Standing at the river end of the Privy Garden at Hampton Court Palace is a stretch of wrought-iron screen designed and made by Huguenot ironworker Jean Tijou for King William III and Queen Mary II.
The screen, which is one of the finest examples of 17th century ironwork in the world, was created between 1689 to 1692. It features 12 panels displaying symbols including the monogram of William and Mary, the garter emblem and representations of England, Ireland, Scotland and France.
William expressed his personal admiration for the work.
The screen was among numerous royal commissions created by Tijou, who had arrived in England in about 1689 and secured the patronage of the joint monarchs.
The screen fell into neglect in the 18th century and were subsequently repaired numerous times before being split up in the 19th century. It was re-erected at Hampton Court in 1902 and since been restored several times.
There are numerous royal palaces in London but which are royal residences?
Foremost is Buckingham Palace, the official residence and office of the monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – in London. The palace – acquired for the Crown by King George III in 1761, converted to a palace by King George IV and first lived in by Queen Victoria – is also used for State ceremonies and for official entertaining.
Other royal residences include Clarence House which is the official London residence of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The property was built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of John Nash for Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence (hence the name).
It was the home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, between 1953 and her death in 2002, and was also temporarily the home of the then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip following their marriage in 1947.
St James’s Palace, which was largely built by King Henry VIII and served as the residence of numerous monarchs until King William IV, also remains the home of several members of the Royal Family – including Princess Anne and Princess Alexandra – and their household offices.
The State Apartments are sometimes used for entertaining during in-coming State Visits, as well as for other ceremonial and formal occasions. Its history means diplomats are still accredited to the Court of St James.
Kensington Palace – childhood home of Queen Victoria and favoured residence of monarchs from King William III to King George II – is these days the official London residence of Prince William and Katherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
It also contains the London residences and offices of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
While Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Kew Palace and the remnant of the Palace of Whitehall known as the Banqueting House are all royal palaces, they ceased being used regularly for royal court purposes in the 18th century and are now in the care of Historic Royal Palaces (along with parts of Kensington Palace).
• Hampton Court Palace’s Tulip Festival – the largest of its kind in the UK – is returning following its successful inaugural year in 2021. From Friday until 2nd May (depending on flowering periods), the palace’s 60 acres of formal gardens are expected to be filled with rare, historic and specialist tulip varieties inspired by Queen Mary II’s famous 17th century collection which was once housed at the palace. Some 120,000 tulip bulbs of 60 different varieties have been planted, including breath-taking floating tulip vases located in the palace’s famous fountains, and floral displays which will fill the cobbled courtyards of Base Court and Clock Court. Visitors will be able to find out all about the links between the flower and the palace’s history with a dedicated Tulip Festival Guide. Included with admission. For more, head here.
• New exhibits marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands Conflict have gone on show at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth. Among the new items on display are drawings by Linda Kitson, the first female artist commissioned by IWM to accompany troops into conflict, and images of the conflict – many of which have never been seen before – taken by photographer Paul RG Haley who covered it for Soldier Magazine. The museum is also exploring the story and legacy of the conflict through a digital programme of events including a series of short films and a new episode of the Conflict of Interest podcast featuring actor Katherine Parkinson. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
• The Regent’s Park will soon boast a new 1.5 acre garden at its centre in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The new garden, to be created on the site of a former plant nursery near the Inner Circle, will include design features that reflect the Queen’s “love of trees and nature”. The Royal Parks will be committing £1 million to the project and will seek external funding and public donations. Designs for the new park will be shared as they are developed. Meanwhile, The Royal Parks have also announced they will be creating a new wood in Richmond Park as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Initiative. The new woodland, which will be located adjacent to Ham Cross, will be planted with 70 large trees, each one to mark a year of Her Majesty’s reign.
• A first-of-its-kind exhibition featuring the Royal Collection’s Japanese works of art opens at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, tomorrow.Japan: Courts and Culture, features more than 150 works including rare porcelain, samurai armour, woodcut prints, embroidered screens and a range of diplomatic gifts sent during the reigns of monarchs ranging from King James I to Queen Elizabeth II. Among the highlights are a pair of folding screens sent to Queen Victoria in 1860 from the Japanese Shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi which will go on public display for the first time since they arrived at the British court 162 years ago. The screen paintings, which depict the changing seasons, were not thought to have survived but in recent years research has revealed the two screens were the work of Itaya Hiroharu, one of the artists likely to have worked on Queen Victoria’s gifts. Also included in gift was a set of lacquer furniture, spears inlaid with glittering mother of pearl, and swords made by leading court swordsmiths – all of which will also be on display. Admission charge applies. Runs until 26 February, 2023. For more, see www.rct.uk.
• Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Raphael, one of the first-ever exhibitions to explore the complete career of this giant of the Italian Renaissance opens at The National Gallery on Saturday. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael, which was supposed to be held in 2020 and was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, features more than 90 exhibits. They include a rare gathering of Raphael’s paintings of the Virgin and Child including Ansidei Madonna (The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari) (1505), two bronze roundels – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas and The Descent into Limbo – from Santa Maria della Pace which have never previously exhibited outside Italy and which are attributed to Cesarino Rossetti after designs by Raphael, and a room devoted to Raphael’s frescoes for Pope Julius II’s private apartments. There are also several of his original print designs, an survey of ancient Rome he undertook for Pope Leo X, tapestry designs including Saint Paul Preaching at Athens (workshop of, or on behalf of, Pieter van Aelst, active about 1490–1533, after design by Raphael, about 1517–19), and portraiture from his final years including Portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1518) and Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1519). Admission charge applies. Runs until 31st July. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/the-credit-suisse-exhibition-raphael.
• The British Library’s Food Season kicks off today with almost two months of online and in-person events inspired by the cookbooks, recipes and culinary stories in the collection. Highlights include chef Ainsley Harriott talking about his life and career with food-writer Melissa Thompson, food-writer Maunika Gowardan celebrating India’s breadth of food cultures with chefs and food-writers including Ravinder Bhogal, Romy Gill, Kavi Thakrar and Farokh Talati, chef and broadcaster Andi Oliver discussing Jessica B Harris’ 50- year career examining the history and meaning of food for the African diaspora, and psychologist Kimberley Wilson chairing a discussion about the food prisoners are fed inside British correctional institutions and if it impacts rehabilitation. Now in its fifth year, the 2022 Food Season is supported by KitchenAid. For the full programme of events, head to www.bl.uk/events/food-season.
• Textile designer Enid Marx – famous for her seat fabric designs on the London Underground – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque was unveiled this week at her former home at 39 Thornhill Road where she lived and worked for more than 30 years. Marx, who shared the house with her partner, Margaret Lambert, and friends Eleanor Breuning and Grace Lambert (Breuning continues to live at the house today), had a purpose-built studio in the back garden which remains in similar condition to when she left it almost 25 years ago. Alongside her work for the London Underground, Marx also is known for her design of postage stamps marking the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in 1953. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
• Twenty-four of Canaletto’s Venetian views which are normally found at Woburn Abbey form the heart of a new exhibition opening at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on Friday.Canaletto’s Venice Revisited explores some of the most iconic view paintings of Venice and how tourism, which helped establish Canaletto’s career, today threatens Venice’s future. The views from Woburn Abbey were painted by Canaletto for Lord John Russell, the 4th Duke of Bedford, in the 1730s and this is the first time the paintings, which are thought to be Canaletto’s largest single commission, will be on display in their entirety outside of the abbey. As well as 22 smaller views of Venice depicting iconic landmarks such as Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal, as well as campi, palazzi and churches, the works include two monumental views, A Regatta on the Grand Canal and The Grand Canal, Ascension Day: The embarkation of the Doge of Venice for the Ceremony of the Marriage of the Adriatic. Runs until 25th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/canaletto.
• The story of the postcode is the subject of a new exhibition at The Postal Museum.Sorting Britain: The Power of Postcodes charts the journey of postcodes in the UK, from the post postal districts in London, Liverpool and Manchester and the first trial of postcodes in Norwich in 1959 to how postcodes are used today as an indicator of social standing. Highlights in the display include ELSIE, one of the only original 1950s Electronic Letter Sorting Indicating Equipment left in existence, images of ‘Poco the Postcode Elephant’ – one of the biggest advertising campaigns of the 1980s and unseen maps of London from the 19th century. Runs until 1st January. Included in admission ticket. For more, see www.postalmuseum.org.
• The Lindt GOLD BUNNY Hunt is returning to both Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace this Easter for the first time since 2019. Children aged four to 12 are invited to use a trail map to explore each palace and gardens and find the Lindt GOLD BUNNY statues while learning about people from the palaces’ past and, on successfully completing their mission, claim their chocolatey reward. Check the website for details of dates. The hunt is included in palace admission. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.
• The representation of foundlings, orphans, adoptees, and foster children in comics and graphic novels comes under scrutiny in a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Opening Friday, Superheroes, Orphans & Origins: 125 years in comics looks at traditional orphan superheroes ranging from Superman and Batman to Spider Man and Black Panther along with characters from early newspaper comic strips, Japanese Manga and contemporary graphic novel protagonists. The display includes historical newspapers, original artwork and contemporary digital work as well as examples of international comics rarely exhibited in the UK. There are also three new artistic commissions specifically made for the exhibition. Can be seen until 28th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/event/superheroes-orphans-origins/.
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• Five hundred years after Queen Anne Boleyn is recorded as first appearing before her future husband, King Henry VIII, her carved heraldic badge has gone on show at Hampton Court Palace. The blackened oak carving, which features a crowned falcon atop a tree stump flowering with Tudor roses, was discovered by antiques expert Paul Fitzsimmons. While it had been covered in centuries of soot, grime and wax, conservation saw the removal of a layer of black paint to reveal the original colouring of white, gold and red. Subsequent research revealed the carving’s similarity to the 43 surviving falcon badges with the ‘frieze’ above the windows and hammer beams in the palace’s Great Hall, leading researchers to believe that the carving is an element of the room’s original Tudor scheme. Records show one Michael Joyner was paid to create carvings of the King’s and Queen’s badges. Following Boleyn’s downfall and Henry VIII’s subsequent marriage to Jane Seymour, craftsmen were paid to overpaint the former Queen’s white falcons in black, severing their association with her. Boleyn, who first appeared before Henry playing the role of Perseverance in a court masque, first started using the white falcon as her device around the time she was created Marquess of Pembroke, shortly before her public marriage to Henry in 1533. After her marriage and coronation, new imperial falcon badge was created, featuring the crown and sceptre. The badge can be seen in the Great Hall (included in general admission). For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.
• St Patricks’ Day will be marked in London this weekend for the first time in three years with a parade through central London and festivities in Trafalgar Square. The annual parade of Irish marching bands and dancers will start at Green Park at noon on Sunday and wind its way through the streets to Whitehall. Trafalgar Square, meanwhile, will play host to a line-up of Irish talent from noon to 6pm on Sunday with family-friendly concerts, storytelling, children’s films and youth performances, as well community choirs, schools, dance troupes and children’s workshops featuring camogie games, medal-making and face painting as well as a food and drinks stalls. For the full programme, head to www.london.gov.uk/st-patricks.
A truncated staircase – really just a few steps – located near the entrance to the White Tower is famous – or perhaps infamous is a better word – for its connection with the so-called ‘Princes in the Tower’ – the 12-year-old King Edward V and his nine-year-old brother, Richard, Duke of York, who disappeared after entering the Tower of London in the late 15th century.
While the princes are believed to have been held in the Bloody Tower, their connection with the staircase, which is located in a doorway niche halfway up the main outer stairway into the White Tower, dates to 1674.
King Charles II had ordered the demolition of what was left of the royal palace to the south of the White Tower and during those works a wooden chest containing two skeletons was discovered beneath the foundations of a staircase which had led up to St John’s Chapel.
Many have subsequently believed the skeletons to be those of the two princes.
The princes had been taken to the tower in April, 1483, following the death of their father, King Edward IV, on the 9th of that month. Their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (and the Lord Protector of his nephews), had done so, ostensibly for their protection, while Edward’s coronation was initially scheduled for June.
The last recorded reference to them being in the tower dates from 16th June when they were seen “shooting [arrows] and playing in the garden of the Tower sundry times”.
There has since been much debate over their fate with many believing Richard, who in July of that year was crowned King Richard III, had them murdered to ensure his own ascension to the throne.
The two skeletons found almost 200 years later were put on display for several years following their discovery before King Charles II ordered that they be placed in an urn and reburied in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey. In 1933, they were disinterred and forensically examined by LE Tannery and W Wright who concluded they were the skeletons of two boys, aged 10 and 13. They were subsequently reinterred and have remained buried since. They have never been tested for DNA.
Historic Royal Palaces Chief Curator Lucy Worsley and special guests will look at the question of whether the urn should be opened and the bones tested using modern forensic methods in an online event on 16th March at 7pm. Follow this link to register for this event.
WHERE: Tower of London (nearest Tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 9am to 4.30pm (last admission), Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4.30pm (last admission) 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 staircase, a grand entrance to the King’s State Apartments at Kensington Palace, are famous for the paintings on the walls and ceiling which depict an 18th century court looking down on those who ascend.
The work of William Kent, the staircase paintings were complete in 1724 and replaced earlier wooden panelling.
The stairs were originally constructed as part of Sir Christopher Wren’s remodelling Nottingham House into Kensington Palace for King William III and Queen Mary II. Following a fire in 1691, they were rebuilt in marble.
There are 45 people in Kent’s painting and only about a dozen have been identified. As well as members of the Yeomen of the Guard, the images depict King George I’s Polish page Ulric, his Turkish servants Mahomet and Mustapha, Peter the ‘wild boy’, a child found in the woods in Germany, and Dr John Arbuthnot, a medical doctor and satirist who tried to teach Peter to speak.
Interestingly, Kent included a selfie on the ceiling – a depiction of himself, wearing a brown turban and carrying an artist’s palette, standing with his mistress by his side.
The trompe l’oeil (a technique which creates the optical illusion of 3D) work features architecture inspired by Rome where Kent had trained while there’s also a painted figure of Diana on the top landing which is based on an antique statue at Holkham Hall in Norfolk.
In 1734, Queen Caroline commissioned Kent to rework the stairs to the Queen’s State Apartments. His work there features a Roman-inspired scene again created as a trompe l’oeil. There is also a homage to Queen who is compared to Britannia. The staircase’s balustrade was another by Huguenot ironworker Jean Tijou.
WHERE: The Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens, Kensington (nearest tube stations are High Street Kensington or Queensway); WHEN: Daily 10am to 6pm (last admission 5pm); COST: £16 adult/£12.80 concession/£8 child (Historic Royal Palaces members free); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace.
It’s 480 years this month since Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII of England, was executed for treason inside the Tower of London.
Catherine, who it has been suggested may have been just 17-years-old when she died, was beheaded on the morning of 13th February, 1542, less than two years after her hastily arranged marriage to the King, just three weeks after his prior marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled.
Catherine, also spelt as Katherine, was condemned to death after a young noble named Francis Dereham admitted, under torture, to having a sexual relationship with her prior to her marrying the king, and, more importantly, Thomas Culpeper, a Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber, who admitted to having an affair with her after her marriage.
Both men were executed at Tyburn following their admissions and their heads were displayed on London Bridge. Catherine sailed under it aboard a barge as she was taken to the Tower on 10th February, 1542.
She is said to have spent the night before her execution practising placing her head on the block – which was brought to her at her request.
Catherine was beheaded with the single stroke of a headsman’s axe on Tower Green – King Henry did not attend but some of her cousins, including the Earl of Surrey, were among the witnesses.
She was said to have been composed, although she needed help mounting the scaffold. It’s often said that her last words were “I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper” but there’s no eyewitness report which suggests this and instead she is believed to have stuck to a more traditional script, saying her punishment was just for her crimes and asking forgiveness.
Her maid – Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford – followed her to the block for her role in facilitating the affair while Henry was away from court. Catherine had apparently spent the night before practising how to lay her head upon the block.
Catherine was buried in an unmarked grave at in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula next to Tower Green – there’s a memorial to her in the church. The Queen’s ghost is famously said to be present in what’s known as the ‘Haunted Gallery’ at Hampton Court Palace – it is here that, when she was arrested, she apparently broke free from her guards and ran to the doors of the Chapel Royal where she believed the king was at prayer. Needless to say, her cries for mercy went unanswered.
This grand staircase was installed in Hampton Court Palace during the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II as a grand entrance to the King’s Apartments.
The staircase, which features shallow steps, was designed Sir Christopher Wren and features a wrought iron balustrade designed by French ironsmith Jean Tijou.
It was decorated in about 1700 by Italian painter Antonio Verrio to resemble a Roman courtyard which is open to the sky. The main image depicts ‘Victory of Alexander over the Caesars’ which features King William III as Alexander the Great and is painted as an allegory of William’s triumph over the Stuart King, James II, in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (with the Stuarts represented by the 12 Caesars).
The stairs lead up to the Guard Chamber, an anteroom which had to be passed through to reach the Presence Chamber.
The Honourable Artillery Company fires a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London to mark the 70th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. The gun salute at the Tower was one of a number which took place across the UK on Monday – while the date of the Queen’s accession was the 6th February, gun salutes do not traditionally take place on a Sunday. The gun salutes are traditionally comprised of 21 rounds with a further 20 rounds fired at Royal Parks and palaces and a further 21 at the Tower to show the respect the City of London has for the Queen. Below, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery can be seen firing 41 rounds in Green Park.
Memorialised in the name of the house where he once lived at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, John Flamsteed was the first Astronomer Royal.
Flamsteed was born in Denby, Derbyshire, on 16th August, 1646, and was the only child of Stephen Flamsteed, who among other things was involved in the brewing industry, and his first wife Mary (who died when John Flamsteed was still quite young).
He was educated at local schools but left off his studies at the age of 15 due to his own ill health and his father’s need for his assistance in the household and with his business.
His poor health meant he pursued some more sedentary activities and it was during this period that he established interest in astronomy, writing his first paper in 1665. Flamsteed did briefly attend Jesus College in Cambridge in the early 1670s, although it’s not thought he ever took up full residence.
Flamsteed was ordained a deacon and was preparing to take up a living in Derbyshire in 1675 – having by then obtained an MA from Cambridge – when his patron Jonas Moore, whom he’d met in the summer of 1670 during a visit to London and then visited again in mid-1674, invited him to return to the city, ostensibly to establish an observatory which Moore, who was Surveyor-General of the Ordnance, had offered to pay for.
Flamsteed arrived in February, 1675, stayed with Moore in the Tower before, after meeting King Charles II, was made an official assistant to a Royal Commission which the king had established charged with examining the merits of a proposal – put forward by a “le Sieur de St Pierre” to find longitude by the position of the Moon.
The commission decided the proposal wasn’t worth taking further but did recommend the establishment of an observatory from which the movement of the stars and Moon could be mapped in the hope of developing a method of finding longitude. Flamsteed was subsequently appointed “The King’s Astronomical Observator” – the first Astronomer Royal – on 4th March, 1675, by royal warrant, and in June that same year, another royal warrant provided for the founding of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Flamsteed laid the foundation stone on 10th August.
He was admitted as a fellow of the Royal Society in February the following year and in July he moved into the observatory, now known as Flamsteed House (it contains famed Octagonal Room with large windows from which celestial events could be watched), which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It was to serve as Flamsteed’s home for next decade or so.
Flamsteed’s achievements as an astronomer included the accurate calculation of the solar eclipses of 1666 and 1668 and recording some of the earliest sightings of Uranus which he mistakenly thought was a star. He was also in regular contact with many other scientific luminaries of the day and famously fell out with both Sir Edmond Halley (his one-time assistant and future successor as Astronomer Royal) and Sir Isaac Newton.
Flamsteed’s own catalogue of almost 3,000 stars wasn’t published until after death in 1725 thanks to the effort’s of his wife Margaret – whom he had married on 23rd October, 1692 (they were to have no children although Flamsteed’s niece, Ann Heming, did live with them). Margaret also published his star atlas, Atlas Coelestis, posthumously in 1729.
In 1684, Flamsteed was elevated to the priesthood and made rector of the village of Burstow, near Crawley in Surrey – a post, which, along with that of Astronomer Royal, he held until his death on 31st December, 1719.
He was buried in Burstow and there is a plaque on the wall of the church there marking his grave (which was added long after his death). Aside from his earthly honours – which includes the name of Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory, a crater on the Moon is named after him as is an asteroid.
• Biodiversity hotspot Costa Rica is the focus of this year’s Orchid Festival which opens at Kew Gardens on Saturday. The festival, which returns for the first time in two years, sees a recreation of the verdant landscape of the Caribbean island nation in the Princess of Wales Conservatory – including the creation of monkeys, sea turtles, toads and hummingbirds in plant form – with a central display in the glasshouse pond of vibrant orchids and bromeliads. Meanwhile, the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition is also opening in Kew’s Arboretum and features a selection of images from across categories including ‘Beautiful Gardens’, ‘The Beauty of Plants’ and ‘The World of Fungi’ as well as winner of the ‘Captured at Kew’ special award. Both can be seen until 6th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.
• A series of portraits depicting Holocaust survivors has gone on show at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace. The seven works in SevenPortraits: Surviving the Holocaust were commissioned by Prince Charles in his role as patron of Holocaust Memorial Day which was marked last week. The exhibition can be seen at The Queen’s Gallery until 13th February. Admission charge applies. For more on Holocaust Memorial Day, see www.hmd.org.uk. For more on The Queen’s Gallery, head to www.rct.uk/visit/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace.
• Music icon Bob Marley is the subject of an exhibition which opened at the Saatchi Gallery this week. Bob Marley: One Love Experience features hitherto unseen photographs of Marley as well as memorabilia, giant art installations and multi-sensory experiences as visitors are led through a series of rooms including the ‘One Love Music Room’, the ‘One Love Forest’ and the ‘Soul Shakedown Studio’. The exhibition runs until 17th April. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.bobmarleyexp.com.
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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.
Buckingham Palace is among the sites across London which will be hosting events to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee this June. The Queen’s 70th year on the throne will be marked with four days of celebrations across the June bank holiday weekend which will include the Queen’s Birthday Parade (known as Trooping the Colour), the lighting of Platinum Jubilee Beacons – including the principal beacon at Buckingham Palace, a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, the ‘Platinum Party at the Palace’ – a celebration concert in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, The Big Jubilee Lunch in communities across the city, and a special Platinum Jubilee Pageant, part of which will see a moving river of flags rippling down The Mall. For more information, head to www.royal.uk/platinum-jubilee-central-weekend.
The Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London has been decked out for Christmas with an array of glittering decorations. Animals including a polar bear, elephants and lions were kept at various times in the Tower’s menagerie which started thanks to a royal penchant to giving exotic animals as gifts to fellow monarchs. King Edward I created the first permanent home for the menagerie which, after hundreds of years, closed for good in 1835. The Christmas display the Tower, which centres on the Tower Green Christmas tree, can be seen until 3rd January. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk.
• An after-hours light trail featuring clocks, moons, planets and sundials has opened at Hampton Court Palace this week. Palace of Stardust takes people through the palace’s historic cobbled courtyards and gardens which have been filled with magical illuminations inspired by the palace’s famous astronomical clock installed at the command of King Henry VIII. Visitors to the display, designed and created by award-winning outdoor event producers Wild Rumpus, will uncover the mysterious meanings on the clock’s dial, attend a flickering moonlit ball in the East Front Gardens, hear the ancient royal trees as they whisper their secrets and peek into mysterious miniature shadow worlds before being transported to another planet in the deepest depths of the Wilderness, once home to King Charles II’s formal pleasure garden. Seasonal food and drink will also be available. Runs until 3rd January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/whats- on/palace-of-stardust-at-hampton-court-palace.
• One of the greatest composers of all time, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library. The display, which draws on the library’s world-famous collection, features manuscripts, archival documents, personal belongings and sound recordings with highlights including Beethoven’s own copy of his earliest published works which he composed at age 12 and 13, sketches for his Pastoral Symphony and late string quartets, a tuning fork which is thought to have belonged to him until 1803, and a pocket sketchbook the composer used to note down musical ideas when out walking, which dates from 1825. There is also a specially commissioned audio-visual incorporating bone conduction to present extracts from the composer’s music in an engaging and immersive way, in particular to those with hearing impairments. The exhibition runs until 24th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/beethoven. To coincide with the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the library last year launched ‘Discovering Music: 19th century‘, a free online resource which explores key works of 19th-century classical music and the social, political and cultural contexts in which they were written.
• The World War II story of the elite tank regiment, the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, is being told in a new exhibition which opens today at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Based on broadcaster and historian James Holland’s book, Brothers in Arms, the exhibition spans the period fromthe D-Day landings on 6th June, 1944, to VE Day almost a year later and focuses on the stories of eight soldiers who served in the regiment as it explores the dangers and pressures they faced and the camaraderie and bonds that bound them together. The exhibition is being accompanied by a programme of events. This Saturday, the Museum is putting a spotlight on tanks with free talks, tours and tank challenges for the family – plus the chance to see a Sherman tank parked up at the Museum. Online booking is recommended. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk/whats-on/brothers-arms.
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• A dazzling light show inspired by the Northern Lights – one of the seven natural wonders of the world – can be seen in the Guildhall Yard this December. Borealis – which can be seen between 11th and 22nd December – is the work of artist Dan Acher and is one of a number of light displays which is illuminating London this winter as part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ‘Winter Lights’ campaign. Others include an animal-themed display bringing to life the beasts that once lived at the Tower of London, an outdoor programme of installations and video art projections illuminating the Southbank Centre’s site, the ‘Illuminated River’ display lighting up nine of London’s bridges in what is be the longest public art project in the world, and a free Canary Wharf ‘Winter Lights Spectacular’ in January which will feature 20 new light commissions by some of the most innovative artists across the globe. In Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, thousands of illuminated white roses will form an ‘Ever After Garden’ designed by fashion designer Anya Hindmarch while traditional favourites like the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland as well as winter markets and ice rinks at locations like the Natural History Museum and Somerset House are also once again returning to the city. London’s red buses are an easy way to see the Christmas lights this year with routes 12, 94, 98, 139 and 390 all travelling through Oxford Circus. Free tickets to Borealis can be booked at www.visitlondon.com/Borealis while, for more on the best bus routes, see https://londonblog.tfl.gov.uk/festive-bus-routes/. For more information on all the light shows and events (some of which are already underway), see visitlondon.com .
• Costumes worn by then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret in wartime-era pantomimes are at the heart of a new display at Windsor Castle this Christmas. The princesses spent much of their time at Windsor during World War II – away from the Blitz in London – and, between 1941 and 1944, they performed in and helped to stage a series of pantomimes to raise money for the Royal Household Wool Fund which supplied knitting wool to make comforters for soldiers fighting at the front. Six of the costumes they wore have been brought together for the first time and are being displayed in the castle’s Waterloo Chamber where the pantos were originally performed. The costumes on show were worn in the last two pantos – Aladdin, which was performed in 1943, and Old Mother Red Riding Boots which was performed in 1944. Also on show are 16 large scale pictures of fairy-tale characters that were pasted around the walls to create the space for the performances. Visitors to Windsor this Christmas will also see State Apartments decorated for the festive season and a 20 foot high Christmas tree in St George’s Hall. The Semi-State Rooms, created for King George IV and now used for official entertaining, are also now open to visitors. The costumes can be seen until 31st January. Admission charges apply. For more on the Christmas activities at Windsor, including a ‘Mary, Queen of Scots at Christmas Family Activity Day’ on 18th December, see www.rct.uk/whatson/. Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace is offering guided tours of the State Rooms over winter with special family guided tours available for the first time. The tours run until 30th January. Admission charge applies. For more on the guided tours, head here and for more on the family tours, head here.
• The ancient Greeks’ pursuit of knowledge is the subject of a new exhibition which has opened at the Science Museum in South Kensington. Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom takes visitors on a journey in which they will sail the perilous seas with a statue of Hermes that was discovered on a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera, experience the lost music of the aulos instrument through interactive displays and an exclusive video that reimagines its ancient sounds, and gaze at the starry cosmos through ancient Greek eyes via a beautiful and rare silver globe depicting the known constellations and a Byzantine sundial-calendar – the second oldest known geared mechanism in the world. The free display can be seen until 5th June. Tickets are required – to book head to sciencemuseum.org.uk/ancient-greeks.
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• The largest collection of Faberge’s Imperial Easter eggs to be displayed together in a generation go on show at the V&A from Saturday. Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution is the first major exhibition devoted to the international prominence of Russian goldsmith, Carl Fabergé, and his little-known London branch. Divided into three sections which cover everything from the techniques and detailing synonymous with the Faberge name to his time in London, the royal patronage he received, and the impact of the Great War and Russian Revolution on the business. The display features more than 200 objects with highlights including a prayer book gifted by Emperor Nicholas II to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on his Coronation Day, the only known example of solid gold tea service crafted by Fabergé, a rare figurine of a veteran English soldier commissioned by King Edward VII, and a “kaleidoscopic display” of 15 of the Imperial Easter Eggs. The latter include several that have never before been shown in the UK including the largest Imperial Egg – the Moscow Kremlin Egg – which was inspired by the architecture of the Dormition Cathedral, the Alexander Palace Egg – which features watercolour portraits of the children of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra and contains a model of the palace inside (pictured), the recently rediscovered Third Imperial Egg of 1887 (found by a scrap dealer in 2011) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Basket of Flowers Egg. Runs until 8th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
• The Royal Family’s relationship with the jeweller Garrard is the subject of a new exhibition which has opened in Kensington Palace’s ‘Jewel Room’. Going on display for the first time are examples of the firm’s ledgers which document royal commissions dating back to 1735 while other highlights include Queen Mary’s fringe tiara which was made in 1919 using diamonds taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding gift to Queen Mary and which was subsequently worn by Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding day. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace.
• Botanical illustrations from the archives at Kew Gardens are brought to life on a canvas consisting of a selection of spectacular trees from the arboretum as part of this year’s Christmas display. Christmas at Kew also includes Spheric – a 15-metre-wide dome of light covered in more than 2,000 individually controlled LED pixels which sits on a reflective water pool and allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in a unique mirrored illusion as they cross the lake, a new installation for Holly Walk which will illuminate the night sky for over 200 metres overhead as it replicates the enchanting visual phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, a vibrant rainbow tree illumination which brings to life the 12 Days of Christmas, and the ever-popular Fire Garden. The display can be seen until 9th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.kew.org.
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Think of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and chances are it isn’t London which immediately comes to mind. But it was in a home in Belgravia that the then-precocious eight-year-old composed his first symphony.
Mozart, his father Leopold, mother Anna Maria and his elder sister Maria Anna spent almost a year-and-a-half in London, between April, 1764, and July, 1765, as part of a European grand tour. Having initially taken lodgings above a barber’s shop in Cecil Court in Soho, they moved to the more rural setting of 180 Ebury Street, then known as Five Fields Row, in August so his father could recover from a serious illness which apparently developed after he caught a cold.
Mozart and his sister were both child prodigies and during their London sojourner performed in various London theatres and for King George III and Queen Charlotte at Buckingham Palace on several occasions. But, with his father now needing quiet, they were forbidden to play instruments in the house and so, according to his sister’s writings, in order to keep himself busy it was there that he composed his “first symphony for all the instruments of the orchestra, especially for trumpets and kettledrums”.
While the work she was referring to is now lost, Mozart did go on to compose the symphony that is now seen as his first at the same time. Known as K.16 in E flat major, it was first performed at the Haymarket Little Theatre in February, 1765.
Leopold did recover and so the family moved back to Soho – lodging at 20 Frith Street to be précise – in September, 1764. It was there that Mozart met the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Christian, who was to be a key influence on his musical style. They left the property – and brought their time in England to an end in July, 1765, amid waning public interest in their performances (they gone from performing for the Royal Family to entertaining pub patrons). The family continued with their European tour before eventually returning to their home town of Salzburg (Mozart later settled in Vienna where he died at the young age of 35).
Mozart’s time at the Ebury Street residence (and the composition he wrote there) is commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque (albeit this one is brown) which was erected by the then London County Council in 1939. Following damage in the war, it was reinstated in 1951. There’s also a statue commemorating Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in nearby Orange Square. Designed by Philip Jackson, it was erected in 1994.