London farewells Queen Elizabeth II…

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

Special – Lying in state at Westminster Hall…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week in London – Mourning Queen Elizabeth II…

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

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

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

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

LondonLife – Tributes to a Queen…

Flowers left outside Buckingham Palace. PICTURE: Samuel Regan-Asante
Left – Flowers and tributes left outside Buckingham Palace and, right, a bus shelter in Shoreditch. PICTURE: Samuel Regan-Asante
A electronic billboard at Piccadilly Circus. PICTURE: Samuel Regan-Asante
Prime Minister Liz Truss writes in a book of condolence at Number 10 Downing Street to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. PICTURE: Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The flags at Number 10 Downing Street have been lowered to half mast after the death of Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. PICTURE: Rory Arnold/No 10 Downing Street (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Vale Queen Elizabeth II…

Famous Londoners – Will Somers…

The most famous of court jesters during the reign of King Henry VIII, little is known of Will Somers’ early life although it is suggested he was born in Shropshire.

It’s said Somers (also spelt Somer or Sommers) entered the service of a wealthy Northamptonshire merchant Sir Richard Fermor who presented him to King Henry VIII at Greenwich in 1525 (he is known to have been in service by 1535).

King Henry VIII as David, seated with harp, in an interior with his jester, William Sommers; illustrating Psalm 52. Taken from Psalter of Henry VIII (1530-1547).

Somers’ role as jester involved using his wit to comment on court life and those in it – including the likes of Cardinal Wolsey – and while he was permitted a wide latitude he would over-step including when he insulted Queen Anne Boleyn and her daughter Princess Elizabeth, leading to the King to threaten to kill Somers himself.

Somers was provided with royal livery to wear at court (he also sometimes apparently wore elaborate costumes) and was provided with a “keeper” to look after him.

Such was the esteem Somers’ was held in, he is believed to be the fool depicted in a family portrait of the King, his wife Jane Seymour and children Prince Edward and Princesses Mary and Elizabeth (Somers has a monkey on his shoulder in the painting; Jane Foole also appears in the portrait). He’s also believed to be depicted in an image with King Henry VIII which appeared in a psalter (pictured)

Towards the end of King Henry’s life it’s said Somers was the only one who could make him laugh. He remained at court following the King’s death through the reigns of King Edward VI and Queen Mary I and present at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I, eventually retired during her reign.

Somers is believed to have died on 15th June, 1560, and be buried in St Leonards, Shoreditch. There’s now a plaque to Somers there commemorating his burial.

Sommers subsequently appeared in various works of literature in following centuries including in more recent years when he has also appeared in TV shows – including the series The Tudors – as well as various novels including Paul Doherty’s The Last of Days.

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Where’s London’s oldest…pharmacy?

Founded as far back as 1790 and still serving customers today, DR Harris & Co Ltd is London’s oldest pharmacy.

The company, which specialises in “traditional gentleman’s grooming products” and these days also sells unisex haircare products, skincare products and soaps, first opened its doors when Henry Harris, a surgeon, set up shop at number 11 St James’s Street under the name of Harris’s Apothecary.

DR Harris and Co pictured in 2015. PICTURE: Courtesy of Google Maps.

The DR became part of the name when Harris’s cousin, Daniel Rotely, an early pharmaceutical chemist, joined the company and together they developed a range of luxury perfumes and remedies, becoming particularly known for their lavender water, colognes and English flower perfumes.

Located at the heart of what was known as “Clubland” thanks to the many gentlemen’s clubs once found in the surrounding streets, its clients quickly grew to include the gentry and the court of St James’s.

In 1938, the company was awarded the warrant as chemists to Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, an honour which it held until her death in 2002. In 2002, it was awarded the warrant as chemist for the Prince of Wales, and in 2012 was awarded the warrant as pharmacist and pharmacy suppliers to Queen Elizabeth II.

The company’s premises at what is now 29 St James’s Street was refurbished several years ago. For more, see www.drharris.co.uk.

This Week in London – The Queen’s jewellery; ‘The Future of Ageing’; and painting the view from Tower Bridge…

Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, Diamond Diadem, 1820–1. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust / © All Rights Reserved
Dorothy Wilding, ‘HM Queen Elizabeth II’, 1952. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust / © All Rights Reserved

Key items of Queen Elizabeth II’s jewellery including the Diamond Diadem and the Delhi Durbar necklace go on display in Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms from tomorrow as part of the palace’s Summer Opening. Created for the coronation of King George IV in 1821, the Diamond Diadem is set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, some of which are set in the form of a rose, a thistle and two shamrocks, the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland. The diadem, which was inherited by Queen Victoria in 1837 and passed down to the current Queen, will be displayed alongside the official portraits of the Queen taken by photographer Dorothy Wilding just weeks after the Accession (the portraits were later were used as the basis of the Queen’s image on postage stamps from 1953 until 1971, as well as providing the official portrait of Her Majesty sent to every British embassy throughout the world). The Delhi Durbar necklace, meanwhile, incorporates nine emeralds originally owned by Queen Mary’s grandmother, the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as an 8.8 carat diamond pendant cut from the Cullinan diamond – the largest diamond ever found. It was made for Queen Mary as part of a suite of jewellery created for the Delhi Durbar in 1911. The Queen inherited the necklace in 1953 and wore it in a portrait sitting for Dorothy Wilding in 1956 – thought to have been their last sitting together before Wilding’s retirement in 1958. The jewellery, a special display to mark the Platinum Jubilee, can be seen at the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, the first time the palace has been open to the public in three years, until 2nd October. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rct.uk.

An exhibition exploring how design can enhance our experience of ageing has opened at the Design Museum. The Future of Aging includes a selection of prototypes, sketches and research from projects that are being developed by Design Age Institute and its partners. They include a self-balancing, two-wheeled personal electric vehicle known as ‘The Centaur’, a hands-free cargo-carrying robot called Gita, and a digital ‘audioscape’ app that uses the sound of birdsong to engage visitors with their hearing health. The free display also includes a long-term participatory project that explores opportunities for an intergenerational garden at the museum and two new film commissions which showcase stories and experiences of later life. Runs until 25th September. For more, see https://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/the-future-of-ageing.

On Now: Painting ‘A Bridge with a View’. Until the end of August, English artist Melissa Scott-Miller is painting the views she spies from Tower Bridge’s West Walkway. Visitors are able to observe her at work and take part in related public workshops and family activities. Admission charge applies. For more including the dates for activities, see www.towerbridge.org.uk/see-bridge-view.

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Famous Londoners – Great Paul…

The bell casing used by Taylor’s Bell Foundry to cast Great Paul in Loughborough. PICTURE: Phil McIver (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Not the name of a person, Great Paul is in fact the name of the largest of four bells in south-west tower of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The south-west tower at St Paul’s Cathedral which contains Great Paul. PICTURE: jan buchholtz (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The bronze bell was cast in 1881 by JW Taylor of Taylor’s bell foundry in Loughborough. With a diameter of some 11 metres, it weighs an impressive 16.8 tons (in fact, until the casting of the Olympic Bell for the 2012 London Olympics, it was the largest bell in the UK).

Brought to London from Loughborough on a train over a period of 11 days, Great Paul was hung in the tower in May, 1882.

The bell was traditionally sounded at 1pm every day but was silent for more than 40 years after its ringing apparatus broke in the 1970s.

Following a restoration, Great Paul started being rung again last year when it was rung during a festival of church bells to mark the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this year, it led a bell ringing tribute marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Previous historic occasions on which the bell was rung included Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at the cathedral in 1981.

The south-east tower of the cathedral is also home to the storied bell known as Great Tom – but we’ll deal with that in a future post.

This Week in London – Matchgirls strike commemorated and the Queen’s coronation at Windsor…

The famous matchgirls’ strike at the Bryant and May matchworks in the East End has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The event, widely recognised as a spur to the New Unionism movement, saw about 1,400 of the predominantly young female workforce walk out in protest at the dismissal of a number of their co-workers in early July, 1888. While some of the details remain unclear, it is thought that the women were probably sacked for giving information to reporters, refusing to sign a statement refuting poor working conditions, or on trumped-up charges of trouble making. The women – whose poor working conditions, including low pay, the imposition of fines and deductions by the company and the dangers of ‘phossy jaw’, were catalogued by journalist Annie Besant – won a famous victory after a three week strike in which almost all their demands were met. Bryant and May also recognised the Union of Women Match Makers which, by the end of 1888, had become the Matchmakers’ Union and admitted both men and women. For more on English Heritage Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

Curator Caroline de Guitaut puts the finishing touches to the display of the Queen’s Coronation Dress and Robe of Estate in St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust/All Rights Reserved.

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation is the subject of a new exhibition opening at Windsor Castle today. Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Coronation, which focuses on the coronation which took place at Westminster Abbey on 2nd June, 1953, features portraiture, photographs and dress and jewellery worn by the Queen including the Sir Norman Hartnell-designed Coronation Dress, Robe of Estate and the Coronation Necklace and Earrings which were originally made for Queen Victoria in 1858. Also on display are brooches representing the emblems of some Commonwealth countries including a Canadian Maple-leaf Brooch worn by then Princess Elizabeth on her first visit to Canada in 1951, a Flame-Lily Brooch, the emblem of Zimbabwe, which was pinned to the Queen’s mourning clothes when she returned from Kenya after the death of her father in 1952, and the New Zealand Silver Fern Brooch, the Australian Wattle Brooch, and the Sri Lanka Brooch. There’s also a 2.5-metre-tall portrait of the Queen by Sir Herbert James Gunn which was commissioned to commemorate the coronation and a three-quarter length photographic portrait of the Queen taken by Cecil Beaton. Included in general admission. Runs until 26th September. Running in conjunction id a digital event – Royal Jewels: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration – which will be held at 7pm on 28th July in which Caroline de Guitaut, deputy surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art and curator of the Platinum Jubilee display, with join Carol Woolton, former jewellery editor of Vogue in discussing items of The Queen’s jewellery on display at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace this summer. Tickets can be booked at www.rct.uk.

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10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…10. Four Queens…

The facade of the former Hotel Russell featuring the statues of the four Queens. PICTURE: Courtesy of Google maps.

We finish our series of lesser known statues of English monarchs with a Bloomsbury building featuring four English queens.

Tucked away in niches over the main entrance of the Hotel Russell – which opened in 1898, the four queens – Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, and Victoria – were the work of Henry Charles Fehr.

Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary II. PICTURE: Tom Hilton (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The larger than lifesize terracotta statues – which face out to Russell Square – don’t include Queen Mary I and are rather unusual and represent idealised versions of the queens. Elizabeth is readily identifiable due to the ruff she wears but there is some confusion over who’s who when it comes to Mary II and Anne. Victoria, meanwhile, is depicted as a very young woman.

Queen Anne and Queen Victoria. PICTURE: Jack1956 (Public domain)

Among other ornamentation, the building – which was designed by C Fitzroy Doll, also features the busts of four Prime Ministers – Lord Derby, Lord Salisbury, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli – on the Guilford Street facade.

The hotel is now the Kimpton Fitzroy London.

10 (lesser known) statues of English monarchs in London…9. Empress Matilda?…

The neo-Gothic former Public Record Office (now the Maughan Library of King’s College) in Chancery Lane is adorned with statues of several kings and queens including two kings – King Edward III and King Henry III – as well as four queens.

PICTURE: Robert Freidus/The Victorian Web (image cropped)

The queens, which can be found at the top of the tower over the main entrance, include three who are represented with more famous statues elsewhere – Queen Elizabeth I (on the facade of St Dunstan-in-the West), Queen Anne (outside of St Paul’s Cathedral) and Queen Victoria (outside Buckingham Palace among others).

But one of those statues – that of the Empress Matilda – is something of an outlier – unlike the others, the Empress Matilda, while she claimed the title of Queen of England, was never actually crowned (her attempt to be crowned at Westminster failed when opposed by the London mob which supported her opponent, King Stephen).

Instead, Matilda (sometimes known as Maud) claimed the title ‘Lady of the English’ and while she was eventually driven out of England to Normandy where she died, her eldest son did take the crown in 1154 as King Henry II.

The statue, which stands on top of the east side of the tower (and is quite difficult to spot), stands 2.4 metres high and was made of Portland stone to adorn the 1850s, now Grade II* listed building (the gatehouse leading to Chancery Lane – which features the two kings – was an extension in the 1890s). It is said to be the work of sculptor Joseph Durham.

What’s a little puzzling is why the Empress was included as one of the four, particularly given other English queens and monarchs – Queen Mary I and II – were not.

This Week in London – Coining the Queen’s portrait; the UK’s first Stolperstein; pioneering female landscape gardener honoured; and Picasso and Ingres…

Plaster model for the obverse of a coin.  Mary Gillick, 1952.  Bust of Queen Elizabeth II r., wearing laurel wreath. © The Trustees of the British Mu

A free display featuring the first coin bearing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has opened at the British Museum. Part of the celebrations marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Asahi Shimbun Display Mary Gillick: modelling The Queen’s portrait showcases the production and reception of the coin which was designed in 1952 and released the following year. Gillick’s portrait – which remained in circulation on coins in the UK until the 1990s and was also adapted for use on commemorative stamps – combined modern design with Italian Renaissance influences. Can be seen until 31st July. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The UK’s first Stolperstein or “stumbling stone” has been installed in Soho as part of an initiative to remember the victims of the Nazis. The small brass plaque commemorates former resident Ada van Dantzig, a Dutch-Jewish paintings conservator for the National Gallery who came to London in the 1930s and worked and resided in Golden Square in Soho (where the plaque has been installed). She later re-joined her family in the Netherlands and was arrested in France in early 1943 along with her mother, father, sister and brother. Deported to Auschwitz, Ada, along with her parents, was murdered there on 14th February, 1943. Artist Gunter Demnig created the project almost 25 years ago to commemorate victims of Nazi Persecution during the Holocaust. More than 100,000 of stones have now been laid in 26 countries throughout Europe with the location of the stones the last address of those being remembered.

A pioneering female landscape gardener has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her former flat in Shaftesbury Avenue. Fanny Wilkinson, who is believed to be Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener, was also a campaigner for the protection of open space in London. She lived and worked at the flat, which overlooks an open space she laid out herself, between 1885 and 1896. Wilkinson began her career as an honorary landscape gardener to the Metropolitan Public Boulevards, Gardens and Playgrounds Association – an organisation whose mission was the formation of gardens and public parks that would create playgrounds and green ‘lungs’, especially in poor districts of the capital. In June, 1885, it was agreed that she could charge five per cent on all her MPGA payments, leading her to drop the ‘honorary’ title and become Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.

A painting by Pablo Picasso – Woman with a Book (1932) from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California – and a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres – Madame Moitessier (1856) – are being shown together for the first time at The National Gallery. Picasso admired Ingres and referred to him throughout his career and this connection can be seen not only in his paintings but in drawings and studies he made during his ‘neoclassical’ phase in the 1920s. He encountered Madame Moitessie at an exhibition in Paris in 1921 and 11 years later painted Woman with a Book. The paintings, which are being show under a collaborative initiative between the two institutions, can be seen in Room 1 until 9th October. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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LondonLife – Scenes from the Platinum Jubilee celebrations…

Queen Elizabeth II on the balcony of Buckingham Palace along with members of the Royal Family. PICTURE: SAC Connor Tierney/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

Four days of celebration were held from Thursday to Sunday to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. Here’s a short selection of images from the events…

The Gold Coach takes part in the Platinum Jubilee Pageant on Sunday. PICTURE: Sgt Donald C Todd RLC Photographer/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022
Crowds on the Mall. PICTURE: Jonny Gios/Unsplash
The Coldstream Guards carry the flags of the Commonwealth in The Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on Sunday. PICTURE: Corporal Rob Kane/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022
Soldiers of the Household Division on Horse Guards Parade during celebrations for the Queen’s Birthday. More than 1,400 soldiers and 250 horses from the British Army’s Household Division took part in the Trooping of the Colour on Thursday. PICTURE: Corporal Paul Watson RLC/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022
Flypast as part of Trooping the Colour on Thursday. PICTURE: Sgt Jimmy Wise/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022
Projections on Buckingham Palace. PICTURE: Jonny Gios/Unsplash

This Week in London – The Platinum Jubilee weekend…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LondonLife – Superbloom at the Tower of London…

The Queen’s Garden, part of the Superbloom as seen near the Tower’s entrance on 22nd May. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces
A Yeoman Warder in the transformed moat with Mehrdad Tafreshi’s swarm of insects. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces

Twenty million seeds have been sown into the Tower of London’s moat to create a floral display known as ‘Superbloom’ as part of the celebrations surrounding Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Paths, walkways and viewing points have been installed throughout and in a first at the Tower, a four lane slide has been installed to provide an unusual entrance to the display.

Those visiting the display – which features wildflowers such as red poppies, yellow corn marigolds and blue cornflowers as well as garden plants including sunflowers, cosmos and rudbeckias – will hear a score by Scottish composer Erland Cooper – Music for Growing Flowers – while other attractions include a willow sculpture by artist Spencer Jenkins and a swarm of intricate copper insects by sculptor Mehrdad Tafreshi.

The centrepiece of the display is the “Queen’s Garden” which has been installed by Grant Associates – the lead designers for the Superbloom project – in the Tower’s historic Bowling Green.

A willow sculpture by Spencer Jenkins. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces

Inspired by the Queen’s Coronation gown, this garden features a combination of meadow flowers, topiary and summer-flowering perennials, bulbs and ornamental grasses and draws on the colours, shapes and motifs used by designer Norman Hartnell in the 1953 gown.

Rising above the garden are 12 cast glass forms by glass artist Max Jacquard which represent the national emblems featured in Hartnell’s design and in their centre sits a glass crown, a reminder of the Tower’s role as home of the Crown Jewels.

Tower Wharf, meanwhile, has been transformed into a food and drinks venue, with street food and bars from KERB and fine dining available riverside in ‘The Glass Rooms’. The flowers are expected to gradually bloom in June and will continue to evolve until September. For more, including how to purchase tickets, head here.

The slide entrance to the Superbloom as seen on 22nd May. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces
Mehrdad Tafreshi’s swarm of insects as seen on 22nd May. PICTURE: © Historic Royal Palaces

Famous Londoners – Jumbo…

Jumbo greets some visitors as they pass by his den in London Zoo. PICTURE: From ‘Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World’ by Paul Chambers

With his name a byword for things of a large size, Jumbo was an African bush elephant who was once one of London Zoo’s most popular residents (but whose life makes for sad reading).

Born in Sudan in about 1860, Jumbo – whose name is apparently a corruption of ‘jumbe’, the Swahili word for chieftain – was captured by hunters after his mother was killed and transported north to Europe. There he was apparently first exhibited in Germany before being sold to the Jardin des Plantes, a zoo in Paris.

In 1865, he was transferred to London Zoo in England where his keeper was Matthew Scott who went on to detail his care of Jumbo in his 1885 autobiography.

Jumbo quickly became a popular exhibit and was trained to give rides to children, including those of Queen Victoria (Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were apparently also among those who rode the elephant).

But out of public view, Jumbo, particularly as he matured, was growing increasingly destructive, smashing his den and breaking his tusks (it’s said Matthew Scott would pacify him with large quantities of alcohol).

In 1882, protests broke out when, apparently concerned over Jumbo’s growing aggression, then zoo superintendent Abraham Bartlett announced plans to sell Jumbo to American circus founder PT Barnum for £2,000. Some 100,000 school students wrote to Queen Victoria begging her to stop the transaction and a lawsuit was launched to stop the sale. It was unsuccessful.

Despite the protests, the sale went ahead and in March, 1882, Jumbo and Matthew Scott, who had decided to go with the elephant, went to America. In New York, Jumbo was exhibited at Madison Square Garden in a 31 week season. In 1884, he was one of 21 elephants who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to prove it was safe following the death of 12 people during a collapse caused by a stampede few years earlier.

Jumbo with his keeper Matthew Scott, pictured in June, 1882. PICTURE: From Bierstadt, E ‘Jumbo and trainer.’

Jumbo died on 15th September, 1885, when he was hit by a train as he and other elephants were being led back to their boxcar. According to Barnum, Jumbo was attempting to lead a young elephant Tom Thumb to safety.

Following Jumbo’s death, a postmortem revealed his stomach contents included five English pennies, keys, rivets, and a police whistle.

Sadly, PT Barnum had the body parts separated for display before Jumbo’s skeleton was eventually donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The elephant’s heart was sold to Cornell University and its hide stuffed and eventually donated to Tufts University where it was destroyed in a fire in 1975 (Jumbo remains the university mascot).

There is a statue of Jumbo near where he died in St Thomas, Ontario, and a six-storey, elephant-shaped building in Margate City, New Jersey, which was built in 1881 is said to be inspired by him. He is also said to have inspired the Disney film, Dumbo.

This Week in London – The Queen in wartime; Dippy returns; and, ‘Cancer Revolution’ at the Science Museum…

A new exhibition exploring the Queen’s role during wartime opens at IWM London in Lambeth tomorrow. Part of a suite of events at IWM venues celebrating the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime features 18 images drawn from the museum’s image archive which chart the Queen’s experience of war – from growing up during World War II when she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service to her role in carrying out important public duties involving the armed forces, including at the annual Service of Remembrance. Among newly digitised photographs included in the display are an image of the Queen dressed in overalls and cap while working on a vehicle during her time in the ATS, and another showing her with her father, King George VI, and mother, Queen Elizabeth, during a visit to airborne forces in 1944. IWM London is also launching a dedicated trail of historic objects spread across five gallery spaces which explores the Royal Family’s long-standing association with the British armed forces. Objects include a Princess Mary Gift Fund box which was sent to those serving at Christmas in 1914. Runs until 8th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk/events/queens-platinum-jubilee-iwm-london.

Dippy at the Natural History Museum. © Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

• Dippy the dinosaur is back for a limited time at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington from tomorrow. A free, temporary exhibition – Dippy Returns: the nation’s favourite dinosaur – gives visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the 26 metre-long dinosaur which first went on display at the museum in 1905. The display comes at the end of a record-breaking tour of the UK in which Dippy was seen by more than two million people. Can be seen until 2nd January. To book tickets, head to www.nhm.ac.uk.

The first major exhibition to explore the history and future of cancer treatment and research opened at the Science Museum in South Kensington this week. Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope features more than 100 objects including some never-before seen as well as information on cutting edge treatment and research, new artist commissions and installations, interactive exhibits and a breadth of personal stories. Runs until January, 2023. Admission is free but bookings required. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/cancer-revolution-science-innovation-and-hope.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com for inclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LondonLife – Icons turn purple to celebrate Elizabeth Line opening…

Marble Arch lights up for the launch of the Elizabeth Line.. PICTURE: © TfL

Iconic London locations including Tower Bridge, The London Eye, and Marble Arch turned purple last night to mark the opening of the new Elizabeth Line today. Thousands of people are today expected to use the new Tube line which provides faster journeys between Paddington and Abbey Wood via 10 new stations using Class 345 trains that are more and than one-and-a-half times longer than a standard Tube train and able to carry 1,500 passengers. The line’s opening is the latest step in the £18.8 billion Crossrail project which is linking Reading, to the west of London, with Heathrow before travelling through central London to connect with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said it was an “historic day”. “This is a huge moment, not just for London but the entire country – particularly in this special Jubilee year…This brand new line is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades.” Last week, the Queen and Prince Edward attended Paddington Station to mark the completion of the new line.

The London Eye illuminated. PICTURE: © TfL
Woolwich Town Hall lit up in purple. PICTURE: © TfL
A very excited first customer on the Elizabeth Line at its opening on 24th May. PICTURE: © TfL
HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH Prince Edward Earl of Wessex, at unveiling of commemorative plaque at Paddington Station on 17th May. PICTURE: © TfL