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

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 – 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.

8 locations for royal burials in London…3. St Edward’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey…

This chapel at the heart of Westminster Abbey is so named for the first king that was buried there – St Edward “the Confessor” – in early 1066.

The abbey, which had been constructed on the site of a Saxon Church at the behest of King Edward in fulfilment of a vow, was newly built when the King died. It had been consecrated on 28th December, 1065, but the king had been too ill to attend the service.

He died just a few days later some time on the night of 4th to 5th January. His burial took place on 6th January (the burial procession is actually depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry) with his body laid to rest beneath the floor of the new church (archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar believe they located the exact location of his original tomb in 2005).

He wasn’t to rest there for long. King Edward’s saintly reputation grew over the ensuing years and miracles began to be reported at the tomb – it’s also said said that when the tomb was opened in 1102, a “wonderful fragrance” is said to have filled the church suggesting that it he wasn’t embalmed the body was packed with aromatic herbs.

In 1163, two years after Edward had been made saint by Pope Alexander III, the king’s body was transferred from the tomb to a specially made shrine.

In the 13th century, King Henry III rebuilt St Edward’s church in the new Gothic-style of architecture, spending extravagant sums on the new building. His rebuilding programme culminated in 1269 when the bones of St Edward was translated into a new shrine featuring mosaics on a stone base created by Italian workmen in which the king’s coffin was placed with a wooden canopy over the top (such was his veneration of St Edward that King Henry III, his brother Richard, Duke of Cornwall, and the king’s two sons bore the coffin to the new shrine).

Shrine of St Edward the Confessor. PICTURE: VCR Giulio19 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The shrine became a place of pilgrimage during King Henry III’s reign but his cult declined in the later years (and St Edward, who had for a time been considered patron saint of England was eventually replaced by St George).

The shrine was despoiled during King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of 1540 – the jewels were removed and presented to the King – and Edward’s body removed to another location in the abbey. But Queen Mary I had the Purbeck marble base reassembled (with new jewels added) and Edward’s body returned. The tiered wooden canopy which stands above the stone stone dates from the 16th century (and was heavily restored in the 1950s).

St Edward isn’t the only king buried in the chapel space. Others buried there – around the outer edges of the chapel – included King Henry III, King Edward I and his wife Eleanor of Castile, King Edward III and his wife Philippa of Hainault, King Richard II and his wife Queen Anne of Bohemia, King Henry V and Catherine of Valois (King Henry V had a chantry chapel built above his tomb at the eastern end of St Edward’s Chapel). Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, is also buried there.

WHERE: North Aisle, 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

This Week in London – Hieroglyphs explored at the British Museum; King Charles III coronation date announced; ‘The Admiral’s Revenge’ in Greenwich’; and, Dickens and ghosts…

The Rosetta Stone. Granodiorite; Rasid, Egypt; Ptolemaic, 196 BC © The Trustees of the British Museum.

• Marking 200 years since French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) was able to decipher hieroglyphs using the Rosetta Stone, a new exhibition opening at the British Museum explores how the stone and other inscriptions and objects helped scholars unlock one of the world’s oldest civilisations. Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt centres on the Rosetta Stone but also features more than 240 other objects, many of which are shown for the first time. Alongside the Rosetta Stone itself, highlights include: “the Enchanted Basin”, a large black granite sarcophagus from about 600 BCE which is covered with hieroglyphs and images of gods; the richly illustrated, more than 3000-year-old Book of the Dead papyrus of Queen Nedjmet which measures more than four metres long; and the mummy bandage of Aberuait, a souvenir from one of the earliest ‘mummy unwrapping events’ in the 1600s where attendees each received a piece of the linen, preferably inscribed with hieroglyphs. There’s also the personal notes of key figures in the race to decipher hieroglyphs including those of Champollion which come from the Bibliothèque nationale de France as well as those of England’s Thomas Young (1773 – 1829) from the British Library. The exhibition can be seen in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery until 19th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see britishmuseum.org/hieroglyphs.

• King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey on 6th May next year, Buckingham Palace has announced this week. The Queen Consort, Camilla, will be crowned alongside him in the first such coronation since 12th May, 1937, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were crowned in the abbey. The ceremony, which will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will, according to the palace, “reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry”. King Charles III is expected to sign a Proclamation formally declaring the coronation date at a meeting of the Privy Council later this year. The first documented coronation at Westminster Abbey was that of King William the Conqueror on 25th December, 1066, and there have been 37 since, the most recent being that of Queen Elizabeth II on 2nd June, 1953.

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A new dark comedy, The Admiral’s Revenge, has opened in The Admiral’s House in the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. The play, set in 1797, features sea shanties, puppetry and follows a crew of shipmates in the wake of the ill-fated Battle of Tenerife. Audiences have the chance to explore the Admiral’s House before the show and enjoy a complimentary rum cocktail. Runs until 12th November. For ticket prices, head to https://ornc.org/whats-on/1797-the-mariners-revenge/.

A new exhibition exploring Charles Dickens’ interest in the paranormal has opened at the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury. To Be Read At Dusk: Dickens, Ghosts and the Supernatural explores Dickens’ famous ghost stories, including A Christmas Carol, and reveals his influence on the genre. Highlights include a copy of The Chimes which Dickens gifted to fellow author Hans Christian Anderson, original John Leech sketches of Dickens’ ghosts of the past, present and future and original tickets and playbills relating to the author’s public performances of his ghost stories. The display will also look into Dickens’ own views on the supernatural as a fascinated sceptic and includes  correspondence in which he was asking about the location of a supposedly haunted house. Runs until 5th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://dickensmuseum.com/blogs/all-events/to-be-read-at-dusk-dickens-ghosts-and-the-supernatural.

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8 locations for royal burials in London…2. St Clement Danes…

This “island church”, located in the middle of the Strand just outside the Royal Courts of Justice, is believed to have been the eventual burial site of King Harold I “Harefoot” who died in 1040.

St Clement Danes today. PICTURE: eltpics (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The son of King Cnut, Harold’s rule was brief. Following the death of his father, he initially ruled as regent on behalf of his father’s heir and younger half-brother Harthacnut (Harthacnut was in Denmark and threats to the kingdom meant he couldn’t leave).

While Harold had apparently sought to be crowned king from the start of his rule (without success thanks to the opposition of Aethelnoth, the Archbishop of Canterbury), it was only in 1037 that, with the support of Leofric, the Earl of Mercia, and other nobles, he was crowned king.

But Harold (who was known by the name Harefoot apparently due to his speed and skill at hunting) died in 1040 and his brother subsequently returned from Denmark to claim the throne peacefully.

The story goes that King Harold had originally been buried in Westminster but that Harthacnut (clearly not a fan) had his body exhumed and flung into marshlands by the River Thames. The body was said to have been found by a fisherman who then had him buried at the church.

It had been established in the ninth century to serve the Danish community which was established after King Alfred the Great had granted them land.

Of course, the current church was not one King Harold would have recognised, having last been completely rebuilt in the 1680s to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren (and then having had its interior completely restored after it was gutted when bombed during World War II).

St Clement Danes, also known as one of the contenders for the church mentioned in the song Oranges and Lemons, is now the central church of the Royal Air Force. It’s one of two “island churches” in the Strand, the other being St Mary le Strand.

WHERE: St Clement Danes, Strand (nearest Tube stations are Temple, Covent Garden and Holborn); WHEN: 10am to 3:30pm weekdays; 10am to 3pm weekends; COST: Free (donations appreciated); WEBSITE: https://stclementdanesraf.org

London farewells Queen Elizabeth II…

The Bearer Party, formed of personnel from The Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, transfer Her Majesty The Queen’s Coffin from Westminster Hall to the State Gun Carriage, which was pulled by 142 Naval Ratings to Westminster Abbey. PICTURE: Wo1 Rupert Frere/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022.
The State Gun Carriage, pulled by 142 Naval Ratings. arrives at Westminster Abbey for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. PICTURE: Corporal Rob Kane/ UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022.
The Bearer Party formed of personnel from The Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards move the coffin of the Queen to the State Gun Carriage. PICTURE: Corporal Rob Kane/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022
The State Gun Carriage, pulled by 142 Naval Ratings, carries the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II through the arch onto Horse Guards Parade. PICTURE: Sergeant Robert Weideman/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022
The Queen’s funeral cortege makes its way down The Mall. PICTURE: POPhot Will Haigh/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022
The Queen’s coffin arrives at Wellington Arch where it was transferred to a hearse to be driven to Windsor. PICTURE: CPO Owen Cooban/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

Special – Lying in state at Westminster Hall…

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is seen here lying-in-state at the Palace of Westminster in London in 14th September. PICTURE: Harland Quarrington/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

The tradition of lying in state – whereby the monarch’s coffin is placed on view to allow the public to pay their respects before the funeral – at Westminster Hall isn’t actually a very old one.

The first monarch to do so was King Edward VII in 1910. The idea had come from the previous lying-in-state of former Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone who had lain in state following his death in 1898.

Ever since then, every monarch, with the exception of King Edward VIII, who had abdicated, has done so along with other notable figures including Queen Mary, wife of King George V, in 1953, former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, for a three day period in 2002 when some 200,000 people paid their respects.

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is seen here lying-in-state at the Palace of Westminster in London in 14th September. PICTURE: Harland Quarrington/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

During the lying-in-state period (which members of the public may pay their respects), the coffin is placed on a central raised platform, known as a catafalque, and each corner of the platform is guarded around the clock by units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. The coffin is draped with the Royal Standard and placed on top is the Orb and Sceptre.

Westminster Hall, the oldest surviving building in the Palace of Westminster and the only part which survives almost in original form, was constructed between 1097 and 1099 on the order of King William (Rufus) II.

Measuring 240 by 67 feet and covering some 17,000 square feet, at the time it was the largest hall in England and possibly the largest in Europe (although once anecdote has the King, when an attendant remarked on its size, commenting that it was a mere bedchamber compared to what he’d had in mind).

Since then, it has been used for a range of purposes including coronation banquets – the earliest recorded is that of Prince Henry, the Young King, son of King Henry II and King Henry’s other son, King Richard the Lionheart, other feasts and banquets – including in 1269 to mark the placing of Edward the Confessor’s remains in the new shrine in Westminster Abbey, and for political events and gatherings such as in 1653 when Oliver Cromwell took the oath as Lord Protector.

It has also been the location of law courts (the trial of William Wallace was held here in 1305 and that of King Charles I in 1649) and even shops.

This Week in London – Mourning Queen Elizabeth II…

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is seen here lying-in-state in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster. PICTURE: Harland Quarrington/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

As the city, nation and world mourns the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, thousands are queuing outside Westminster Hall to pay their respects to the Queen ahead of the State Funeral on Monday. The designated queue route crosses the Thames at Lambeth Bridge and then stretches northward along the south bank to near Tower Bridge. The live “queue tracker” can be found at this link. The Lying-in-State will be open 24 hours a day until it closes at 6.30am on Monday. For more detailed guidance, head here. A national moment of reflection will take place at 8pm this Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s funeral – which will be broadcast on the BBC – is slated for 11am on Monday at Westminster Abbey, prior to which her body will be transported on a gun carriage from Westminster Hall. Following the funeral, the Queen’s coffin will be taken in a walking procession from the abbey to Wellington Arch, at London’s Hyde Park Corner. The coffin will then be transported Windsor by hearse. On arrival, the Queen’s coffin will then be walked down the Long Walk to Windsor Castle. There, in St George’s Chapel, the Queen’s coffin will be lowered into the Royal Vault under the quire as Her Majesty is laid to rest beside her late husband, Prince Philip.

A Book of Condolence has been set up at www.royal.uk.

Lost London – The Painted Chamber, Palace of Westminster…

Part of the medieval Palace of Westminster, the Painted Chamber took its name from a series of large paintings which decorated the walls.

A watercolour of the Painted Chamber in Westminster Palace by William Capon made in 1799.

The long and narrow chamber, which stood parallel to St Stephen’s Chapel, was constructed in the 13th century during the reign of King Henry III and was apparently initially intended as a private apartment for the king as well as a reception room.

It featured a state bed at one end positioned under a painting of King Edward the Confessor and also had a “squint” – a small opening at eye level – through which the monarch could view religious services in a chapel located next door.

The chamber was apparently originally known as the King’s Chamber but came to be known as the Painted Chamber when the walls were decorated with paintings depicting vices and virtues and Biblical figures.

These paintings, which were completed over an almost 60 year period from 1226 and which were repaired a couple of times during that period, were added to with commissions by successive monarchs.

The painted chamber was the location for the State Opening of Parliament in the Middle Ages and was where Oliver Cromwell and the others signed King Charles I death warrant in 1649. The body of King Charles II rested here overnight before he was interred in Westminster Abbey.

A ceiling panel from the Painted Chamber depicting a prophet, created between 1263-1266 PICTURE: © The Trustees of the British Museum (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Later neglected, the walls of the chamber were whitewashed and hung with tapestries and in the early 19th century restoration work was done to reveal the paintings again with artist and antiquarian Charles Stothard commissioned by the Society of Antiquarians in 1819 to make watercolour copies (further copies were also made by the clerk of works at Westminster, Thomas Crofton Croker).

By 1820, the chamber was being used for the Court of Requests, a civil claims court.

The Painted Chamber was gutted when fire devastated much of the Palace of Westminster on the night of 16th October, 1834. It was reroofed and refurnished and used by the House of Lords until 1847 – as well as for the State Opening of Parliament in February, 1835. It was finally demolished in 1851.

Two ceiling paintings which were removed in 1816 during repairs are now at the British Museum (pictured right).

This Week in London – The Platinum Jubilee weekend…

The Platinum Jubilee weekend is finally upon us. Here’s some highlights of what’s happening over the next four days…

The Household division were put through their paces by the Garrison Sergeant Major Vern Stokes during the rehearsals for the Queen’s Birthday Parade on Horseguards Parade Square on 19th May. PICTURE: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

The Queen’s Birthday Parade – Trooping the Colour – takes place today (Thursday) at Horse Guards Parade. It’s the largest parade in three years due to the coronavirus pandemic and will involve more than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians. The day will feature an appearance by the Queen on the Buckingham Palace balcony and an RAF flypast.

• More than 3,000 beacons will be lit all around the world tonight (Thursday) to mark the Jubilee. The event will culminate in a 21 metre high giant tree sculpture constructed of 350 smaller trees – the ‘Tree of Trees’ beacon – being set alight out the front of Buckingham Palace at 9pm. For more, see www.queensjubileebeacons.com.

• A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday (sadly without the Archbishop of Canterbury who has COVID-19 and mild pneumonia). The event is private. The cathedral is also hosting Jubilee: St Paul’s, the Monarch and the Changing World, an exhibition which explores the history of Jubilee celebrations at St Paul’s Cathedral across three centuries and features objects from the cathedral’s collections including the Jubilee Cope which depicts the spires of 73 churches in the Diocese of London, three Royal Peculiars and St Paul’s Cathedral and was created to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of 1977. Entry to the exhibition is included in general admission. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk/platinum-jubilee.

The BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace will take place on Saturday featuring a line-up of performers from the worlds of music and dance. Those attending include Duran Duran, Andrea Bocelli, Mimi Webb, Sam Ryder, Jax Jones, Celeste, Nile Rodgers, Sigala and Diversity as well as stars from stage, screen and the sporting world such as Sir David Attenborough, Emma Raducanu, David Beckham, Stephen Fry, Dame Julie Andrews, The Royal Ballet, and Ellie Simmonds who will also pay tribute in person and on film. Queen + Adam Lambert will open the concert, sure to evoke memories of Brian May’s historic appearance on the Palace roof at the Golden Jubilee Concert in 2002 – and Diana Ross will close it in her first UK live performance in 15 years. Advance booking and tickets are required but the event will be shown live on the BBC.

On Sunday, Jubilee Big Lunches will be taking place in communities across the city. For where these are taking place, check out www.edenprojectcommunities.com/the-big-lunch-map.

A rehearsal of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant by all members of British and Commonwealth soldiers carried out on 31st May. PICTURE: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022

The finale of the weekend will be the Platinum Jubilee Pageant which will take place in “four acts” through central London on Sunday. The pageant, which will begin with the ringing of the bells of Westminster Abbey, will start with a military spectacle – ‘For Queen and Country’ – celebrating all three services in the UK Armed Forces and involving some 1,750 people including from Commonwealth nations. Act two – ‘The Time of Our Lives’ – will feature a cast of some 2,500 people showing how British culture has changed over the past 70 years. In act three, ‘Let’s Celebrate’, performers will “mash street theatre, music-on-the-move, urban dance, and the very best of Carnival, May Day, Mela, Fiesta and Mardi Gras to celebrate The Queen’s extraordinary life experience”; this will also include a ‘River of Hope’ procession featuring children from across the UK carrying some 200 silk flags featuring pictures depicting their hopes and aspirations for the next 70 years, particularly with regard to climate change. The musical finale – ‘Happy and Glorious’ – will focus around the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace and will see attendees singing the National Anthem with appearances by Jeremy Irons, Bill Bailey and Gok Wan and Ed Sheeran and the public invited to become part of the performance. The pageant will start at Westminster Abbey and head down Whitehall, turn through Admiralty Arch into The Mall, travel to Buckingham Palace and then turn down Birdcage Walk. For more, see www.platinumpageant.com.

Lost London – Westminster Abbey’s Sanctuary Tower…

The Middlesex Guildhall building, once site of the Sanctuary Tower. PICTURE: Cary Bass-Deschenes (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Located on the site now occupied by the Middlesex Guildhall, the Sanctuary Tower and Old Belfry was where fugitives of the law could seek refuge from those who pursued them.

The 13th century tower was located on the western side of Thorney Island upon which Westminster Abbey stood. Standing two stories high, it was a fortified structure with heavy oak doors.

The tower had some high profile (temporary) residents over the years of its existence. These included Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of King Edward IV, who twice had to take sanctuary in the abbey during the Wars of the Roses, Henry Holland, the Duke of Exeter, who claimed sanctuary after the Battle of Barnet (and was subsequently found drowned in the Thames), and Tudor Poet Laureate John Skelton who had to flee here after crossing Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (he is buried in nearby St Margaret’s Church, some claim he died in the tower).

While the practice of granting sanctuary was abolished by King James I in 1623, the tower wasn’t demolished in 1776.

The name of the building and practice of sanctuary is reflected in the name of the nearby street known as Broad Sanctuary and short drive before Westminster named The Sanctuary.

10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…6. King Edward the Confessor and King Henry III…

PICTURE: Davide Simonetti (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0/image has been cropped and enhanced).

These two statues are listed together because they both appear on the exterior of the same building – The Sanctuary which stands next to Westminster Abbey.

Close-up of Henry III. PICTURE: Can Pac Swire (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0/image has been cropped).

This Grade II-listed building, which contains a gateway to the Dean’s Yard, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built in Bath stone with slate roofs in the mid-1850s.

The statues, which stand in niches on the exterior of the turrets on either side of the gateway, have been identified as the two kings on London Remembers.

Their position at this location is not random. The king on the left, identified as Edward the Confessor, had St Peter’s Abbey rebuilt here in the mid 11th century (and was buried in it only a week after its consecration).

The king on the right, King Henry III, rebuilt the abbey church in the mid-13th century to provide a shrine to venerate Edward the Confessor and as a site for his own tomb.

The kings are apparently not the only monarchs adorning the building – two roundels below them depict Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…5. Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster School…

Close-up of the statue of Queen Elizabeth II. PICTURE: Close-up of the statue of Queen Elizabeth II. PICTURE: Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This rather unusual statue of Queen Elizabeth I is a relatively new addition – it was dedicated 12 years ago on what was the 450th anniversary of the refounding of Westminster School – more properly The Royal College of St Peter in Westminster – by the aforementioned Queen.

The larger-than-life statue, which can be found in Little Dean’s Yard, is the work of a former pupil, sculptor Matthew Spender.

It depicts the Queen in white Travertino Noce stone while her head, surrounded by a giant white ruff is gilded bronze with what was auburn hair. The unusual depiction has certainly attracted its share of detractors.

The statue, which was commissioned by the Westminster School Society, was unveiled by the Queen’s namesake, Queen Elizabeth II, on 21st May, 2010.

There’s a more famous – and more typical – statue of Queen Elizabeth I on the exterior of St Dunstan-in-the-West in Fleet Street and another on the exterior of Guildhall.

Guided tours of the school can be arranged during the school’s holidays. For more information, see www.westminster.org.uk/about/our-history/guided-tours/.

This Week in London – ‘Westminster Elves’; a song for Nelson; and, Caribbean-British art…

Christmas is fast approaching and, to add to the festivities, Westminster City Council has created an augmented reality experience for families to enjoy at four landmark locations. Under the ‘Westminister Elves’ initiative, families are invited to scan a QR code at Piccadilly Circus, Marble Arch Mound, Soho Square and Hanover Square which will lead them to a microsite which, in turn, will transport them into the elves’ world. There, they can throw snowballs, share a moment with Santa’s reminder and glimpse inside Santa’s workshop as well as, of course, seeing the man himself. Those taking part are also invited to take a selfie or picture of a family member or friend alongside the elves at one of the four locations and post it on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the #WestminsterElves and tagging @CityWestminster. They’ll then be entered into a competition to win a £50 Love to Shop voucher. The competition closes at midnight next Wednesday with the winner announced on Christmas Eve. For more, see www.westminster-elves.co.uk.

A recording of old sea song paying tribute to Horatio Nelson was released by the Museum of London this week. The song, which was  thought to have been sung after the battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 and subsequently transcribed by Nelson, was brought to life by musicians from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The recording marked the first performance of the piece in more than 200 years. While th song’s existence had previously been known about – it was referred to in a letter from Nelson to William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry, which was was sold at auction in 2013 – it was one of four rediscovered last year among songbooks belonging to Nelson’s lover, actress and model Emma Hamilton. “The song was written by Nelson’s crew in one of his early victories,” said Lluis Tembleque Teres, the Museum of London librarian who found the songs. “It is fascinating how, some four years later and already a national hero, he recovers the lyrics and sends them to the Duke of Queensberry, almost as if showing off his early successes. The Duke then adds music and a chorus, and gifts the manuscript to Emma Hamilton, thus allowing us exactly 220 years later to relive Nelson’s fame while performing it.” The song’s release follows a special one-off live performance of all four songs at the Museum of London Docklands on 11th December, which will be available to watch in full as an online event – DIGITAL Emma’s Songbooks: rediscovered music for Nelson – next Tuesday, 21st December. Admission charge applies. For more, see museumoflondon.org.uk 

Denzil Forrester Jah Shaka, 1983. Collection Shane Akeroyd, London © Denzil Forrester

A landmark exhibition exploring the extraordinary breadth of Caribbean-British art over four generations can be seen at Tate Britain. Life Between Islands  spans 70 years of culture, experiences and ideas expressed through art and features more than 40 artists, including those of Caribbean heritage as well as those inspired by the Caribbean, such as Ronald Moody, Frank Bowling, Sonia Boyce, Claudette Johnson, Peter Doig, Hew Locke, Steve McQueen, Grace Wales Bonner and Alberta Whittle. Highlights include Neil Kenlock’s Black Panther school bags (1970), Denzil Forrester’s Death Walk (1983) – a tribute to Winston Rose who died in police custody, Lisa Brice’s After Ophelia (2018) – a work inspired by her time on Trinidad and new works including designs by Grace Wales Bonner evoking the brass bands and parades of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Runs until 3rd April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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LondonLife – Parliamentary silhouette…

Looking across the River Thames alongside Westminster Bridge. PICTURE: Mark Haupt/Unsplash

10 sites of (historic) musical significance in London – 5. Henry Purcell’s grave in Westminster Abbey…

Westminster Abbey. PICTURE: Clark Van Der Beken/Unsplash

Westminster Abbey is important for many reasons when it comes to London’s musical heritage but among them is the intrinsic connection the grand building has with Restoration-era composer and musician Henry Purcell.

Purcell, who was born in Westminster in 1659 and who died there in 1695, is famous for having composed music in a range of genres including the first English opera as well as being the organist of the Westminster Abbey (from 1679) and that of the Chapel Royal (from 1682).

Statue commemorating Henry Purcell. PICTURE: Eluveitie (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Fittingly, Purcell, who died at the age of just 36 leaving a widow and six children behind, was buried beside where the organ was then located in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey. The grave, which also contains the remains of his wife Frances, is inlaid with brass letters written in Latin.

It reads: “Here rests Henry Purcell, Organist of this Collegiate Church. Died 21 November aged 37, A.D. 1695. Immortals, welcome an illustrious guest, your gain, our loss – yet would not earth reclaim the many-sided master of his art, the brief delight and glory of his age: great Purcell lives! his spirit haunts these aisles, while yet the neighbouring organ breathes its strains, and answering choirs worship God in song. Frances, wife of Henry Purcell, is buried near her husband 14 February 1706.”

A memorial tablet to Purcell was erected on a nearby wall by Dame Annabella Howard, a former pupil of Purcell’s. The inscription in English and Latin “Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that blessed place where only his harmony can be exceeded. Died 21 of November in the 37th year of his age, AD 1695”.

There is also an elaborate statue, The Flowering of the English Baroque, commemorating Purcell located just down the road from the Abbey in Christchurch Gardens, Broadway. Designed by sculptor Glynn Williams, it was unveiled by Princess Margaret on the tercentenary of the death of the composer – 22nd November 1995.

A Moment in London’s History – The coronation of King George III and Queen Charlotte…

Equestrian statue of King George III in Cockspur Street. PICTURE: David Nicholls
(licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

This month marks 260 years since King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz were crowned King and Queen of the Kingdom of Great Britain at a ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

Only 23-years-old at the time, King George III had ascended to the throne before following the death of his grandfather, King George II, in October, 1760. He and his wife, then Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had married in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace just two weeks prior to the coronation on 8th September, 1761 (they had met earlier the same day).

The royal couple started the day of the coronation – 22nd September – at St James’s Palace and were carried in sedan chairs to Westminster Hall, arriving at about 11am. They then processed on foot through crowds from the hall to Westminster Abbey (the crowds were said to be such that numerous carriages had collided with each other in the bid to reach the abbey). There, they proceeded to a special platform built in the abbey for the occasion.

Commencing at about 3pm, the coronation ceremony began. In an elaborate ceremony overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Secker, the new King was then crowned (Zadok the Priest, which George Frideric Handel had written for the coronation of King George II, was the anthem at the new king’s request). A simpler ceremony followed in which Charlotte was crowned Queen Consort.

The whole affair reportedly lasted more than six hours, so long that some guests are said to have tucked into snacks while watching.

A feast was subsequently held in Westminster Hall during which the King’s Champion, wearing full armour, rode into the hall and threw down a gauntlet challenging any who questioned the King’s legitimacy to step up (none did). During the feast, spectators in the galleries above let down baskets and handkerchiefs for their better placed friends below to fill with food.

The King and Queen departed the feat at about 10pm followed by guests. After they’d vacated the premises, the doors were then opened for the public to come in and to finish off the food.

10 London memorials commemorating foreign leaders – 10. Skanderbeg…

Des Blenkinsopp / An Albanian Hero (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Unveiled just nine years ago, this bust in Bayswater commemorates George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, a 15th century Albanian lord who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire (and who later became a central figure of inspiration in the Albanian National Awakening of the 19th century).

Located on the corner of Inverness Terrace and Porchester Gardens, the bronze bust was created by Kreshnik Xhiku.

An inscription on the front reads “George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, 1405 – 1468, invincible Albanian national hero, defender of western civilization.”

It was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence on 28th November, 2012, with Westminster City Councillor Robert Davis and  Albanian Charge d’affaires, Mal Berisha, in attendance.

The bust was installed as part of Westminster’s City of Sculpture initiative.

London Explained – The West End…

Piccadilly Circus lies at the heart of London’s West End. PICTURE: Sheep purple (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This term is used to describe what was traditionally the western end of London as it developed beyond the City of London boundaries and has since became a word synonymous with the city’s theatre district.

The term’s origins are lost to history although it’s said it first started being used in earnest to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross in the late 17th or early 18th centuries. The term as it’s used today covers an area which contains the commercial and entertainment heart of London.

While the eastern boundary of the West End can be easily defined as where the City of London ends (Temple Bar on the Strand marks the City of London’s boundaries), thanks to its not being a formally designated geographic area, exactly where the West End finishes is a matter of considerable debate.

While the some see the West End only including Theatreland itself – an area stretching from Aldwych across to Piccadilly Circus and north from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus, others have adapted a broader definition which sees include not only Aldwych, Soho and Covent Garden but also Mayfair, Fitzrovia and Marylebone with Oxford Circus at the centre (some even go further and include districts such as Bloomsbury and Knightsbridge in their definition of the West End).