This Week in London – Diana’s fashion-sense explored; America after the crash; and, British landscapes…
February 23, 2017
• The fashions of Diana, Princess of Wales, go on show at Kensington Palace tomorrow in a new exhibition, 20 years after her death. Diana: Her Fashion Story traces the evolution of her sense of style from the demure outfits of her first public appearances to the “glamour, elegance and confidence” of her later life and explores how she used her image to engage and inspire people as well as champion the causes she cared out. The display features everything from glamorous 1980s evening gowns to her “working wardrobe” of the 1990s and original fashion sketches created for her by her favourite designers. Highlights include a pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Lord Snowdon’s 1981 engagement portrait, a ink blue velvet gown designed by Victor Edelstein and famously worn during a visit to the White House when the princess danced with John Travolta, and a blue tartan Emanuel suit worn for an official visit to Venice in the 1980s. The latter goes on public display for the first time, having recently been acquired at auction by Historic Royal Palaces. Complementing the exhibition, gardeners have created a temporary ‘White Garden’ in the palace’s Sunken Garden with flowers and foliage inspired by the princess’s life, style and image. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/. PICTURE: Courtesy Historic Royal Palaces.
• Works chronicling life in the United States of America during the decade after the Wall Street crash of 1929 go on show at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday. America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s features 45 works by some of the foremost artists of the era which have been sourced from collections across the US. They include Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930) – the first time it’s being exhibited outside of the US, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (1931), Edward Hopper’s Gas (1940) and works by Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Alice Nee and Thomas Hart Benton. Organised by the Art Institute of Chicago, in collaboration with the Royal Academy and Etablissement public du musée d’Orsay et du musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, the exhibition in The Sackler Wing of Galleries can be seen until 4th June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
• Landscape drawings created over the century spanning 1850 to 1950 are the subject of a new free exhibition which opens at the British Museum today. Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950 features more than 125 works from the museum’s department of prints and drawings, over half of which have never been published or exhibited before. Artists represented include George Price Boyce, Alfred William Hunt, John Ruskin, James McNeill Whistler, Philip Wilson Steer. Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore. The display can be seen in Room 90 until 27th August. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
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This Week in London – A Queen’s garden party; the Great Fire 350 Festival; and, getting behind the scenes at the Museum of London…
August 18, 2016
• Join Queen Caroline, wife of King George II, for a garden party in the grounds of Kensington Palace this weekend. The celebrations include music, military drills and live performances in a bid to bring the era of the Georgians to life. Visitors can listen to court gossip, learn how to play popular music and devise ways to amuse the queen as they pop in and out of a range of tents set up in the gardens, each of which contains a different activity, from uncovering dress secrets to designing a mini-garden fit for a king or queen. There’s even the chance to sample some Georgian ice-cream in the ice-house. The days will be held from today until 21st August. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/. PICTURE: Via HRP
• The Great Fire 350 Festival – marking the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London – is underway and there’s a range of events being held in London over this month and next. While we’ll be mentioning some of these a little closer to actual anniversary date, meantime there are bi-weekly walks, a ‘Fire Trail’ treasure hunt and a new Monument app to keep you busy. The latter allows visitors to conduct a self-guided ‘Great Fire journey’ focusing on the fire itself, the commemoration of the blaze and London as we know it now as well as taking users into the minds of Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke – designers of The Monument. Available for download from Android Market and Apple App Store. For more on the events running as part of the anniversary, see www.visitlondon.com/greatfire350/events.
• Take a behind the scenes look at the Museum of London – and see some rarely exhibited objects – in an exhibition which opened late last month. The free display allows visitors to catch a glimpse of some of the work that goes on behind the scenes and see objects usually housed in the museum’s extensive stores including a detailed model of the process engraving department at the Evening Standard newspaper in 1977, an ice-cream maker and moulds from around 1910, and a confectioner’s icing stand from about 1900. The exhibition can be seen until 15th September. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
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December 3, 2015
• Christmas is looming and that means Christmas themed events happening all over London. Here’s a couple worth considering:
• Kensington Palace: Head back into the Victorian era where so many of the Christmas traditions we know and love find their origins. The palace and gardens have been decorated with period-inspired decorations while inside decorations include the beautifully decorated tables where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert showcased their Christmas gifts. There’s talks on the origins of Christmas foods such as plum pudding, music and carolling, and the cafe is serving up seasonal food and drink while on Saturday, a special brunch time lecture will look behind the curtains into the world of Victorian pantomime and performance. Admission charges apply – check the website for dates. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/.
• The Geffrye Museum: This Shoreditch institution is once again celebrating Christmas traditions of the past in its annual display showcasing the past 400 years of Christmas traditions. Christmas Past has taken place at the museum for the past 25 years and is based on ongoing, original research. It provides insights into everything from traditional Christmas feasts to kissing under the mistletoe, playing parlour games, hanging up stockings, sending cards, decorating the tree and throwing cocktail parties. A series of related events, including a concert by candlelight, are being held over the Christmas season. The display, which has free entry, closes on 3rd January. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
• Ebola and the fight against ISIS are the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth last month. Fighting Extremes: From Ebola to ISIS looks at the experiences of British personnel serving on recent operations including the response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and the fight against ISIS in the Middle East. The display features behind the scenes interviews such as an in-depth talk with Corporal Anna Cross, a British Army nurse who contracted Ebola, photographs, and recently acquired objects such as the Wellington boots worn by healthcare worker Will Pooley, the first Briton to contract Ebola who was evacuated from Sierra Leone by the RAF, a headset used by an RAF drone pilot, and a shooting target depicting a silhouette of an ISIS suicide bomber used by the British Army to train Peshmerga troops. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.
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This Week in London – Life after the pharaohs in Egypt; Days of the Dead; horrible histories at two royal palaces; and Dickin and Gombrich honoured with Blue Plaques…
October 29, 2015
• Still at the British Museum and a free four day festival of art, performance, storytelling and talks kicks off on Friday night to mark the Mexican tradition of the Days of the Dead. The annual celebration, which draws on both native and Catholic beliefs, is held on 1st and 2nd November and sees families gather to remember relatives and friends who have died. The festival, which is being conducted in association with the Mexican Government, includes a Friday evening event, a weekend of family activities featuring storytelling, films, music and dance, and a study day on Monday featuring lectures, gallery talks and activities. The museum will feature elaborate decorations by Mexican artists – including Betsabeé Romero – throughout the festival with a particular focus on the Great Court and Forecourt. Events – which run from 30th October to 2nd November – are free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/dotd.
• Horrible histories indeed! Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace are both hosting ghost tours from this weekend. The tours focus on some of the more grisly aspects of the history of the palaces with tours at Hampton Court featuring a visit to a shallow grave which was only uncovered in 1870 and those at Kensington Palace encountering the gruesome details of King William III’s fatal horse-riding accident and Queen Caroline’s horrific final hours. Admission charges apply. For more details, head to www.hrp.org.uk.
• Animal welfare campaigner Maria Dickin (1870-1951) and art historian EH Gombrich (1909-2001) have been honoured with English Heritage Blue Plaques. The plaque commemorating Dickin – founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) and of the PDSA Dickin medal, awarded to animals associated with the armed forces or civil defence who have shown conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty – has been placed on the Hackney house at 41 Cassland Road where she was born and spent the first few years of her life. Meanwhile the plaque to Gombrich was placed on the house at 19 Briardale Gardens in Hampstead where he lived for almost 50 years, from shortly after publication of his seminal work The Story of Art to his death in 2001. For more see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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This Week in London – Palaces mark Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign; Richmond Park’s open day; celebrating a famous London redhead; and, London shops features in new work…
September 10, 2015
• A special photographic display has opened at Buckingham Palace this week to commemorate the fact that Queen Elizabeth II has this week become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. The outdoor photographic display Long To Reign Over Us features a selection of photographs spanning the period from 1952 to today including informal family moments, official portraits and visits of the Queen to places across the UK and Commonwealth. Highlights include a black and white portrait by Dorothy Wilding from the start of the Queen’s reign in 1952, Cecil Beaton’s official Coronation Day portrait from 1953 and a 2006 image of the Queen with her Highland Ponies. The displays, which are also being shown as Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, can be seen by visitors to Buckingham Palace’s summer opening until 27th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk. PICTURE: Dorothy Wilding. Royal Collection Trust/© William Hustler and Georgina Hustler/National Portrait Gallery, London
• Still celebrating the Queen becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch, and a new film installation celebrating the reigns of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria – whose reign she has now surpassed – has opened at Kensington Palace. The film installation explores key moments in the reigns of both – coronations, weddings, births as well as other key moments in their public lives – and also examines the impact of new technologies in the reigns of both queens. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace.
• Richmond Park in London’s south-west is holding its annual open day this Sunday with a range of activities for kids including pony rides, the opportunity to see inside a bug hotel with a fibro-optic camera and the chance make pills in a restored Victorian pharmacy. The Holly Lodge Centre, normally reserved for schools and learning groups, will open its doors to the general public will be at the centre of the day, offering a range of activities for children while there will also be a guided walk led by the Friends of Richmond Park, vintage car displays, and a World War I re-enactment. The day runs from 11am to 4pm. Entrance to the Royal Park is free but parking is £5. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.
• This Saturday is Redhead Day UK 2015 and to mark the occasion, the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London is inviting visitors to celebrate by taking a selfie with Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s iconic redhead La Ghirlandata. Painted by Rossetti in 1873, the artwork, said to be one of the finest pre-Raphaelite works in the world, is on permanent display at the gallery. The painting features on the cover of Jacky Colliss Harvey’s new book Red: A Natural History of the Redhead, three copies of which will be given away in a special draw at the gallery. Entry is free. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/attractions/guildhall-galleries/Pages/guildhall-art-gallery.aspx.
• A six metre high ceramic installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford has gone on display in the museum’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries in South Kensington. The Tower of Babel is composed of 3,000 small bone china buildings, each of which depicts a real London shop. Bamford photographed more than 6,000 shopfronts in the process of making the work, cycling more than 1,000 miles as he visited every postcode in London. The work can be seen until 1st November. Admission is free. See www.vam.ac.uk.
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August 20, 2015
• Join the Georgian Queen Caroline for a garden party in the grounds of Kensington Palace this weekend. The Georgian Court will be taking to the palace gardens for a summer celebration featuring music, military drills and theatre as they bring the era to life. Visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the experience as a courtier with the gardens decked out in a range of tents where they can try out costumes and powdered wigs as well as learn court etiquette, swordplay and dancing while the ice-house will feature Georgian ice-cream (and it’s rather odd flavours such as parmesan). Runs from tomorrow until Sunday. Admission charges apply (under 16s go free with a maximum of six children per paying adult). For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/. PICTURE: ©Historic Royal Palaces
• First created in 1923, a playground in Victoria Tower Gardens – newly named the Horseferry Playground – has been reopened after improvement works. The works, carried out under the management of Royal Parks, have seen the reintroduction of a sandpit as well as the installation of new swings and slide, dance chimes and a stare play installation to represent the River Thames. The playground, located close to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, also features a series of timber horse sculptures, new seating and a refreshment kiosk with metal railings designed by artist Chris Campbell depicting events such as the Great Fire of London and Lord Nelson’s funeral barge and views of the River Thames. The project has also seen the Spicer Memorial, commemorating role of paper merchant and philanthropist Henry Spicer in the establishment of the playground – then just a large sandpit, restored. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/victoria-tower-gardens.
• Now On – A Dickens Whodunnit: Solving the Mystery of Edwin Drood. This temporary exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury explores the legacy of Dickens’ final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, left unfinished after his death in 1870. Visitors are able to investigate crime scenes, search for murder clues and see the table on which the novel was penned as well as clips from theatrical adaptations, and a wealth of theories on ‘whodunit’. The exhibition runs until 11th November. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.dickensmuseum.com.
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On Sunday, Princess Charlotte, daughter of Prince William and Princess Kate, was christened at Sandringham. So we thought we’d take a quick look at another christening that took place in London almost 200 years ago, that of Princess Victoria.
The future Queen Victoria was born on 24th May, 1819 – the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent (fourth son of King George III), and his wife, Princess Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
At the insistence of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), the christening was a small affair and was held a month after the birth on the afternoon of 24th June in the magnificent Cupola or Cube Room of Kensington Palace (pictured as it is now, above).
The guest list was small and included the Prince Regent, Prince Frederick, the Duke of York, and his wife Princess Frederica, Princess Augusta Sophia, Princess Mary, the Duchess of Gloucester, and her husband, Prince William, and Prince Leopold, who had recently become a widower after the death of Princess Charlotte.
The ceremony was conducted by Charles Manners-Sutton, the archbishop of Canterbury, and, thanks to the intransigence of the Prince Regent, her name was apparently only decided at the last minute.
The Prince Regent has earlier forbidden the use of such ‘royal’ names including Charlotte, Elizabeth, Georgina or Augusta and when asked by the archbishop what she would be named, he replied brusquely that she would be named Alexandrina in honour of the Russian Tsar Alexander, one of the new princess’s godparents.
Her second name was Victoria in honour of her mother, and while Victoria was often called “Drina” while a girl, she herself apparently preferred her second name to her first.
The gold font used in the ceremony formed part of the Crown Jewels and its origins go back to the time of King Charles II.
Interestingly, there were a couple of significant Victorian connections during Princess Charlotte’s christening – the font used at this christening was known as the Lily Font (like its predecessor, it is usually found with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London).
It was commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for the christening of their first daughter, Princess Victoria, in 1841, apparently due to Queen Victoria’s dislike for the gold font used at her own christening – it had been used by King Charles II to christen his illegitimate children.
The Lily Font has apparently been used at every royal christening since except that of Princess Eugenie who had a public baptism in Sandringham in 1990.
Princess Charlotte also wore a replica of the christening gown worn by Princess Victoria.
WHERE: The Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens, Kensington (nearest Tube stations are High Street Kensington or Queensway); WHEN: Daily 10am to 6pm (until 31st October); COST: £17.50 adult/£14.10 concession/children under 16 free (online booking discounts available, Historic Royal Palaces members free); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace.
Still on designs for royal palaces and today we’re looking at two designs for the same palace. Both Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) drew up designs for the remodelling and expansion of Whitehall Palace.
First up was the neo-classical architect Jones who drew up plans for a vast complex of buildings (pictured left) which would replace the Tudor palace King Henry VIII had created when he transformed the grand house formerly known as York Place into a residence suitable for a king (York Place had previously been a residence of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and prior to that, the London residence of the Archbishops of York).
Jones’ complex – which apparently featured seven internal courts – covered much of what is now known as Whitehall as well as neighbouring St James’s Park with a magnificent River Thames frontage.
The first part of Jones’ grand scheme – the Banqueting House (see our earlier post here) – opened in 1622. It still survives today – pictured above – and gives a taste of the grandeur of his overall scheme.
Yet, despite the eagerness of King James I for the project, it failed to materialise. English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley told the BBC in 2012 that the hall represented only five per cent of what Jones had planned.
King James I died in 1625 and his son King Charles I was apparently keen to continue the project – so much so that Jones submitted new plans in 1638 – but he didn’t find the funds the project needed (and, of course, as we know, then became consumed by the events of the Civil War before being beheaded outside the Banqueting House in 1649).
Following the Restoration, in the 1660s King Charles II apparently had Sir Christopher Wren quietly draw up plans to redevelop the palace but these weren’t follow through on although during the reign of King James II he did work on several projects at the palace including a new range of royal riverside apartments, terrace (remains of which can still be seen) and a chapel.
In 1698, much of the bloated Whitehall Palace – then the largest palace in Europe with more than 1,500 rooms – burnt down although the Banqueting House, though damaged, survived basically intact (in fact there’s an interesting anecdote, its veracity questionable, which has it that on hearing of the fire Wren rushed to the site and had an adjacent building blown up to create a firebreak and ensure the Banqueting House was saved).
The then king, King William III, approached Wren and he again submitted plans for its rebuilding (prior to the fire, he had already worked on several aspects of the palace including a new range of royal apartments and a chapel for King James II).
But Wren’s plans – images show a grand domed building – were largely never realised (although he did convert the Banqueting House into a chapel) and the destroyed palace never rebuilt (no doubt in large part due to the fact that King William III preferred a more rural and less damp location – such as that of Kensington Palace – thanks to his asthma).
For more on the history of the Palace of Whitehall, see Simon Thurley’s Whitehall Palace: The Official Illustrated History.
November 21, 2014
Located in Kensington Gardens, this neo-classical summer house was designed by William Kent for Queen Caroline (who was responsible for much of the shape of the gardens as they are now).
Standing amid naturalistic plantings overlooking the Long Water (which was among the features created at the order of Queen Caroline – consort of King George II), it was built in 1734-35 and designed to be glimpsed down one of the avenues of trees which radiated out from the Round Pond in front of Kensington Palace.
The Grade II-listed ‘temple’, which features graffiti inside dating back until 1821, was later converted to a park keeper’s home but restored to its use as a summer house in 1976.
Kent apparently also designed a second summer house for Kensington Gardens which revolved – it stood on a 13 metre high mound constructed by Kent’s predecessor Charles Bridgeman using spoil from the excavation of the Serpentine in the south-eastern corner of the gardens (the summer house was later demolished and the mound levelled).
Not the most prominent feature of the gardens but like the much later Princess Caroline’s Bath in Greenwich Park (see our earlier post here), it does have an important royal connection and is worthy of a stop when visiting the gardens.
WHERE: Kensington Gardens (nearest tube stations are that of Queensway, Bayswater, Lancaster Gate, South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Kensington High Street); WHEN: 6am to dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens.
August 11, 2014
While much attention is being paid this year to the fact it’s the 300th anniversary of the accession of King George I (and the House of Hanover), we thought we’d take a quick look at the event which precipitated that moment – the death of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, on 1st August, 1714.
The queen (depicted here in Richard Belt’s copy of a Francis Bird original outside St Paul’s Cathedral), who had ruled since 1702 and was the first monarch of Great Britain thanks to the 1707 Act of Union, died at Kensington Palace at about 7.30am. She had apparently suffered a series of strokes, having experienced declining health for the previous couple of years (this included gout which had severely limited her mobility and saw her carried in a chair even at her coronation). She was 49.
Her body was so swollen at the time of her death that she had to be placed in a large square-shaped coffin which was carried by 14 men.
Following her funeral, on 24th August she was laid to rest next to her husband, George of Denmark (he’d died at Kensington six years before), in the Stuart vault on the south side of King Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.
Many of the bones of her infant and stillborn children lie nearby (Anne was pregnant 18 times) and apparently due to a lack of space, only a “small stone” marks her grave site. Anne’s seated wax funeral effigy, modelled from her death mask, can be seen in the abbey’s museum.
The idiom “Queen Anne is dead” – used as a response to someone who brings old news or who states the obvious – is thought to have its origins in the idea that while news of her death was officially kept quiet so the Hanoverian succession could be shored up, news of it nonetheless leaked quite quickly meaning that by the time it was officially announced, it was already well known.
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian accession and to celebrate, Historic Royal Palaces are running a range of events at Hampton Court, Kensington and Kew Palaces. The ‘Glorious Georges’ season opens on Easter weekend – we’ll be bringing more details closer to the time.In the meantime, see which of the Georges and associated figures you can identify in this image. For more, check out www.hrp.org.uk.
This Week In London – Kensington Palace celebrates Christmas; plant a tree at Epping; and, the Long Range Desert Group memorial unveiled at Westminster Abbey…
December 12, 2013
Apologies we didn’t post a new instalment in our Wednesday series yesterday – it will resume next week!
• Inspired by a spectacular month of partying by King William III in December, 1699, Kensington Palace is celebrating Christmas with a month of family-friendly entertainment in the Georgian State Apartments. Historic Royal Palaces has joined with games makers Hide & Seek to create Game of Crowns, transforming Kensington into a play palace with games, mummery and the chance to proclaim yourself king or queen for a day. On the weekends, there’s also the chance to join in parlour games from 1700 onward and a Christmas Day sensory room which brings to life King William III and Queen Mary II’s Christmas morning (by which time they must have been exhausted!). The palace will also play host to its largest ever Christmas tree – 30 feet tall – and on December 16th, you can join in Carols by Candlelight. Admission charge applies. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/.
• Epping Forest is expanding and this weekend, you have a chance to help by planting some new saplings. The City of London Corporation, which runs the forest, is creating a new area of woodland, named Gifford Wood in honour of former Lord Mayor Roger Gifford, after purchasing 30 acres of land at Upshire last year. Members of the public are invited to join City of London staff and the Friends of Epping Forest at Upshire Village Hall, Horseshoe Hill (EN9 3SP) between 11am and 1pm on Saturday to plant 2,000 new oaks and hornbeam as well as a mix of alder, birch, beech, cherry, field maple, rowan, small lime, wild apple, wild service, holly and yew. Bring your spade. For more, phone 0208 532 1010 or email email@example.com.
• A memorial to the Long Range Desert Group was dedicated in Westminster Abbey this week. The LRDG was formed in 1940 by Major Ralph Bagnold to act as the forward intelligence arm of the British army in North Africa. The group later shared their expertise in desert navigation with the fledgling SAS (Special Air Service) who also carried out offensives in the desert from 1941. The memorial is located in the west cloister below that of the SAS. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org.
Around London: Royal fashion at Kensington; Music in Hyde Park; celebrating African literature at the British Library…
July 4, 2013
• A new exhibition looking at the fashions of three royals over four decades last century opens at Kensington Palace today. Fashion Rules features five rooms of dress displays with a focus on the fashions of Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, Princess Margaret in the 1960s and 1970s and Diana, Princess of Wales, in the 1980s. Twenty-one dresses are included in the display which explores how the royal women negotiated how to dress fashionably while observing the “rules” of the Royal Wardrobe and includes film footage and photography. The dresses include five of the Queen’s evening dresses – one of which is a gown fashioned for the Queen by Norman Hartnell in the colours of the flag of Pakistan, a full-length kaftan and matching turban of ivory sari silk worn by Princess Margaret while on the island of Mustique (on display for the first time), and, two Eighties dresses worn by Diana which have never before been displayed in the UK. Admission is included in entry price. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/. PICTURE: HRP/Newsteam.
• The Rolling Stones are back in Hyde Park this weekend as part of a summer of music in the Royal Park. The concert will take place almost 44 years to the day since the Stones first played the park and comes in the wake of their ’50 and Counting’ shows last year. Their first performance in the park – on 5th July, 1969 – saw the live debut of guitarist Mick Taylor and was a tribute to founding member Brian Jones who has died only two days before. For the full programme of Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park, head to www.bst-hydepark.com.
• The British Library is partnering with the Royal African Society to host the UK’s largest festival of African literature – Africa Writes – this weekend. Kicking off on Friday, the three day festival features Ngugi wa Thiong’o, described as “Africa’s greatest living novelist” (pictured), and his son, rising star Mukoma Ngugi, in a conversation chaired by Ellah Allfrey, deputy editor of Granta Magazine. Other programme highlights include a poetry evening, ‘Diaspora Writes Back’; a tribute to Chinua Achebe, the “father of contemporary African literature”; and the writers short-listed for The Caine Prize – the most prestigious prize for African short fiction. For more, see www.africawrites.org. PICTURE: Ngugi wa Thiong’o © Daniel Anderson.
Around London – Museums at night; Propaganda at the BL; MoL Docklands celebrates 10 years; and, Steadman at the Cartoon Museum…
May 16, 2013
• Expect people to be out and about around London at all hours this weekend with the kick-off tonight of Museums At Night, Culture24’s annual festival of after hours visits. This year’s packed program features everything from ‘Arts on Ice’ – a look at the Victorian ice trade – at the London Canal Museum to art nights at the Government Art Collection building, nocturnal tours of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College, and, for the first time, the chance for adults to sleep over at Hampton Court Palace and kids at Kensington Palace. Other London organisations taking part include the Handel House Museum, the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Benjamin Franklin House, the National Gallery and Somerset House (and that’s just a few off the list!). For more information on the night – including a full program of events – check out the Culture24 Museums at Night website.
• Government spin comes under the spotlight in a major new exhibition which opens tomorrow at the British Library in King’s Cross. Propaganda: Power and Persuasion examines how state have used propaganda in the 20th and 21st centuries and features more than 200 exhibits including Nazi propaganda and everyday objects such as banknotes and badges. Admission charge applies. There’s a series of events running to coincide with the exhibition which runs until 17th September. For more, see www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/propaganda/index.html.
• It’s 10 years since the Museum of London Docklands opened in a converted Georgian warehouse on West India Quay and to celebrate they’re holding an exhibition celebrating the Thames estuary. Titled (appropriately enough), Estuary, the exhibition features the work of 12 artists in a variety of mediums – from film and photography to painting. Entry is free. The exhibition, which opens tomorrow, runs until 27 October. The museum is also holding a special day of family activities to celebrate its creation this Saturday. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/.
• On Now: STEADman@77. This exhibition at The Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury looks at the work of graphic artist Ralph Steadman (who is celebrating his 77th birthday) and features more than 100 original works published in magazines ranging from Private Eye to Rolling Stone, Punch and the New Statesmen as well as his illustrated books (these include Sigmund Freud, Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking-Glass, I, Leonardo, The Bid I Am, and Animal Farm). Runs until 8th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org.
April 17, 2013
With former PM Margaret Thatcher’s funeral held in London today, we take a look at five prominent funerals in the city’s past…
• Queen Eleanor of Castile: King Edward I was lavish in his funeral for Queen Eleanor (perhaps in an effort to restore her reputation given suggestions she had been unpopular among the common people although it may well have simply been because of the king’s level of grief) and when she died at Harby, a village near Lincoln, on 28th November, 1290, he ordered her body to be transported from Lincoln Cathedral to Westminster Abbey where the funeral was held, with a series of elaborate memorial crosses to be built close to where-ever her body rested for the night. Twelve of these were built including at Westcheap in the City of London and Charing (hence Charing Cross, see our earlier post here), the latter thanks to her body “resting” overnight at the Dominican Friary at Blackfriars. Her funeral took place on 17th December, 1290, with her body placed in a grave near the high altar until her marble tomb was ready. The tomb (one of three built for the queen – the others were located at Lincoln – for her viscera – and Blackfriars – for her heart) still survives in the abbey.
• Vice Admiral Lord Nelson: Heroic in life and perhaps seen as even more so after his death, Nelson’s demise at the Battle of Trafalgar was a national tragedy. His body, preserved in brandy, was taken off the HMS Victory and transported to Greenwich where he lay in state for three days in the Painted Hall. Thousands visited before the body was again moved, taken in a barge upriver to the Admiralty where it lay for a night before the state funeral on 9th January, 1806, more than two months after his death. An escort said to comprise 10,000 soldiers, more than 100 sea captains and 32 admirals accompanied the body through the streets of the city along with seamen from the Victory to St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured) where he was interred in a marble sarcophagus originally made for Cardinal Wolsey located directly beneath the dome. The tomb can still be seen in the crypt of St Paul’s.
• Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington: Given the last heraldic state funeral ever held in Britain, the Iron Duke’s funeral was held on 18th November, 1852, following his death on 14th September. His body, which had been brought to London from Walmer where it had laid in state by rail, lay in state a second time at Chelsea Hospital. On the morning of the funeral, the cortege set out from Horse Guards, travelling via Constitution Hill to St Paul’s. The body was conveyed in the same funeral car used to convey Nelson’s and accompanied by a guard of honour which included soldiers from every regiment in the army. Masses – reportedly more than a million-and-a-half people – lined the streets to watch funeral procession pass through the city before a service was held in St Paul’s Cathedral under the great dome and he was interred in a monumental sarcophagus alongside that Vice Admiral Lord Nelson. Like Nelson’s, it can still be seen there today.
• Sir Winston Churchill: Widely regarded as one of the great wartime leaders of the 20th century, the former British Prime Minister died in his London home on 24th January, 1965, having suffered a stroke nine days earlier. His funeral (plans for which had apparently been code-named ‘Hope-Not’), was the largest state funeral in the world at the time of his death with representatives of 112 nations attending and watched on television by 25 million people in Britain alone. His body lay in state for three days (during which more than 320,000 people came to pay their respects) before on 30th January, it was taken from Westminster Hall and through the streets of London to a funeral service at St Paul’s Cathedral. After the service, a 19 gun salute was fired and the RAF staged a flyby of 16 fighter planes as the body was taken to Tower Hill and then by barge to Waterloo Station. From there it was taken by a special funeral train (named Winston Churchill) to Bladon near Churchill’s home at Blenheim Palace.
• Diana, Princess of Wales: Having died in a car crash in Paris on 31st August, 1997, her body was flown back to London and taken to St James’s Palace where it remained for five days before being transported to her former home of Kensington Palace. More than a million people crowded London’s streets on 6th September, 1997, to watch the funeral procession as it made its way from the palace to Westminster Abbey. Among those present at the funeral (which was not a state funeral) were members of the royal family as well as then Prime Minister Tony Blair, former PMs including Margaret Thatcher and foreign dignitaries and celebrities, the latter including Elton John who sang a rewritten version of Candle in the Wind. After the service, Diana’s body was taken to her family’s estate of Althorp in Northamptonshire where the “People’s Princess” was laid to rest.
Our new series will be launched next week due to this week’s events…
December 28, 2012
8. Olympics Special – London bridges aglow. A piece showing how many of inner London’s bridges were illuminated at night during the Games.
7. LondonLife – The Queen visits the newly transformed Kensington Palace. Queen Elizabeth II pays a visit to mark the completion of a £12 million, two year renovation project at Kensington Palace.
Around London – Christmas at the Geffrye; a Kensington Palace advent calendar; new furniture gallery at the V&A; and, last chance to see Bronze…
November 29, 2012
• Christmas is looming and at the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton that means the museum’s many period rooms have been transformed for the Christmas festivities. The rooms span 400 years of history, from 1600 until today, and show how the middle class have lived over that time. The Christmas display will also provide insights into such Christmas traditions as kissing under the mistletoe, hanging up stockings, sending Christmas cards and decorating trees. The Christmas theme carries through to the restaurant and gift shop. Entry to the exhibition is free. Runs until 6th January. For an online gallery showing some of the rooms, click here. For more on the museum, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk.
• Meanwhile Kensington Palace is to be transformed into giant advent calendar in the lead-up to Christmas with a daily ‘reveal’ inspired by Princess Victoria’s Christmas diary entries and letters. The halls of the palace will be decorated with 24 specially designed mirrored baubles, Christmas music will be played throughout and a sparkling 25 foot high Christmas tree will be placed in the gardens. As part of the Christmas festivities, an evening of carol singing will be held on 5th December in the King’s Gallery with carols sung by the Hampton Court Palace Royal Chapel Choir. Other events include a Midwinter Masquerade Ball on 13th December and an Eerie Evening Tour on 20th December. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/.
• A new permanent furniture gallery opens at the V&A this Saturday. The Dr Susan Weber Gallery – the first at the museum dedicated to furniture – will display more than 200 pieces of British and European furniture, spanning a period stretching from the Middle Ages through to present day, as well as examples of American and Asian furniture. Each piece is examined in detail with information provided about the materials and techniques used in creating it. Among the designers represented will be Thomas Chippendale, Grinling Gibbons, Robert Adam, Ron Arad and Tom Dixon. Highlights include a 20th century Frank Lloyd Wright-designed dining chair, a gilded cassone made for the Duke of Urbino in about 1509, and a scagliola decorated table which was formerly at Warwick Castle and dates from 1675. Twenty-five ‘key’ pieces have been selected for a central chronological display including a storage unit by Charles and Ray Eames dating from 1949-50, a Gothic revival cradle dating from 1861 and designed by Richard Norman Shaw and one of the museum’s newest acquisitions, the 2011 ‘Branca’ chair, designed by Industrial Facility. The display includes the use of touch screen interfaces, films and audio recordings. Entry is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
• On Now: Bronze. Last chance to see this exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts which closes on 9th December. The exhibition brings together more than 150 of the finest bronzes in the world, spanning 5000 years of history, with many of the pieces on display never seen before in the UK. Among the earliest works are the 14th century BC bronze and gold Chariot of the Sun from Denmark, ancient Chinese ritual vessels including an elephant-shaped vessel dating from the Shang Dynasty (1100-1050 BC) and an Etruscan masterpiece – Chimera of Arezzo, dating from about 400 BC. Other highlights include a Roman cavalry helmet found in Cumbria in 2010 and the Portrait of King Seuthes III, dating from the early Hellenistic period, and found in Bulgaria in 2004 as well as a series of Renaissance bronzes and more recent works like Rodin’s The Age of Bronze (c 1876). Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.
September 17, 2012
A late 17th and early 18th century wood carver and sculptor, the curiously named Grinling Gibbons is remembered for his magnificent carvings in numerous English buildings including such London icons as St Paul’s Cathedral and Hampton Court Palace.
Not much is known about Gibbons’ early life. The son of English parents (his father was apparently a draper), he was born in Rotterdam in The Netherlands on 4th April, 1648, and, as a young man, is believed to have undertaken an apprenticeship as a sculptor in that country.
Around the age of 19, he moved to England – first to York and to Deptford in the south. It was the quality of his work which led diarist John Evelyn, having discovered Gibbons working on a limewood relief of Tintoretto’s Crucifixion in a small cottage near Deptford in early 1671, that led him to introduce him to Christopher Wren, the architect of the age, and fellow diarist Samuel Pepys and to eventually present him (and his relief) to King Charles II at Whitehall Palace on 1st March the same year.
But Gibbons’ work apparently failed to initially impress at court and it was only following his ‘discovery’ later that year by the court artist Sir Peter Lely that he began to receive major commissions.
It’s apparently not known when Gibbons married his wife Elizabeth and moved to London they were living there by 1672 and were having the first of their at least 12 children (while at least five of their daughters survived into adulthood, none of their sons did).
In 1672, they were living in an inn, called La Belle Sauvage or The Bell Savage, located on Ludgate Hill near St Paul’s, and, while Gibbons continued to maintain a workshop here into the 1680s, the family moved to Bow Street in Covent Garden around the end of the 1670s (the house here apparently collapsed in 1702 and was subsequently rebuilt in brick).
Gibbons, who was admitted to the Draper’s Company in 1672 and held various posts within it over ensuing years, reached the pinnacle of his success when he was made master sculptor and carver in wood to King William III in 1693, and was later made master carpenter to the king, then King George I, in 1719.
Having worked mostly in limewood, Gibbons, recently called the “British Bernini”, is known for his distinct and exuberant style which features cascading foliage, fruit, animals and cherubs. While he worked on numerous important buildings outside of London – including carvings in the Chapel Royal and king’s dining room at Windsor Castle, in a chapel at Trinity College in Oxford, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and a famous ‘carved room’ at Petworth House in Sussex – and beyond (he also created two presentation panels – known as the ‘Cosimo’ and ‘Modena’ panels which were sent to Italy as royal gifts), Gibbons is also noted for his work on a number of prominent buildings in London.
Among the buildings he worked on or in around London are the churches of St James’s in Piccadilly, St Mary Abchurch, St Michael Paternoster Royal and, famously, St Paul’s Cathedral (where he carved choir stalls, the bishop’s thrones and choir screen) as well as Hampton Court and Kensington Palaces.
While he is primarily remembered for his limewood carvings, Gibbons’ workshop was also responsible for sculpting statues, memorials and decorative stonework. A couple of the workshop’s statues can still be seen in London – one of King Charles II in Roman dress at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and another of King James II outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square – while the magnificent Westminster Abbey memorial to Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell is also attributed to him.
Gibbons died at his Bow Street home on 3rd August, 1721, and was buried in St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden (his wife had been buried there several years before).
For more on Grinling Gibbons, check out David Esterly’s Grinling Gibbons and the Art of Carving.
July 9, 2012
Located at 20 Devereux Court, just off the Strand in the area of London known as Temple, The Devereux takes its name from Elizabethan Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, whose mansion, Essex House, once occupied the site on which it stands.
Devereux, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, inherited the mansion from his step-father, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, in 1588 (the house was originally called Leicester House). A spectacular fall from favor which culminated in an abortive coup, however, led to Devereux’s beheading in 1601 (interestingly, he was the last person to be executed inside the Tower of London – the tower where he is held was named after him).
Used by other members of Devereux’s family following his death, a plaque outside the pub explains that the property was sold to property developer, Nicholas Barbon (also noted as the founder of fire insurance), in 1674, and that he had it demolished soon after.
The present building is said to date from 1676 and was originally two houses. Soon after its construction, it became the premises of the famous Grecian Coffee House which had moved from Wapping Old Stairs.
Noted as a meeting place for prominent Whigs, it was also frequented by members of the Royal Society such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Hans Sloane and Dr Edmund Halley as well as writer, poet and politician Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, editor of The Tatler (who gave the coffee house as the magazine’s postal address).
The early 1840s, the premises was into lawyers’ chambers and then later into the public house which now occupies it.
There’s a bust of Essex on the facade beneath which is written the inscription, “Devereux Court, 1676”. The pub is these days part of the Taylor-Walker group. For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub-food/devereux-temple/pid-C7177.
For a great book on London’s pubs, take a look at London’s Best Pubs: A Guide to London’s Most Interesting & Unusual Pubs.