Queen-in-The-Mall

Photographer John Pannell was among the crowds who gathered in The Mall to witness Trooping the Colour on Saturday. Traditionally held to mark the Queen’s birthday, this year’s event – in honour of the fact that the Queen has turned 90 (her actual birthday being 21st April) – was followed on Sunday by a lunch for 10,000, known as the Patron’s Lunch, in The Mall. Trooping the Colour has marked the official birthday of the sovereign since the reign of King George II. Above are the Queen and Prince Philip while below are part of the Massed Bands of the Household Division, among those who marched, and, RAF planes fly-past Buckingham Palace while watched from the palace’s famed balcony by the Queen and the royal family.

Trooping-the-Colour
PlanesPICTURES: John Pannell/Flickr

Advertisements

Horse-Guards1

Known around the world for the stoic mounted troopers which stand guard here, this rather fanciful building straddling a site between Whitehall and St James’s Park was built in the early 1750s on land which had previously served as a tiltyard for King Henry VIII.

In the 1660s King Charles II had a barracks built here for the guards manning the entrance to what was then the Palace of Whitehall, but in 1749 it was demolished and the present building constructed.

William Kent had apparently drawn up designs but it was architect John Vardy who oversaw construction of the neo-Palladian building after Kent’s death in 1748. The windows on the St James’s Park side of the building are said to have been based on a drawing by Lord Burlington (he of Chiswick House fame – see our earlier post here).

While the site previously marked the entrance to the Palace of Whitehall, it is now considered the formal entrance to St James’s Palace (although the palace is located some distance away) and, as a result, only the monarch can drive through the central archway without displaying a pass.

Horse-GuardsUntil 1904, the Grade I-listed building housed the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces but the title was then abolished and replaced with Chief of the General Staff, who relocated to the War Office Building. Horse Guards subsequently became the home of the army commands of London District and the Household Division, a role it still fulfils.

As well as being the site of the daily Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard (this free event takes place at 11am every day; 10am on Sundays), Horse Guards is also now home to the Household Cavalry Museum.

Among treasures in the museum are two silver kettledrums presented to the regiment in 1831 by King William IV, a cork leg used by the first Marquess of Anglesey after his real leg was amputated following the Battle of Waterloo (and subsequently became a tourist attraction in its own right) and silverware by Faberge. Visitors to the museum can also see into the working stables via a glazed petition.

The parade ground behind the building is the site of the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony which officially celebrates the Sovereign’s birthday. Although the ceremony has only been held since 1748, it’s interesting to note that some of the birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth I were held in the same place.

WHERE: The Household Cavalry Museum, Horse Guards, Whitehall (nearest Tube stations are Westminster, Embankment, St James’s Park and Charing Cross); WHEN: Open 10am to 5pm (November to March)/10am to 6pm (April to October); COST: £6 adults/£4 children (aged 5-16) and concessions/£15 family ticket; WEBSITE: www.householdcavalrymuseum.co.uk.

• It’s another weekend of celebration in London with events including Trooping the Colour and the Hampton Court Palace Festival taking place. With Diamond Jubilee fever in the air, expect crowds for this year’s Trooping the Color – the annual celebration of the Queen’s birthday – held at Horse Guards Parade on Saturday. The procession down The Mall kicks off at 10am  with the flypast back at Buckingham Palace at 1pm (organisers advice getting your place by 9am – for more, follow this link). The Hampton Court Palace Festival, meanwhile, kicks off today with a performance by Liza Minnelli and runs through next week until John Barrowman performs at the festival’s closing next Saturday (24th June). The festival, set against the backdrop of Hampton Court Palace, this year celebrates its 20th year – among other performers are Van Morrison, James Morrison, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and this Saturday (16th June) sees the holding of the 20th Anniversary Classical Gala and fireworks. For more, see http://hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com/. PICTURE: Trooping the Colour 2011.

• Park Lane’s central reservation is now hosting three new large scale sculptures by artist William Turnbull, considered a pioneer of modernism. The three works – 3×1 (1966), Large Horse (1990) and Large Blade Venus (1990) – have been installed as part of Westminster City Council’s ‘City of Sculpture’ festival. The works are on loan from the artist as well as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Chatsworth House, where they have been recently displayed.

• Professor Keith Simpson, a pathologist who has conducted post-mortems as part of the investigation into some of the country’s most infamous murders, has been honored with a green plaque at his former residence at 1 Weymouth Street by Wesminster City Council. The cases he worked on include the 1949 Acid Bath Murders (John George Haigh was hanged for the murder of six people in August that year) and the murder of gangster George Cornell, shot dead by Ronnie Kray in Whitechapel’s Blind Beggar Pub in 1966. Professor Simpson, who died in 1985, worked in the field of pathology for more than 30 years, taught at Guy’s Hospital in London and was renowned as having performed more autopsies than anyone else in the world.

• Now On: Londoners at Play. This exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery in Eastcastle Street explores through images how Londoners spent their leisure time – from the 19th century through to today. The display features 57 images including an image of ‘Last Night of the Proms’ from 1956 featuring conductor Sir Malcolm Sergeant, a print taken from a glass plate negative showing Londoners cycling in Royal Parks in 1895 and a crowd watching a Punch and Judy show in Covent Garden in 1900. Admission is free. Runs until 25th August. For more, see www.gettyimagesgallery.com/Exhibitions/Default.aspx.

• Now On: Gold: Power and Allure – 4,500 Years of Gold Treasures from across Britain. This exhibition at the Goldsmith’s Hall showcases more than 400 gold items, dating from 2,500 BC through to today. Admission is free. Runs until 28th July. For more information, see www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk.

For many Londoners, an opportunity to see the Queen means heading to Buckingham Palace to watch her wave from the balcony – or standing in the Mall to watch as her carriage goes by.

Given that, we thought we’d take the time to have a quick look at the history of The Mall, an important player in events like the annual Trooping the Colour.

This one kilometre long grand processional route which links Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was originally cut through St James’s Park in 1660 when King Charles II was looking for a new paille-maille pitch (see our earlier entry on Pall Mall for more on this). Two long avenues of trees were planted on either side, giving it a leafy feel that’s still in evidence today.

The Mall had become notorious by the 18th century and was spruced up in 1911 under the eye of Sir Aston Webb (who also designed other elements in the area including a new facade for Buckingham Palace, the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace, and Admiralty Arch at the western end of the route) to become the grand avenue, complete with red-carpet like surface (this was done later), that it is today.

It is bordered by St James’s Park on the south side and on the north side is overlooked by various grand buildings – including Clarence House and the Institute of Contemporary Arts – as well as, toward the western end, Green Park.

These days the Queen publicly processes down The Mall for a number of events throughout the year – among them are the State Opening of Parliament (held earlier this month) as well as military ceremonies like Trooping the Colour and events like last year’s Royal Wedding when is it said that more than a million people were said to have filled the broad street.

The Mall is also the route along which Heads of State process in a horse drawn carriage during official visits (the road is then decorated with Union Jacks and flags of the visitor’s country). During the Olympics, it will be the start and end location of the marathons and cycling road races.

Apart from the Queen Victoria Memorial at the eastern end of The Mall, statues and monuments lining the road include the Queen Mother Memorial, a statue of explorer Captain James Cook, and a recently installed statue of cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin.

There are apparently a series of tunnels underneath with link Buckingham Palace with Whitehall.

We should also briefly mention Horseguards, which is at The Mall’s eastern end and where Trooping the Colour and Beating Retreat takes place. This was formerly the site of a tiltyard of the Palace of Whitehall and jousting tournaments were held here during the time of King Henry VIII. It has been used for parades and ceremonies since the 17th century. While cars were parked here for much of the 20th century, this practice was stopped in the mid-1990s.

Following her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, took up residence in Buckingham Palace and have resided there ever since.

The Queen and her family’s appearance on the palace’s balcony to wave to crowds at events like Trooping the Colour and last year’s Royal Wedding have become symbols of her reign.

We’ve already written about some of the history of the 775 room palace (see our earlier post here), so today we’re looking specifically at the palace as the residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

While the focus for visitors to the palace is on the grand state rooms (of which there are 19 located in the west block facing the palace gardens – they include the Throne Room and State Dining Room), the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh live in private apartments on the north side of the palace while rooms on the upper floors of the palace’s north and east sides are occupied by other members of the Royal Family. A large part of the ground floor and palace’s south wing are occupied by service quarters and members of the Royal Household.

As well as weekly meetings at the palace – including audiences with the Prime Minister, foreign and British ambassadors, clergy and senior members of the civil service, the Queen also hosts a variety of grand events at the palace throughout the year. These include the Diplomatic Reception given for members of the diplomatic corps in the autumn (more than 1,500 people attend from more than 130 countries), three large garden parties in the summer and grand State Banquets which are held in the Ballroom on the first evening of a visit from a foreign head of state. The Queen is also noted for the small private lunch parties she holds to which community leaders are invited.

The head of the 1,200 strong Royal Household is the Lord Chamberlain (since 2006 The Earl Peel), a non-political office responsible for the organisation of ceremonial activities at court as well as the palace’s upkeep. Under him are the various departments heads – these include the Comptroller, who heads the Lord Chamberlain’s Office (this oversees everything from State Visits to the Royal Mews), the Keeper of the Privy Purse (responsible for the management of the sovereign’s financial affairs) and the Master of the Household (responsible for domestic and staff arrangements as well as catering and official entertainment, this position dates back to 1539).

A typical day in the life of the Queen when at the palace involves her spending the morning at her desk where she reviews a sample of incoming letters (an estimated 200 to 300 arrive each day almost all of which are answered by her staff) and meets with her Private Secretaries to deal with official papers which arrive in the famous ‘red boxes’.

The Queen will then often hold a series of audiences during which she’ll meet with a range of people – from retiring senior members of the armed forces to newly appointed ambassadors and judges and people who have won awards for excellence in a particular field. She may then participate in an investiture at which honors and decorations are presented (about 25 of these are held every year, usually in the palace Ballroom).

Lunch is often private although as previously mentioned, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are known for hosting small lunch gatherings for a range of people. In the afternoon, the Queen will often attend engagements outside the palace (she attends about 430 engagements and audiences a year) before possibly meeting with the Privy Council.

Evenings are spent reviewing a report of the day’s parliamentary proceedings, meeting with the Prime Minister (something she does every Wednesday when both are in London), attending further engagements or hosting events at the palace.

And, of course, when the Queen is in residence, Buckingham Palace is also home to the Queen’s corgis – Monty, Willow and Holly – and dorgis (a cross between a corgi and a dachshund) – Cider, Candy and Vulcan.

For more on Buckingham Palace and the life of the Queen, go www.royal.gov.uk.

WHERE: State Rooms, Buckingham Palace (includes special exhibition Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration) (nearest Tube stations are Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner); WHEN: 9.45am to 6.30pm, 30th June to 8th July and 31st July to 7th October; COST: £18 an adult/£10.50 a child (under 17s/under fives free)/£16.50 concession/£47 family; WEBSITE: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/buckinghampalace.

PICTURE: Christa Richert/sxc.hu

The fourth in a line of parks stretching from Kensington Palace to Westminster, St James’s Park largely owes its foundation to King James I. 

Given its early history is covered in our earlier post, we’ll skip forward to the time of King Charles II when, under to instruction of Frenchman Andre Mollet, the park was redesigned with new landscaping including wide lawns, avenues of trees and a wide, centrally positioned canal. It was King Charles II who also opened the park up to the public (he even mingled with them there along with his mistress Nell Gwynn). Interestingly the first pelicans were also introduced to the park around this time when the Russian ambassador presented a pair of pelicans to the king.

In the 18th century, Horse Guards Parade was added to the park by filling in one end of the park’s canal and was later used for parades. The ceremonies of Beating Retreat and Trooping the Colour are still held there today.

The next major changes came in the 19th century when in 1827-28, architect John Nash oversaw a more romantically inspired renovation, including the transformation of the canal into a natural looking lake and the addition of winding paths, as part of his grand scheme which still shapes much of London today.

It was also at this time that The Mall (which like Pall Mall takes it name from the game of Pelle Melle – see our earlier post) was transformed into a grand processional route (it was opened to traffic later, in 1887). The park, bounded to the west by Buckingham Palace, also takes in the Queen Victoria Memorial – completed in 1914 to replace the Marble Arch which was moved to its current location at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in 1851 – and flower beds which are planted annually with 12,000 geraniums, the color of which is chosen to match the guardsmen’s tunics.

Meanwhile, in 1837, the Ornothological Society of London erected a cottage for the birdkeeper (the thatched cottage can still be seen there today and the post of birdkeeper still exists). The first bridge was placed across the lake in 1851 (and replaced in 1951 with the one that now stands there).

Little has changed in the 23 hectare (58 acre) park since Nash’s day. Newer facilities include a restaurant and a playground at the western end.

WHERE: St James’s Park (nearest tube station is St James’s Park); WHEN: 5am to midnight daily; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.gov.uk/St-Jamess-Park.aspx 

PICTURE: © Anne Marie Briscombe  (courtesy Royal Parks)

A ceremony first believed to have been performed during the reign of King Charles II, since 1748 the parade has been used to mark the Official Birthday of the Sovereign.

 Queen Elizabeth II inspects the Guards in her phaeton.

Prince William, Prince Charles, the Duke of Kent and Princess Anne riding Queen’s Escort behind the Queen.

The parade includes six Guards groups. This year it was the turn of the Scots Guards, raised in 1642 at the behest of King Charles I, to parade their colours.

Part of the Household Mounted Cavalry, the Blues and Royals.

At 1pm, back at Buckingham Palace following the firing of a 41 gun salute, the Queen and the Royal Family watch Royal Air Force aircraft performing a fly past overhead.

The RAF’s Red Arrows aerobatic display team perform a colorful flypast over Buckingham Palace.
All images and text are © David S. Adams

This week Horse Guards in London hosts the annual ceremony of Beating Retreat with massed bands playing and marching in formation. But where does the tradition come from?

The origins of the ceremony date back several hundred years to at least the 16th century when the beating of drums signalled the end of a day’s fighting, the closure of camp gates and the lowering of flags. Among the English kings credited with having ordered troops to “beat retreat” are old enemies King James II and King William III.

The ceremony was standard practice by the early 1700s with flutes or fifes added to the drum beating before, following the Napoleonic Wars, these were both replaced with bugles, to help ensure the sound reached greater distances.

The ceremony has been held annually at Horse Guards Parade since 1966 and this year involves the Massed Bands and Corps of Drums of the army’s Household Division along with The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery as well as The United States Army Europe Band and Chorus.

The event is a prelude to the Trooping the Colour on Saturday when more than 1,300 troops will parade in honor of the Queen’s Official Birthday.

Beating Retreat will be held at Horse Guards Parade on 8th and 9th of June (Wednesday and Thursday night), from 9pm. For more information and tickets, see www.guardsbeatingretreat.com