December 31, 2012
And so we come to the final two entries in our countdown and both, not suprisingly, are part of our Diamond Jubilee related coverage…
2. LondonLife – A look back at Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Concerning a V&A exhibition of portraits of the Queen.
1. Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee with 10 royal London locations – 5. Buckingham Palace. One of a series looking at London locations associated with the Queen, this examined some of the history of London’s most famous palace.
Wishing all our readers a very Happy New Year!
In this, the final in our series looking at the Queen’s relationship to London we take a look at some of the key monuments to her family in the city.
• King George V (1865-1936). Queen Elizabeth II’s paternal grandfather, King George V, can be seen in a statue in Old Palace Yard, overlooked by Westminster Abbey (pictured here complete with pigeon). The work of Sir William Reid Dick, it was erected in 1947 and depicts the king wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter.
• Queen Mary (1867-1953). Paternal grandmother to the current Queen, Queen Mary the consort of King George V is commemorated with a small profile relief in The Mall, close to the corner of Marlborough Road. Also the work of Sir William Reid Dick, it was unveiled in 1967.
• King Edward VIII (1894-1972). The older brother of King George VI who infamously abdicated his crown thanks to his love for American divorcee Wallis Simpson, it’s perhaps not surprising that there are no public statues to King Edward VIII in London (at least, none we’re aware of – if you know differently, please let us know).
• King George VI (1895-1952). The father of Queen Elizabeth II is commemorated in a statue in Carlton Gardens, just off The Mall. Erected in 1956, it was the work of William McMillan and as with that of King George V, depicts the king wearing Garter robes. It was moved in 2008 from nearby to its current site to form part of the joint memorial to the Queen’s parents.
• Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (1900-2002). The long-lived Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who died in 2002 at the age of 101, is commemorated in the other half of the joint monument which stands just off The Mall. Unveiled in 2009, the statue of the Queen is the work of sculptor Philip Jackson and shows the Queen in her younger days wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter.
Next week we start a new Wednesday series looking at the history of some of London’s Olympic sites…
Palaces aside, the Queen also owns a series of chapels – the Chapels Royal – in London which, although not as grand as Westminster Abbey, have each played an important role in the history of the monarchy.
The term Chapel Royal originally referred to a group of priests and singers dedicated to serving the Sovereign’s personal spiritual needs and as such would follow the monarch around the country. It was in Stuart times that they became more settled establishments with the two main Chapels Royal – the Chapel Royal and the Queen’s Chapel – located in St James’s Palace.
• The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace. Constructed by King Henry VIII, the chapel was decorated by Hans Holbein the Younger in honor of the king’s (short) marriage to Anne of Cleves. Queen Mary I’s heart is said to be buried beneath the choir stalls and it was here that Queen Elizabeth I apparently prayed waiting for news of the progress of the Spanish Armada. King Charles I took the Sacrament of Holy Communion here before his execution in 1649 and the chapel was where Queen Victoria married Prince Albert (her marriage certificate still hangs on the wall). In more recent times, the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, was placed before the altar so family and friends could pay their respects before her 1997 funeral. Among the composers and organists associated with the chapel are Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. The chapel is not open to the public except for services.
• The Queen’s Chapel, St James’ Palace (pictured right). Now located outside the palace walls, this chapel was built by King James I for the Catholic Henrietta Maria, the bride of his son, then Prince Charles (later King Charles I). Designed by Inigo Jones, Grinling Gibbons and Sir Christopher Wren were also involved in its creation. The chapel was used by Henrietta Maria until the Civil War and later became the home of the Danish Church in London. The chapel is not open to the public except for services.For more on this chapel or the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, follow this link.
• The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy. Built in the Middle Ages to serve the now long gone Savoy Palace, London home of Count Peter of Savoy (uncle to King Henry III’s wife, Eleanor of Provence, the original building was destroyed in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. The current building, located in Savoy Hill, off the Strand, was built on the orders of King Henry VII in the late 15th and early 16th century to serve the hospital he founded on the site of the palace. The chapel since served many other congregations – including a German Lutheran congregation – but remains royal property via the Duchy of Lancaster, which is held in trust for the Sovereign and used to provide an income for the British monarch. It is officially the Chapel of the Royal Victorian Order. For more, see www.duchyoflancaster.co.uk/duties-of-the-duchy/the-queens-chapel-of-the-savoy/.
• Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace (pictured right). There has been a chapel here since the Knights Hospitallers occupied the site in the 13th century but it was Cardinal Wolsey who built the chapel to its present dimensions after acquiring the property in 1518. The current building, however, dates from the later ownership of King Henry VIII – Wolsey surrendered the property to him when he fell from favour – and further works in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many subsequent monarchs have worshipped here. The chapel, with its stunning ceiling, is open to the public when visiting Hampton Court Palace. For more, see www.chapelroyal.org. PICTURE: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk
• The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London. Originally a parish church, this was incorporated into the walls of the Tower in the reign of King Henry III. It was subsequently rebuilt at least twice – in the reign of King Edward I and King Henry VIII – and is home to the graves of important personages executed at the Tower including Henry VIII’s one-time wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard as well as Jane Grey, the nine day queen, and Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. The chapel can be accessed during a Yeoman Warder’s tour of the Tower of London. For more, including details of an appeal for its restoration, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/thechapelproject.
• Chapel Royal of St John the Evangelist, Tower of London. Located within the White Tower, this beautiful chapel – arguably the oldest church in London – dates back to the construction of the tower by King William the Conqueror the late 11th century and remains one of the best preserved examples of Anglo-Norman architecture in England. King Henry III added stained glass windows but for much of its later history the chapel was used for records storage. Tradition records that King Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth of York, was laid in state here following her death in childbirth and that it was here Queen Mary was betrothed by proxy to Philip of Spain. This can be visited as part of a visit to the Tower of London. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/Sightsandstories/Prisoners/Towers/ChapelofStJohns
For more on churches in London, check out Stephen Millar’s London’s City Churches
and Stephen Humphrey’s London’s Churches and Cathedrals: A Guide to London’s Most Historic Churches and Cathedrals, Leigh Hatt’s London’s 100 Best Churches: An Illustrated Guide or the Pevsner Architectural Guide London: City Churches.
May 30, 2012
For those who may not be aware, the current Diamond Jubilee is, of course, not the first jubilee Queen Elizabeth II has celebrated. In 1977, the Queen and the nation marked her Silver Jubilee, celebrating her 25th year on the throne.
Just as this year is designed as a year of celebration, so too was 1977 with the anniversary of the Queen’s accession culminating in a series events run over a week in early June. They included street parties, the lighting of a chain of beacons across the country (the Queen lit the first fire at Windsor), a national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral (which the Queen went to in the Gold State Coach) and a river progress from Greenwich to Lambeth.
To mark the Jubilee, the Queen and Prince Philip also travelled across the country, visiting as many as 36 counties during a Royal Tour, and went overseas where they visited nine countries as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, the West Indies and Canada.
In London, a number of memorials were installed which can still be visited today. They include:
• The Silver Jubilee Walkway. Opened by the Queen on 9th junee 1977, this is made up of five circular sections which are themselves located in a 15 mile (24 kilometre) circle around the city and takes in many of the city’s greatest sites, including St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe. For more on the walk, see www.walklondon.org.uk/route.asp?R=3
• South Bank Jubilee Gardens. Originally created to celebrate the Silver Jubilee in 1977, these gardens, located between Waterloo and Westminster Bridges, have recently been remade – including planting 70 new trees – for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.
• Memorial Urn in Queen Square, Bloomsbury. This monument has inscriptions by poets Philip Larkin (“In times when nothing stood, But worsened or grew strange, There was one constant good, She did not change”) and Ted Hughes (A nation’s a soul, A soul is a wheel, With a crown for a hub, To keep it whole”) in front of and behind it.
• King’s Stairs Memorial Stone. This memorial stone (pictured) located on the edge of King’s Stairs Gardens by the Thames in Bermondsey was first installed to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The other side of the stone was inscribed during the Golden Jubilee in 2002.
• Plaque on Queen Elizabeth II’s birthplace. We’ve mentioned this plaque at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair in an earlier entry but it’s interesting to note that it was erected in 1977.
Any others you can think of?
For many Londoners, an opportunity to see the Queen means heading to Buckingham Palace to watch her wave from the balcony – or standing in the Mall to watch as her carriage goes by.
This one kilometre long grand processional route which links Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was originally cut through St James’s Park in 1660 when King Charles II was looking for a new paille-maille pitch (see our earlier entry on Pall Mall for more on this). Two long avenues of trees were planted on either side, giving it a leafy feel that’s still in evidence today.
The Mall had become notorious by the 18th century and was spruced up in 1911 under the eye of Sir Aston Webb (who also designed other elements in the area including a new facade for Buckingham Palace, the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace, and Admiralty Arch at the western end of the route) to become the grand avenue, complete with red-carpet like surface (this was done later), that it is today.
It is bordered by St James’s Park on the south side and on the north side is overlooked by various grand buildings – including Clarence House and the Institute of Contemporary Arts – as well as, toward the western end, Green Park.
These days the Queen publicly processes down The Mall for a number of events throughout the year – among them are the State Opening of Parliament (held earlier this month) as well as military ceremonies like Trooping the Colour and events like last year’s Royal Wedding when is it said that more than a million people were said to have filled the broad street.
The Mall is also the route along which Heads of State process in a horse drawn carriage during official visits (the road is then decorated with Union Jacks and flags of the visitor’s country). During the Olympics, it will be the start and end location of the marathons and cycling road races.
Apart from the Queen Victoria Memorial at the eastern end of The Mall, statues and monuments lining the road include the Queen Mother Memorial, a statue of explorer Captain James Cook, and a recently installed statue of cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin.
There are apparently a series of tunnels underneath with link Buckingham Palace with Whitehall.
We should also briefly mention Horseguards, which is at The Mall’s eastern end and where Trooping the Colour and Beating Retreat takes place. This was formerly the site of a tiltyard of the Palace of Whitehall and jousting tournaments were held here during the time of King Henry VIII. It has been used for parades and ceremonies since the 17th century. While cars were parked here for much of the 20th century, this practice was stopped in the mid-1990s.
The Queen and her family’s appearance on the palace’s balcony to wave to crowds at events like Trooping the Colour and last year’s Royal Wedding have become symbols of her reign.
We’ve already written about some of the history of the 775 room palace (see our earlier post here), so today we’re looking specifically at the palace as the residence of Queen Elizabeth II.
While the focus for visitors to the palace is on the grand state rooms (of which there are 19 located in the west block facing the palace gardens – they include the Throne Room and State Dining Room), the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh live in private apartments on the north side of the palace while rooms on the upper floors of the palace’s north and east sides are occupied by other members of the Royal Family. A large part of the ground floor and palace’s south wing are occupied by service quarters and members of the Royal Household.
As well as weekly meetings at the palace – including audiences with the Prime Minister, foreign and British ambassadors, clergy and senior members of the civil service, the Queen also hosts a variety of grand events at the palace throughout the year. These include the Diplomatic Reception given for members of the diplomatic corps in the autumn (more than 1,500 people attend from more than 130 countries), three large garden parties in the summer and grand State Banquets which are held in the Ballroom on the first evening of a visit from a foreign head of state. The Queen is also noted for the small private lunch parties she holds to which community leaders are invited.
The head of the 1,200 strong Royal Household is the Lord Chamberlain (since 2006 The Earl Peel), a non-political office responsible for the organisation of ceremonial activities at court as well as the palace’s upkeep. Under him are the various departments heads – these include the Comptroller, who heads the Lord Chamberlain’s Office (this oversees everything from State Visits to the Royal Mews), the Keeper of the Privy Purse (responsible for the management of the sovereign’s financial affairs) and the Master of the Household (responsible for domestic and staff arrangements as well as catering and official entertainment, this position dates back to 1539).
A typical day in the life of the Queen when at the palace involves her spending the morning at her desk where she reviews a sample of incoming letters (an estimated 200 to 300 arrive each day almost all of which are answered by her staff) and meets with her Private Secretaries to deal with official papers which arrive in the famous ‘red boxes’.
The Queen will then often hold a series of audiences during which she’ll meet with a range of people – from retiring senior members of the armed forces to newly appointed ambassadors and judges and people who have won awards for excellence in a particular field. She may then participate in an investiture at which honors and decorations are presented (about 25 of these are held every year, usually in the palace Ballroom).
Lunch is often private although as previously mentioned, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are known for hosting small lunch gatherings for a range of people. In the afternoon, the Queen will often attend engagements outside the palace (she attends about 430 engagements and audiences a year) before possibly meeting with the Privy Council.
Evenings are spent reviewing a report of the day’s parliamentary proceedings, meeting with the Prime Minister (something she does every Wednesday when both are in London), attending further engagements or hosting events at the palace.
And, of course, when the Queen is in residence, Buckingham Palace is also home to the Queen’s corgis – Monty, Willow and Holly – and dorgis (a cross between a corgi and a dachshund) – Cider, Candy and Vulcan.
For more on Buckingham Palace and the life of the Queen, go www.royal.gov.uk.
WHERE: State Rooms, Buckingham Palace (includes special exhibition Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration) (nearest Tube stations are Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner); WHEN: 9.45am to 6.30pm, 30th June to 8th July and 31st July to 7th October; COST: £18 an adult/£10.50 a child (under 17s/under fives free)/£16.50 concession/£47 family; WEBSITE: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/buckinghampalace.
PICTURE: Christa Richert/sxc.hu
Westminster Abbey has played a key role in the life of Queen Elizabeth II – it was here on 20th November, 1947, that she was married to Prince Philip (then Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten) and it was here on 2nd June, 1953, that she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II.
First to the wedding. Princess Elizabeth was only the 10th royal to be married in the Abbey (her predecessors included her parents who married here on 26th April, 1923). The ceremony started at 11.30am and the princess, who wore a white dress designed by Norman Hartnell, entered to a specially composed fanfare accompanied by eight bridesmaids and two pages.
Due to post war austerity measures, only about 2,000 people attended the wedding (we’ve previously mentioned that the princess had to save coupons for her wedding dress like any other bride). On the day, the grave of the Unknown Warrior was the only stone that was not covered by the special carpet and the day after the wedding, the now married Princess Elizabeth followed a royal tradition started by her mother, Queen Elizabeth, which involved sending her wedding bouquet back to the Abbey to be laid on the grave.
It was about five-and-a-half years after her wedding that the princess returned to the Abbey to be crowned a queen.
Then Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya (on her way to Australia) when news reached her on 6th February that year of the death of her father, King George VI. After Prince Philip broke the news to her, the new queen chose Elizabeth as her “regnal name”, and the couple returned to England.
Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary, died on 24th March, but it was decided to proceed with the coronation anyway (Queen Mary had apparently asked that the coronation not be delayed by her death).
The coronation, the 38th to be conducted in the Abbey, was the first to be televised (with the exception of the anointing and communion) and was “instrumental” in helping to popularise it in the UK and elsewhere.
The building was closed for five months so preparations could be made for the more than 8,000 wedding guests. The Queen’s coronation dress, meanwhile, was made by Norman Hartnell (as had been her wedding dress) and was made of white satin embroidered with emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
Having arrived from Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, the Queen entered the Abbey at 11.20am and, having been invested with the Regalia while seated in the Coronation Chair, was crowned with St Edward’s Crown at 12.34pm. She left the Abbey at 2.53pm and rode through the streets of London back to the palace.
Of course, the Queen has since attended many other events at the Abbey – including thanksgiving services for their golden and silver wedding anniversaries and last year’s Royal Wedding – since her coronation which we don’t have space to talk about here. But it is worth noting before signing off that the Abbey continues to have a special relationship to her – it is a “Royal Peculiar” meaning it is exempt from any ecclesiastical jurisdiction but that of the Sovereign.
WHERE: Westminster Abbey, Westminster (nearest Tube station is Westminster or St James’s Park); WHEN: Open to tourists everyday except Sunday (times vary so check the website); COST: £16 an adult/£13 concessions/£6 schoolchildren (11-18 years), free for children aged under 11/£38 for a family (two adults, two children); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org
May 2, 2012
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were married at Westminster Abbey, a highly significant property in the Queen’s story which we’ll be looking at in more depth shortly, on 20th November, 1947 (and, as did other brides in post-war Britain, the princess had to collect coupons for her wedding dress).
Following their honeymoon at Broadland – the home of Lord Mountbatten in Hampshire and at Birkhall, Balmoral, in Scotland, in 1949, they and their baby son, Charles, moved into Clarence House, their home for the next three years.
The house, which still featured Victorian decor, was refurbished although post-war austerity ensured the decor and furnishings – many of which were wedding presents – remained simple. The house still contains a Georgian dining table and 20 ladder-back chairs which were the gift of the Royal Warrant Holders Association and a mahogany sideboard and four side tables which were a present from Queen Mary, the Queen’s grandmother.
Princess Anne, second child of the Queen and Prince Philip, was born in the house in 1950.
Clarence House was originally built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of John Nash (he also designed Buckingham Palace) and was designed as the home of George III’s third son, Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence and his wife Adelaide, and incorporated some of the Tudor buildings of St James’ Palace.
Indeed, Prince William Henry liked the house so much that on succeeding to the throne as King William IV in 1830, he decided not to move to Buckingham Palace and instead remained at Clarence House.
Later occupants have included Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and two of her sons, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught as well as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who moved in after the property was vacated by Queen Elizabeth II and remained living at the house until her death in 2002.
Today Clarence House is the official London residence of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as Prince Harry.
Clarence House is usually open for tours during summer but will not be opening this summer due to the Paralympic and Olympic Games blocking the entrance from The Mall. For details on the 2013 opening, see www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/clarencehouse.
PICTURE: ChrisO, Wikipedia
April 25, 2012
Having spent the first few months of her life at 17 Bruton Street, the future Queen Elizabeth II moved into her parents’ new property at 145 Piccadilly.
The property, located close to Hyde Park Corner, was previously the townhouse of the Marquesses of Northampton (interestingly, it was while living here that her father the Duke of York first started visiting the Harley Street-based Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, as depicted in The King’s Speech). The 25 bedroom house was later destroyed by a bomb during the war, long after the Yorks had moved out.
As well as the house at 145 Piccadilly, the young Princess Elizabeth (and from 1930 her younger sister and only sibling Princess Margaret) also lived at White Lodge in the centre of Richmond Park in the city’s south-west. The Lodge, a Georgian property built as a hunting lodge for King George II, now houses part of the Royal Ballet School.
She also considerable time outside the city, staying in places including Scotland with her grandparents at either Balmoral Castle (owned by the Royal Family) or at Glamis Castle (owned by the parents of her mother, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore) as well as, from the age of six, at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, the country home of the Yorks. The princess apparently had her own small house, known as Y Bwthyn Bach (the Little Cottage), in the grounds – a gift from the people of Wales in 1932.
Following the death of King George V and subsequent abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936, new King George VI and his family moved from 145 Piccadilly to Buckingham Palace. Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the princesses lived in Balmoral, Scotland, and Sandringham but spent most of the war at Windsor Castle.
Princess Elizabeth, meanwhile, had met Prince Philip of Greece during the 1930s and in 1947, he asked for permission to marry her.
April 18, 2012
This week we start a new series in honour of this year being the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. We’ll be looking at locations across the city which have played an important role in the story of the Queen. First up, it’s the Queen’s birthplace – a now non existent townhouse in Mayfair.
The property at 17 Bruton Street, which is marked by a small plaque installed in 1977 – the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (it’s in the middle of the image to the right), was actually the home of the Queen Mother’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. It and the neighbouring townhouse at 18 Bruton Street have both been demolished and replaced with a rather bland office building.
Born here at 2.40am on 21st April, 1926, the Queen, named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, was the first child of the then Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). At her birth, Queen Elizabeth II was only third in line to the throne after her uncle, the Prince of Wales (later, briefly, King Edward VIII), and her father.
The Queen’s grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, both visited the newborn child at the property (along with an apparently large crowd outside). Elizabeth was christened five weeks later at the Chapel Royal in Buckingham Palace. She spent the first few months of her life living in a room at 17 Bruton Street which had been previously used by her mother before her marriage.
Recent books on the Queen include Andrew Marr’s The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and Her People, the souvenir album Queen Elizabeth II: A Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Album, and Sarah Bradford’s Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times.
• Correction: Bruton Street was mistakenly copied here as Brunton Street. It has been corrected. Apologies for the error!