As London swelters, the Troopers of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment conducting the Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards take care to ensure their loyal horses are well looked after. That includes a hose off in the shade after duty to help them cool down, bobbing for in the water trough to help ensure they’re drinking enough and providing fans in the stables.
The Platinum Jubilee weekend is finally upon us. Here’s some highlights of what’s happening over the next four days…
• 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.
• 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.
Queen Elizabeth II didn’t attend the State Opening of Parliament last Tuesday for the first time in almost 60 years with Prince Charles delivering the Queen’s Speech for the first time. In an event that’s all about pomp and pageantry, more than 500 soldiers and 125 military horses took part in a variety of ceremonial roles over the day.
With a claim to be the most central pub in London, this Trafalgar Square pub takes its name from its proximity to…well, all things naval.
This includes Trafalgar Square itself, of course, and its centrepiece of Nelson’s Column (commemorating the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson) as well as the the location of Admiralty Arch behind the building and the Old Admiralty Building just down Whitehall.
The Grade II-listed Italianate building, which was designed by FW Porter and dates from 1871, has only been a pub since 2014 when it was acquired by Fullers.
It was originally constructed for the Union Bank and later became a branch of the National Westminster Bank. In 2005, the building became home to Scottish restaurant Albannach before becoming a pub almost 10 years later.
Fittingly, the pub – officially located at 66 Trafalgar Square – features an interior inspired by HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
It was opened on 23rd October, 2014, just two days after Trafalgar Day by former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West of Spithead and Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny. A magnum of beer was reportedly ceremonially smashed on the pub’s exterior in keeping with naval tradition.
For more, see www.admiraltytrafalgar.co.uk.
As the world reacts to the Russian attack on Ukraine, on 24th February, Number 10 Downing Street, home of the British Prime Minister, and, below, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, in Whitehall are lit in the colours of the Ukrainian flag as the UK “stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine“.
Visitors to several of London’s landmark royal properties will across an organisation known as Historic Royal Palaces.
HRP, as its sometimes shortened to, is a self-funding charity charged with the management of palaces which are owned by the Crown (technically by Queen Elizabeth II ‘in Right of Crown’ meaning she holds them in trust for the next monarch and by law cannot sell or lease them). The palaces are generally no longer used as royal residences.
These include the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and the Banqueting House (once part of the Palace of Whitehall). Buckingham Palace, which remains the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II and a working royal palace, is not one of them nor is St James’s Palace, home to several members of the Royal Family and their households.
All five of the properties in London which are under the care of Historic Royal Palaces ceased being regularly used by the Royal Court in the 19th century and were opened up to the public. The government became responsible for their care under the Crown Lands Act 1851.
In 1989, the government established Historic Royal Palaces as part of the Department of the Environment to oversee care of the five palaces. Six years later it became part of the Department of National Heritage (now known as the Department for Culture, Media & Sport).
In April, 1998, Historic Royal Palaces became an independent charity by Royal Charter. It is governed by a board of trustees who include the director of the Royal Collection Trust and the Keeper of the Privy Purse from the Royal Household as well as the Constable of the Tower of London.
Historic Royal Palaces now oversees management of the palaces under a contract with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport (as well as the five London properties, since 2014, it has also been responsible for the care of Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland).
Perhaps the most well-known faces of Historic Royal Palaces are joint curators – Tudor historian Tracy Borman, and architectural and social historian Lucy Worsley.
HRP collects revenues through entries to the palaces but also offer an annual membership through which you can have unlimited entry.
For more, head to www.hrp.org.uk.
This small stone stairway which now sits in the midst of a grassy expanse at the back of the Ministry of Defence was once part of the Palace of Whitehall.
Named for Queen Mary II, wife of King William III, for whom they were designed, the stairs were part of a terrace built in 1691 abutting the Thames in front of an old river wall constructed for King Henry VIII.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the stairs were one of a pair located at either end of the terrace which gave direct access to the river – and state barges – from the Royal Apartments.
Excavations in 1939 during construction of the MoD revealed the Tudor river wall, the terrace and the northern-most of the two flights of steps. The upper part of the steps have been repaired and the terrace and wall reconstructed.
The steps and palace fragments are now a Grade I listed monument.
Pelicans were first introduced to St James’s Park in 1664 when a pair of the rather large birds were presented as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II. They’ve been there ever since.
More than 40 pelicans have apparently made their home at the park over the years. Past pelicans have included the solitary Daphne – nicknamed the ‘Lady of the Lake’, she lived alone at the park in the early 1970s as well as Astra and Khan, who came from Astrakhan in Russia and were presented by the Russian Ambassador in 1977. There’s also been a Louis, who came from Louisiana in 1982, and Vaclav and Rusalka, who were a gift from Prague Zoo in 1995.
There are currently six members of the ‘scoop’ or ‘squadron’ (just two of the collective nouns used for pelicans) in the park. They include Isla and Tiffany – gifted from Prague in 2013 – and Gargi (gifted in 1996 after he was found in a Southend garden) as well as newer arrivals, brothers Sun and Moon, and a female named Star, all of whom came from Prague Zoo in 2019. Five are Eastern Whites and one is a South American White.
The pelicans are fed fresh fish each day between 2:30pm and 3pm, next to Duck Island Cottage, and while they are free to go where they wish, they rarely go far from the almost 57 acre park. But they did make headlines for eating a pigeon in 2006.
Royal Parks are offering a walking tour of St James’s Park which ends with watching the daily feeding on 5th November. Head here for details.
Thankfully much copied (at least in part), this full length portrait of King Henry VIII, his third wife and parents was the work of Hans Holbein the Younger.
Holbein, appointed the king’s painter in 1536, was commissioned to create the work following the King’s marriage to Jane Seymour on 30th May, 1536, and completed it in 1537 (there’s some speculation it may have been commissioned in celebration of the birth of King Henry’s son, King Edward VI).
The mural featured the King standing in full splendour, although without typical symbols of royalty such as a crown or sceptre, as well as his wife Jane Seymour, and his parents, King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York. They were all standing around a central pillar upon which are inscribed verses in Latin extolling the Tudor dynasty.
The work is understood to have been commissioned for one of the King’s more private chambers in the Palace of Whitehall which Henry had seized after the downfall of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.
The portrait survived the reign of King Henry VIII but was destroyed in the fire which devastated the palace in 1698.
A full-sized cartoon of the left-hand side of the work which was completed by Holbein in preparation for its creation is held in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery (pictured right).
While there are numerous copies of the figure of King Henry VIII, the only complete copy of the mural is attributed to Remigius van Leemput who created it in 1667 – it can be seen at Hampton Court Palace.
Standing on the edge of Parliament Square opposite the UK’s home of government, this statue of the 16th US President was erected to mark the friendship between Britain and the United States of America.
The statue was proposed by the American Committee for the Celebration of the Hundredth Anniversary of Peace Among English Speaking Peoples to commemorate the centenary of the end of conflict between the two nations in 1915.
But World War I broke out and so it wasn’t until July, 1920 that this statue, a replica of a statue Auguste Saint-Gauden made for the city of Chicago and now Grade II-listed in its own right, was formally presented to then UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George by the US Ambassador and subsequently unveiled by Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught.
The 12 foot high, larger than life, monument – which includes a granite plinth – depicts Lincoln wearing a frock coat standing in front of his Grecian chair and about to give a speech. The original was completed in 1887 and was unveiled in Chicago’s Lincoln Park with Abraham Lincoln II, grandson of the President, in attendance as well as a crowd of some 10,000.
Interestingly, the UK wasn’t the only nation given a copy of the statue – a replica was also given to Mexico in 1964 and now stands in the Parque Lincoln in Mexico City.
There is also a replica at Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois and in 2016, a newly cast replica of the statue was installed at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site – the former home and studio of the sculptor – in Cornish, New Hampshire. There are also numerous smaller replicas including a bust which is sometimes displayed in the Oval Office in the White House.
• A landmark exhibition focusing on the iconic work of literature, Alice in Wonderland, opens at the V&A on Saturday. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser features more than 300 objects encompassing film, performance, fashion, art, music and photography and explores the cultural impact of Alice in Wonderland and its ongoing inspiration for everyone from Salvador Dalí to The Beatles, Vivienne Westwood and Little Simz. Highlights of the exhibition, which boasts theatrical sets and immersive environments including a special VR experience, include Lewis Carroll’s handwritten manuscript, illustrations by John Tenniel, Ralph Steadman and Mary Blair for Walt Disney’s iconic 1951 film adaptation, Royal Opera House stage costumes, fashion from Iris van Herpen and photography from Tim Walker. Admission charges apply. Runs in The Sainsbury Gallery until 31st December. For more, see vam.ac.uk/alice.
• Artworks which shine a new light on the experience of ordinary people forced into new patterns of living by Nazi air raids during World War II are the subject of a new exhibition which opened in the Churchill War Rooms this week. Wartime London: The Art of the Blitz includes newly acquired drawings from Henry Moore, as well as works from other British artists including William Matvyn Wright, Eric Ravilious, Ernest Boye Uden, Mabel Hutchinson, Evelyn Gibbs, Evelyn Dunbar, and Leila Faithfull. Admission charge applies. Runs until 12th September. For www.iwm.org.uk/events/wartime-london-art-of-the-blitz.
• A prototype mechanical tree that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is among objects on display in a new exhibition – Our Future Planet – at the Science Museum. The exhibition offers visitors a look at the cutting-edge technologies and natural solutions being used to mitigate the impacts of climate change and, as well as Klaus Lackner’s Mechanical Tree – on display in the UK for the first time, it features experts including leading ecologists studying ancient forests, engineers at Arizona State University who developed the earliest versions of carbon capture machines, and chemists at C-Capture who are working to remove carbon dioxide from emissions at the UK’s largest power plant. This free exhibition runs until 4th September, 2022. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/our-future-planet.
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This month – over the Easter weekend, in fact – marked the 300th anniversary of the date on which Sir Robert Walpole effectively became the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Walpole, who had entered Parliament as a Whig at the age of 25 in 1701, had had a tumultuous political career which had included rising quickly to the positions of Secretary at War and Treasury of the Navy before, having been targeted by his Tory opponents, spending six months in the Tower of London after he was found guilty of corruption.
The accession of King George I in 1714 was good news for the Whigs and the following year Walpole was appointed First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1715. He resigned a couple of years later due to a party split but by 1720 he was once again man of influence, appointed to the Privy Council and made Paymaster General as well as Paymaster of the Forces.
The following year, on 3rd April, 1721, he was effectively elevated to the position of Prime Minister after being appointed First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and leader of the House of Commons.
Walpole remained at the head of the government until 1742 when he resigned after a motion of no confidence was moved against him. But it wasn’t all bad news, King George II subsequently elevated him to the House of Lords as the Earl of Orford.
Interesting, it was also King George II who offered Walpole the residence in Downing Street (Walpole only accepted on condition that it be a gift to the office of the First Lord of the Admiralty so he wasn’t liable for the cost of upkeep).
Walpole was the first of what has since been an unbroken line of 77 Prime Ministers (although only 55 people have held the office due to the multiple occasions on which individuals have served).
While the term was used informally to describe Walpole as far back as the 1730s (although in 1741 he denied he was the “sole and prime minister” in the House of Commons, thanks to the association of the term with foreign tyrannies), it wasn’t until the following century that it was used in Parliament (Benjamin Disraeli, was the first to sign an act using the title in 1878) and not until 1905 was the post of prime minister officially given recognition in the order of precedence.
Remembering the more than 126,000 lost. A candle is lit outside 10 Downing Street on Tuesday night to mark the first anniversary of the first national lockdown. PICTURE: Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street.
From the Trafalgar Square end. PICTURE: Johen Redman/Unsplash
• Larry the cat celebrated his 10th anniversary in Downing Street this week. Officially the “Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office”, Larry first came to Number 10 on 15th February, 2011, from the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and has since been spotted many times in and around the property going about his duties (or seeing off rivals like the now retired Palmerston, the Foreign Office cat). Larry has served three Prime Ministers during his time in the seat of power – David Cameron, Theresa May and now Boris Johnson – and met with various world leaders (famously apparently taking a liking to US President Barack Obama and being spotted sleeping under Donald Trump’s car). Larry tweeted on Tuesday – the day of his “Larryversary” – that he has no plans of retiring at this stage.
• A series of auctions involving a collection of 260 London street signs started this week. Westminster City Council is selling the signs – which include Abbey Road NW8 (estimated price tag of £1,000-£2,000), Pimlico Road SW1 (£100-£200), Westbourne Park Road W2 (£100-£200) and Belgrave Place SW1 (£80-£120) – through Catherine Southon Auctioneers until 3rd March. The distinct signs were first created by Sir Misha Black in 1967. Head here for details.
• Looking further afield and English Heritage has put out a call for people with connections to the Cichociemni – the name for a group of Polish Home Army parachutists, many of whom trained at Audley End House, who were dropped behind enemy lines in Poland to begin fighting for the liberation of their homeland – to share their stories. Monday marked the 80th anniversary of the operation involving the elite fighters. Some 527 of them completed their training at the Jacobean stately home in Essex where their presence is today remembered in a memorial and fragmentary remains such as a scrap of graffiti in the coal gallery candle store, remnants of a timetable in a former briefing room and insulators for telephone wires which remain in some trees. “We’d love to hear from the public who have a connection or story to share about the Cichociemni at Audley,” said Andrew Hann, an historian with English Heritage which looks after Audley End House. “We’re particularly interested in hearing from those in the local area at the time, who may remember hearing bangs in the night, or seeing troops crossing fields in the darkness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that they were highly trained to be both ‘silent and unseen’ they left little obvious trace.”
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• The links between mythical and fictional creatures with animals of the natural world are explored in a new exhibition which opened at the Natural History Museum this week. Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature, a partnership between the museum, Warner Bros Consumer Products and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit, features some 120 exhibits including Dracorex Hogwartsia dinosaur – named in recognition of Harry Potter’s school, Hogwarts, along with a hoax mermaid, a 16th century map depicting sea monsters, and what was once believed to be a unicorn horn. There’s also the chance to learn more about the Galapagos marine iguana and the boneless hagfish as well as fictional creatures like the mooncalf and erumpent. Admission charge applies and pre-booking required. For more, see www.nhm.ac.uk.
• Artworks depicting The Blitz are the subject of a new exhibition at the Churchill War Rooms. Art of the Blitz shines a new light on the experiences of ordinary people who lived through the Nazi air raids. The display includes works by Henry Moore, William Matvyn Wright, Eric Ravilious, Ernest Boye Uden, Mabel Hutchinson, Evelyn Gibbs, Evelyn Dunbar, and Leila Faithfull. Free with general admission ticket purchase, the display can be seen until 30th April. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/events/wartime-london-art-of-the-blitz.
• Jan Gossaert’s 16th-century masterpiece The Adoration of the Kings is at the heart of a new immersive digital experience which launched at the National Gallery this week. Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration, which has been designed with social distancing in mind, starts with the voice of the African King Balthasar speaking to viewers before light and sound guide them to an individual pod where they can experience an interactive version of the painting. The experience can be seen in Room 1 until 28th February. Admission is free but pre-booking is required. Meanwhile, Father Christmas is making a special appearance at the National Gallery on the 12th and 13th December – and again on 17th to 23rd December – along with the chance to step into a ‘winter wonderland’ inspired by the iconic National Gallery painting A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle (about 1608–9) by Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634). Admission charge applies and pre-booking required. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.
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The next two in our countdown…
A memorial commemorating the role of the Chindit Special Forces in Burma during World War II has been awarded a Grade II listing on the National Heritage List for England in honour of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day. Located in Victoria Embankment Gardens outside the Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall, the memorial’s granite plinth is topped with a bronze chinthe, a mythical beast that stands guard outside Burmese temples. The Chindit Special Forces, which were formed by British Army officer Major General Orde Charles Wingate and disbanded in early 1945, are credited with helping to turn the tide of World War II against Japan in the Far East. The memorial was designed by architect David Price and the chinthe sculpture the work of Frank Forster. It was unveiled by Prince Philip on 16th October, 1990. On Saturday, as the nation commemorated VJ Day, a military delegation lad a wreath at the foot of the memorial. PICTURE: Derek Voller (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).