to die).

Queen Mary ordered her funeral to be held at Westminster Abbey and she was laid to rest on the south side of the high altar. The unfinished stone monument, believed to have been the work of Theodore Haveus of Cleves, features carvings which depict her initials AC with a crown. There are also depictions of lions’ heads and skulls and crossed bones (believed to represent the idea of mortality).

An inscription on the back of the tomb was added in the 1970s. It can be viewed from the south transept and reads: “Anne of Cleves Queen of England. Born 1515. Died 1557” but this was not added until the 1970s.

HERE: Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey (nearest Tube stations are Westminster and St James’s Park); WHEN: Times vary – see the website for details; COST: £27 adults/£24 concession/£12 children (discounts for buying online; family rates available); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org

LondonLife – Marking the King’s birthday; remembering the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in war; and, welcoming a new Lord Mayor…

Members of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery arrive at Green Park for the 41 gun salute to celebrate King Charles III’s 74th birthday on Monday. In London, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and The Honourable Artillery Company each fired celebratory Royal Salutes at 12 noon and 1pm respectively in what was the first formal birthday salute for King Charles III since he became monarch. PICTURE: Giles Anderson/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022.
Members of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery firing a 41-gun salute to celebrate King Charles III’s 74th birthday. PICTURE: Giles Anderson/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022.
King Charles III leads the royal party to their position at the Cenotaph on Sunday as armed forces personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force came together for Remembrance Sunday and the National Service of Remembrance. Joining the King and members of the Royal Family, more than 600 members of the Armed Forces honoured the brave servicemen and women killed in all conflicts since the First World War. PICTURE: Simon Walker / No10 Downing Street/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022.
Armed Forces personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force gathered at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, for the National Service of Remembrance. PICTURE: Cpl Tim Hammond/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022.
Pikeman march through the streets of the City of London for the Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday. Some 6,500 people, 250 horses, more than 50 decorated floats, and a flying pig, took part in the parade. PICTURE: Corporal Rob Kane/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022.
Nicholas Lyons, elected as the 694th Lord Mayor of the City of London, waves from the golden State Coach, which has been used in every Lord Mayor’s Show since 1757 and is the oldest ceremonial vehicle in regular use in the world. PICTURE: Lt Reilly AGC (ETS)/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

London Explained – Londinium…

Simply put, this is the name London was given during Roman times (and perhaps derives from an earlier Celtic word – although this remains the matter of much speculation).

There’s no substantial evidence of a settlement where London now stands until after the arrival of the Romans in 43 AD. The location was selected for the ease with which the Thames could be bridged and two hills which stand in what is now the city of London – Ludgate Hill on which St Paul’s cathedral stands and Cornhill – which could be fortified as a military stronghold.

A reconstruction of Londinium in 120 AD by Peter Froste which has was on show in the Museum of London. PICTURE: Carole Raddato (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

The fledging settlement was destroyed during the revolt of Queen Boudicca of the Iceni in 60 AD but rebuilt centred on Cornhill and the Walbrook stream. By the 70s AD, the main public buildings of the forum and basilica were placed on high ground east of the Walbrook and by the end of of the first century AD further grand buildings – the governor’s palace, amphitheatre and baths – had been added. Waterfront infrastructure for shipping – including quays and warehouses – stretched along the northern side of the river.

A fort was added and public buildings renovated before the visit of the Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD. Another fire destroyed much of the city but it was again rebuilt and late in the 2nd century walls were built around it, partially encircling a site of some 330 acres. Buildings subsequently constructed in the 3rd century included the Temple of Mithras and a monumental arch.

There were known to have been “suburbs” including at both Southwark and to the west around Trafalgar Square and cemeteries were built outside the walls.

The city’s population had already contracted somewhat by the time the legions were recalled to Rome in 410 AD. While the walls still offered the inhabitants some protection 50 years after the withdrawal of the legions, there’s scant evidence for how much longer it remained inhabited with the Anglo-Saxons known to have viewed the ruins of the Roman buildings with some trepidation.

This Week in London – The Lord Mayor’s Show; Mass-Observation remembered; and, modern and contemporary art at the British Museum…

The Lord Mayor’s Show will be held this Saturday, 12th November, welcoming the 694th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Nicholas Lyons, into office. The Show, which dates back to the early 13th century, features more than 6,500 people, 250 horses and more than 130 floats as well as the golden State Coach which has been used to carry the Lord Mayors since as far back as 1757 and is said to be the oldest ceremonial vehicle still in regular use anywhere in the world. The three mile long procession will start passing by Mansion House at 11am and make its way to St Paul’s Cathedral and then head on to the Royal Courts of Justice where the Mayor will swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch, before returning along the Embankment and Victoria Street to Mansion House. For more on the history of the Show and details about the best places to stand, head to https://lordmayorsshow.london.

The original headquarters of Mass-Observation, a pioneering social research organisation, has been marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The organisation started its worked at the property 6 Grotes Buildings in Blackheath from 1937 until 1939 – by the end of its first year there were around 600 ‘mass observers’ involved in the work, one of the key aims of which was to gauge public opinion on a range of issues to help enable the writing of “a democratic people’s history from below”. During World War II, Mass-Observation worked on behalf of the government and morphed into a market research company in 1949, Mass Observation Ltd, before being incorporated into the British Market Research Bureau. The project was restarted in 1981 at the University of Sussex and continues to this day. For more on English Heritage Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

A collection of about 100 modern and contemporary artworks on paper have gone on show at the British Museum, part of a larger gift of works donated by London-based art collector Hamish Parker. Art on paper since 1960: the Hamish Parker collection features works by works by the likes of British artist Lucian Freud, French-Israeli artist Avigdor Arikha, American artist Richard Serra and Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi. There are also two “artist in focus” sections which take a more in-depth look at the work of American artists Carroll Dunham and Al Taylor. Runs until 5th March in Gallery 90. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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8 locations for royal burials in London…6. St Peter ad Vincula…

The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. PICTURE: David Adams

Officially the The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, this small church is located in the Inner Ward of the Tower of London.

Under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch as a “royal peculiar”, the current building – and the name means “Peter in Chains”, a reference to St Peter’s imprisonment at the hands of King Herod – dates from 1520 and was constructed on the orders of King Henry VIII.

As well as being the burial place of officers who served at the Tower, the chapel – which is located only a few steps away from the execution site on Tower Green – is also the final resting place of many who were executed within the Tower’s precincts including the likes of Thomas Cromwell and Bishop John Fisher.

Those buried here include two of King Henry VIII’s wives who both suffered the ignominy of being beheaded. Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard – respectively the second and fifth wives of the king – were both interred here after their executions.

Memorial stone for Queen Anne Boleyn in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. PICTURE: AloeVera95 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Anne Boleyn, who was executed on 17th May, 1536, was buried under the floor in front of the high altar (along with her brother George who was executed two days before the Queen). Catherine Howard was executed several years later on 13th February, 1542, and was also buried beneath the floor.

The other royal figure buried in the Chapel was Lady Jane Grey, the “Nine Day Queen” who was executed on Tower Green on 12th February, 1554, at just the age of 17 on the orders of Queen Mary I. She was buried beneath the chapel’s altar (along with her husband, Lord Guilford Dudley, who was also executed on Tower Green).

The chapel fell into some neglect by the mid-19th century and in 1876 works were carried out under the direction of architect Anthony Salvin to restore the building. This included replacing the floor which had collapsed owing, it’s said, to the large number of burials that had taken place under it since the 16th century.

Many of the bodies were exhumed and identified, including that of Queen Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, and moved into a newly created crypt underneath.

The marble floor which was installed over the top features memorials commemorating those interred underneath. These include individual memorial stones for Henry VIII’s two Queens and a stone commemorating several of other prominent figures buried beneath including Lady Jane Grey.

WHERE: St Peter ad Vincula, Inner Ward, Tower of London (nearest Tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 10am to 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm), Tuesday to Saturday, 9am to 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm) Sunday to Monday; COST: £29.90 adults; £14.90 children 5 to 15; £24 concessions (family tickets available; discounts for online purchases/memberships); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/.

This Week in London – Bonfire Night; Treason at The National Archives; two Turner’s return after 100+ years; and, science fiction at the Science Museum…

A previous Bonfire Night in London. PICTURE: teo73/iStockphoto

“Remember, remember, the 5th of November…” It’s Bonfire Night this Saturday night and fireworks displays will be held across London with key displays at Alexandra Palace, Battersea Park and Wimbledon Park. Rather than list them all here, Visit London has put together a handy guide which you’ll find here.

A section of the Treason Act. PICTURE: Courtesy of The National Archives (Open Government Licence)

What did the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the establishment of the Church of England, the creation of the United States of America and the extension of UK voting rights have to do with acts of treason? Treason: People, Power & Plot, a new exhibition at The National Archives in Kew, examines the role treason has played across the span of 700 years of history. On display will be the original Treason Act, passed in 1352 during the reign of King Edward III (pictured), and the Monteagle Letter – which suggested the recipient should not attend parliament on 5th November, 1605 (effectively tipping them off about the Gunpowder Plot) as well as Guy Fawkes’ confession, a document containing the charges levelled against King Henry VIII’s ill fated wife, Anne Boleyn, and the United States’ Declaration of Independence. Accompanying the display will be a range of online and on-site events. The free exhibition opens on Saturday and runs until 6th April. For more, see www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/treason/.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) The Harbor of Dieppe, 1826 oil on canvas 68 3/8 in. x 88 3/4 in. (173.67 cm x 225.43 cm) Henry Clay Frick Bequest. Accession number: 1914.1.122

Two ground-breaking JMW Turner paintings – Harbour of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile and Cologne, the Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening – have returned to the UK for the first time in more than 100 years as part of a new exhibition at The National Gallery. The Turner on Tour exhibition looks at the artist’s life-long fascination with ports and harbours and highlights the regular sketching tours he took within Europe that were central to his fame as an artist-traveller, as well as his “radical approach to colour, light and brushwork”. The two paintings, which have not been since in the UK since 1911, were exhibited in New York in 1914 at the Knoedler Gallery. They were subsequently acquired by the American industrialist Henry Clay Frick and have remained in the United States ever since but are now being generously lent by The Frick Collection. Can be seen until 19th February in Room 46. Admission is free. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.

On Now: Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination. This exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington features more than 70 objects and uncovers connections between significant scientific innovations and celebrated science fiction works. On display is classic literature that has inspired new understandings of the world as well as set-pieces and props from iconic films and TV – everything from a Lieutenant Uhura costume from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to the Dalek from Doctor Who and a Darth Vader helmet created for Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. There are also contemporary artworks from across the globe that explore alternative futures for humanity. The exhibition is accompanied by an events programme. Runs until 4th May. Admission charges apply. For more, see sciencemuseum.org.uk/science-fiction.

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8 locations for royal burials in London…5. Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey…

Located just to the east of St Edward the Confessor’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey is the lavishly ornate Lady Chapel built on the orders of King Henry VII.

Described as the “last masterpiece of English medieval architecture”, the chapel is the resting place of King Henry VII and his wife Queen Elizabeth of York.

Effigies of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York. PICTURE: Ann Longmore-Etheridge/Public domain

The couple were the first to be buried in a vault under the floor rather than a tomb but still features an elaborate monument above the floor.

The monument was designed in the Renaissance style by Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano and features gilt bronze effigies of the King and Queen lying side-by-side above a black marble base decorated with six medallions representing the Virgin Mary and Henry’s patron saints (who included St Edward the Confessor). At either end of the base are coats of arms supported by cherubs.

A fine grille, designed by Thomas Ducheman, surrounds the monument – once gilded, it featured 30 statues in niches but only six – depicting saints – now remain. The lengthy Latin inscription written on the grille lauds King Henry as “a wise and watchful monarch, a courteous lover of virtue” among other superlatives. There are further inscriptions on the monument.

They’re not the only kings and queen’s buried in the chapel. King James I is buried in the vault under the King Henry VII’s tomb and his wife Queen Anne of Denmark is buried nearby.

Tomb of Elizabeth I. PICTURE: Wikimedia Commons (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Queen Elizabeth I is buried in the chapel’s north aisle with a monument above depicting her effigy. Her coffin was placed on top of her half-sister Queen Mary I whose body had been placed there after her death in 1558. The monument was installed on the orders of King James I who, while commissioning a depiction of Queen Elizabeth, didn’t order an effigy of Mary to be made. Instead, she is commemorated with an inscription translated as “Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection.”

The religious differences of the two Queens – Elizabeth being a Protestant and Mary a Catholic – are meanwhile commemorated in an inscription on the floor which reads: “Remember before God all those who divided at the Reformation by different convictions laid down their lives for Christ and conscience sake.”

Buried in a vault beneath the south aisle of the chapel – with just simple inscriptions on stones above (no monuments were erected due to the lack of space apparently – are the remains of the Stuart monarchs King Charles II, Queen Anne (and her husband Prince George), Queen Mary II and King William III.

The rather flamboyant tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots, is also in this aisle. King James I had her remains brought to the abbey from Peterborough Cathedral in 1612 and laid to rest in a marble tomb featuring an elaborate canopy and a white marble effigy at the feet of which stands a crowned Scottish lion. The eldest son of King James I, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, was also buried in the Queen’s vault (she was his grandmother), probably due to lack of space.

The young king Edward VI is buried beneath the floor in front of the altar and the last monarch to be buried in the abbey – King George II – lies in a vault under the central aisle along with his wife Queen Caroline and some of their children as well as other family members. On the King’s orders, the sides of the coffins of King George II and that of Queen Caroline were removed so their remains could mingle.

Several other royals – including Princess Mary of Orange, eldest daughter of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and Prince Rupert of the Rhine – are also buried in the chapel.

HERE: Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey (nearest Tube stations are Westminster and St James’s Park); WHEN: Times vary – see the website for details; COST: £27 adults/£24 concession/£12 children (discounts for buying online; family rates available); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org

LondonLife – The two towers…

The White Tower and The Shard. PICTURE: Nico V/Unsplash

Where’s London’s oldest…perfumer?

Not just said to be the oldest perfumer in London but in the UK, Floris London started life as a barber-shop and comb-maker in Jermyn Street, St James’s, by immigrant Juan Famenias Floris.

PICTURE: Sergey Moskalev (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Floris arrived in London in 1730, having travelled from the island of Menorca in the Balearic Islands which had become a British possession after it was captured in 1708 in the War of the Spanish Succession.

The story goes that Floris was missing the sweet scent of the flowers of his youth on the island and so he and his wife Elizabeth began creating and selling perfumes (and living in a premises above the shop).

Floris was granted his first Royal Warrant in 1820 soon after the accession of King George IV as ‘Smooth Pointed Comb Maker’ to His Majesty. It was to be the first of many.

Customers have included everyone from Admiral Lord Nelson (who kept a room Lady Emma Hamilton on the building’s third floor) and Florence Nightingale to Mary Shelley, Beau Brummell, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and members of the Royal Family including the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, creating a bespoke fragrance for their wedding in 2016.

Writer Ian Fleming was also a customer – the No 89 Eau de Toilette was to become a favourite of James Bond. The company’s other pop culture references include a mention in the Al Pacino film, Scent of a Woman.

Still a privately owned family business, Floris is still run by Juan’s’ descendants today and the London store at 89 Jermyn Street, which was renovated in 2017, remains in the same building Floris first established his business. The current shop front was added in the early 19th century and over it sits the original coat-of-arms granted by King George IV.

Inside, the Spanish mahogany cabinets were purchased from the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park in 1851. The four storey property, which these days features a small museum at the rear, is now Grade II-listed.

Floris opened a second store at 147 Ebury Street, Belgravia in 2012.

For more, see www.florislondon.com.

This Week in London – Musical theatre at the V&A; getting spooky at Hampton Court and the Tower; and, Bill Brandt at Tate Britain…

Costume for Eliza Doolittle in Lerner and Lowe’s musical My Fair Lady, designed by Cecil Beaton, worn by Julie Andrews, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1958. Given bythe Friends of the Victoria and Albert Museum.© Cecil BeatonImage courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The glittering world of musical theatre is at the centre of a new exhibition which opened at the V&A in South Kensington recently. Re:Imagining Musicals showcases some 100 objects, most being displayed for the first time, with highlights including Paul O’Grady’s Miss Hannigan costume from Annie, new costume acquisitions from SIX the MusicalEverybody’s Talking About JamieMoulin Rouge! The MusicalCompany, and A Chorus Line, the rarely displayed beaded gown designed by Cecil Beaton which was worn by Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady in 1958; the toy Olaf puppet from Frozen the Musical, and an original poster from the off-Broadway premiere of Hamilton signed by the cast and creatives. There’s also a 1965 original cast recording of Hello Dolly! signed by Carol Channing, Bunny Christie’s Olivier and Critics’ Circle award winning costume design, model and costume for Rosalie Craig as Bobbie in the 2019 West End revival of Company and Shakespeare’s first folio, which celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2023. The free display can be seen in the Theatre and Performance Galleries until 27th November, 2023. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/reimagining-musicals.

Base Court and cloisters dressed for the Halloween ghost trail at Hampton Court Palace. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces.

Visitors to Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London are being invited to explore some of the properties’ spookiest stories in the lead-up to Halloween. Until 30th October, visitors to Hampton Court are able to explore the stories of everyone from King James I to tormented wives to Tudor trumpeters with special effects including mystical projections and eerie sound effects. Meanwhile, until 31st October, visitors can follow in the footsteps of infamous prisoners at the Tower of London with “spooky decorations, spine-tingling sound effects, and rooms transformed to tell terrifying tales about past inhabitants” while ghostly figures such as the Welsh Prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn and King Henry VIII’s ill-fatded wife Anne Boleyn wander the grounds. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.

Bill Brandt – Woman Swimming
Tate. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the Estate of Barbara Lloyd and allocated to Tate 2009 © The Estate of Bill Brandt.

The work of British photographer Bill Brandt (1904-83) is the subject of a new exhibition at Tate Britain on Millbank. Bill Brandt: Inside the Mirror features 44 original photographs from across his career are displayed alongside the magazines and photobooks in which these images were most often seen. Brandt was first known as a photojournalist, renowned in the 1930s for his observations of British life, and later for his landscapes, portraits and nudes. Highlights include Woman Swimming (pictured), Hail, Hell & Halifax and his handmade photobook ‘A Dream’ – which is being exhibited for the first time. Runs until 15th January. Admission is free. For more, see tate.org.uk.

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8 locations for royal burials in London…4. Christ Church Greyfriars…

We’ll return to Westminster Abbey shortly but first we’re heading into the City of London.

Christ Church Greyfriars, also known as Christ Church Newgate Street, was the burial site of several queens in the medieval era.

Christ Church Greyfriars. PICTURE: Karmakolle (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0).

These include the second wife of King Edward I, Queen Marguerite, who partly financed construction of the church which commenced in the 1290s and finished well after her death in the 1360s.

Marguerite, who was the first uncrowned queen since the Norman Conquest (apparently due to the expense), was only 26 when she was widowed in 1307 (having married the king in 1299 when he was at least 40 years her senior).

She died on 14th February, 1318, while at her castle at Marlborough but her remains were brought to London where she was buried in Greyfriars wearing a Francisan habit. Her tomb, sadly, was destroyed during the Reformation.

Also buried in Greyfriars was Queen Isabella, the widow (and adversary) of the ill-fated King Edward II. Isabella, who was also known as the ‘She-wolf of France’, is said to have been buried in the clothes she wore at her wedding to the King 50 years earlier. Despite rumours to the contrary, her lover, Roger Mortimer, was not buried with her (although Isabella’s daughter – Joan of the Tower, who was the wife of King David II of Scotland – was).

While their predecessor as Queen, Eleanor of Provence, wife of King Henry III, was buried at Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire where she had died (the grave is unmarked), her heart was brought to London and buried in Greyfriars.

Others buried in the church include King Henry III and Eleanor’s daughter, Beatrice of England, and King Edward III’s daughter Isabella, Countess of Bedford.

There’s not much left of Greyfriars these days – the medieval church, one of the largest then in London, burned in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and following a rebuild under Sir Christopher Wren’s supervision, it was again all but destroyed during the Blitz in World War II.

It was decided not to rebuild and what remained of the church – some of the outer walls and tower – were designated a Grade I-listed building in 1950. Plantings inside are laid out to resemble the pews of the church in plan.

WHERE: Christ Church Greyfriars, King Edward Street (nearest Tube station is St Paul’s); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/city-gardens/find-a-garden/christchurch-greyfriars-church-garden

LondonLife – A tumultuous week in national politics and (another) new PM…

The Houses of Parliament (pictured here in 2020). PICTURE: Yaopey Yang/Unsplash

Rishi Sunak was appointed as the nation’s third Prime Minister in less than two months today following Liz Truss announcement she would resign on Friday. Sunak visited King Charles III at Buckingham Palace after Truss visited earlier to officially resign.

Moment(s) in London’s History – Three (more) short-term PMs…

As the nation awaits the announcement of new Prime Minister following the 48 day tenure of Liz Truss – the shortest of any British Prime Minister, we take a quick look at the circumstances surrounding the next three shortest serving PMs…

1. George Canning. Canning, a Tory, had twice served as Foreign Secretary – between 1807-1809 and 1822-1827 (a period during which he also served as Leader of the House of Commons) when, following the resignation of Prime Minister Lord Liverpool in April, 1827, he was chosen to succeed him in the office. But Canning’s health took a turn for the worse soon after and he died in office on 8th August, 1827, having served just 119 days as Prime Minister.

2. The Viscount Goderich. FJ Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, succeeded George Canning as Prime Minister in 1827. But he was unable to hold together Canning’s coalition of Tories and Whigs and so resigned himself after just 144 days in office. He nonetheless went on to serve in the cabinets of both Earl Grey and Sir Robert Peel.

3. Andrew Bonar Law. The only Canadian to have served as British Prime Minister, Law was a Conservative Party leader who became Prime Minister after the fall of David Lloyd George’s Coalition Government on 23rd October, 1922. The party then won a clear majority in a general election on 15th November of that year. But ill with throat cancer he resigned on 20th May the following year, having served just 211 days in office. He died soon after on 30th October that year.

This Week in London – London’s history of executions; myth-making around Alexander the Great; and, Édouard Manet’s ‘Eva Gonzalès’ examined…

Charles I vest, Executions 2022 © Museum of London

• The history of public executions in London – spanning a period of some 700 years – is the subject of a landmark new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands in West India Quay. Executions explores how capital punishment became embedded in the city’s landscape – from the first recorded public execution in 1196 to the last in 1868 – and looks at the rarely told and often tragic human stories behind them. Items on display include an intricately woven silk vest said to have been worn by King Charles I at his execution outside the Banqueting House (pictured), a 300-year-old bedsheet embroidered with a love note in human hair and personal items which once belonged to prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. Visitors can also stand in front of the Newgate Prison door, marking the last steps for prisoners heading to the scaffold, and see a dramatic recreation of the Tyburn “Triple Tree” gallows. Visitors will also learn about the 200 offences that became punishable by death and the spectacle and rituals of execution days as well as what led celebrity criminals to the gallows. Admission charge applies. Runs until 16th April next year. For more, see https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/executions.

Marble head of Alexander © Museum of Classical Archaelogy

The first exhibition exploring the rich history of story-telling around one of the most famous figures of the ancient world – Alexander the Great – opens at the British Library tomorrow. Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth features almost 140 exhibits from 25 countries including astrological clay tablets, ancient papyri and medieval manuscripts as well as comics, films and video games. It reveals how Alexander’s character has been adapted and appropriated by different cultures and religions, with conflicting interpretations. Runs until 19th February. Admission charge applies. A season of in-person and online events accompanies the exhibition. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/alexander-the-great-the-making-of-a-myth.

• Portraits of the Euro 2020 England men’s football squad and its manager, Gareth Southgate, will be shown at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery from today. The free exhibition, This is England, features the most successful men’s national team – finalists in Euro 2020 – since the winners of the World Cup in 1966, from Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham to Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling. The paintings are the work of artist Matt Small and were commissioned by the FA and exhibited at the St George training ground during the Euro 2020 finals. The paintings can be seen until 19th February. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/this-is-england.

Edouard Manet, ‘Eva Gonzalès’, 1870

Édouard Manet’s 1870 portrait of Eva Gonzalès is the subject of a new exhibition at The National Gallery opening on Friday. The painting was considered by the early 20th century to be the most famous modern French painting in the UK and Ireland. The exhibition, the first in a new series of ‘Discover’ exhibitions to be staged in the Sunley Room with the aim of exploring well-known paintings in the collection through a contemporary lens, examines the lifelong artistic dialogue and the complexities of the friendship and mentorship between Manet and Gonzalès, his only formal pupil. It also looks at the broader context of female self portraits from the 18th to early 20th centuries, alongside portraits of women artists by male friends, husbands, and teachers The free exhibition includes works by Eva Gonzalès, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Alfred Stevens and Laura Knight. Runs until 15th January. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/discover-manet-eva-gonzalès.

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