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.
July 23, 2013
As we all know by now, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, are proud parents of a new born son with news of the new arrival provoking celebrations across Britain and, indeed, the world.
To celebrate the royal birth, here are 10 interesting facts about some previous royal births in London…
• The last time a Home Secretary attended a royal birth was in 1936 for the birth of Princess Alexandria, cousin of the Queen. The practice was officially stopped before the birth of Prince Charles in 1948.
• Such was the doubt over whether Mary of Modena, wife of King James II, was really pregnant that more than 40 eminent people were invited to witness the birth of their son Prince James in 1688 (and even then the rumours of that the stillborn baby had been swapped for another were rife).
• Queen Anne, who ruled from 1702-1714, went through 17 pregnancies but, tragically, outlived all of her children, her last surviving child – the Duke of Gloucester – dying in 1700.
• The tradition of firing a 41 gun salute on the news of the birth of a future monarch dates from the birth of the future King Edward VII. Twenty-one shots are fired in honour of the birth with an additional 21 fired because the guns are located in Green Park, a Royal Park.
• Queen Elizabeth II was born by caesarean section at 2.40am on April 21, 1926, at the home of her mother’s parents – 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair. (See our previous post on this here).
• Such was the animosity between Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his father, King George II, that when Frederick’s wife Augusta went into labour at the king’s home of Hampton Court Palace, he bundled her into a coach and had her taken to his home of St James’s Palace. With no preparations made there, his newly born daughter had to be wrapped in a tablecloth (the story is retold in detail in Lucy Worsley’s terrific book, Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court)
• Queen Victoria, who had nine children, used chloroform for pain relief during later births, despite the concept being frowned upon by some officials.
• Buckingham Palace (pictured above) has been the birthplace of numerous Royal Family members. Of course, Prince Charles was born here in 1948 as was his brother Prince Andrew (1960) and Prince Edward (1964) but so too – somewhat earlier – were 14 of King George III and Queen Charlotte’s 15 children when the property was known as Buckingham House and, later, the Queen’s House. King Edward VII was the only monarch who both was born and died in the building.
• Such was the desperation of King Henry VIII for a son, that a document announcing the birth were drawn up to that effect prior to Anne Boleyn giving birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I. The document was still issued – the only concession being an ‘s’ added to the end of the word prince.
• The oldest English king to father a child was King Edward I – he was 66-years-old when his last child, Princess Eleanor, was born in 1306. Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of King Henry II, was the oldest queen to father a child when she gave birth to the future King John at 44-years-of-age in 1166.
Around London – Egypt comes to Wellington Arch; Dorothy Bohm at the MoL; Testino at the NPG; and performance art at the Tate Modern…
November 15, 2012
• The influence of ancient Egypt on English architecture and interiors is under the spotlight in a new English Heritage exhibition inside Wellington Arch’s Quadriga Gallery at Hyde Park Corner. Egypt in England reveals that the Egyptian style, while it has been used in 18th century gardens in England, first rose to popularity after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, continued when the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 triggered a new wave of ‘Egyptomania’ and went onto into the later 20th century where its influence can be seen on buildings like cinemas and shops. The exhibition features photographs of Egyptian-style buildings and landmarks from across England – including London sites such as the The Egyptian Avenue and Circle of Lebanon Vaults at Highgate Cemetery and The Egyptian Hall at Harrods – alongside images of the Egyptian sources which inspired them. There are also 19th century travel brochures, a number of shabtis (the small mummy-like figurines placed in tombs which were often taken home by visitors as souvenirs) and Wedgewood ceramics designed in the Egyptian style. The display also tells the story of London landmark Cleopatra’s Needle, a 3,500-year-old obelisk which sits on the north bank of the Thames (see our earlier post on it here). Admission charge applies. Runs until 13 January. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wellington-arch/.
• A new exhibition of photographs taken by celebrated snapper Dorothy Bohm opens at the Museum of London tomorrow. Women in Focus will feature 33 color photographs dating from the 1990s to the present which juxtapose women who work and live in London with the ever-present images of women in advertising, artwork and shop windows. The images show women in their varied roles in society – from parents to professionals – and reflects on how they are seen in London’s public spaces. Runs until 17th February. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• Now On: Mario Testino: British Royal Portraits. This display at the National Portrait Gallery features eight portraits of Royal Family members taken by Mario Testino between 2003 and 2010. As well an official portrait of Prince Charles taken in 2003, others include a portrait of Prince William taken the same year for his 21st birthday, another of Prince Harry on his 21st birthday, a portrait of Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla commissioned by British Vogue in 2006 and official engagement portraits of Prince William and Duchess Catherine taken in 2010. It is the first time the portraits have all been shown together. The exhibition runs in Room 40 until 3rd February. Admission is free. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.
• Now On: A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance. This newly opened exhibition at the Tate Modern explores the changing relationship between performance and painting, spanning the period from 1950 to today and featuring works from more than 40 artists including David Hockney, Yves Klein, Jackson Pollock and Cindy Sherman. Themes examined in the exhibition include how the painted canvas has been used as an ‘arena’ in which performance is carried out, the use of the human body as a surface and how contemporary artists are using painting to create social and theatrical spaces. Runs until 1st April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
December 29, 2011
We’re getting down to the pointy end of the countdown now. Here’s numbers four and three in Exploring London’s list of our most popular posts for 2011…
4. Curious London Memorials – 4. The Suffragette Memorial: One of our series on curious London memorials, this looked at a memorial in St James, erected in the 1970s to mark the contribution of those who fought for women’s right to vote;
3. The Royal Wedding – London’s royal reception venue: Another of our Royal Wedding themed posts, this looked at the history of Buckingham Palace, location of the reception which took place after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge.
Around London – 16 Underground stations listed; life in a gun turret at HMS Belfast; and that dress on display at Buckingham Palace
July 28, 2011
• Sixteen London Underground stations were this week listed as Grade II heritage buildings. The Tube stations – several of which were designed by Leslie Green, known for his pioneering use of ‘ox-blood’ red tiles on the exterior of stations to create a consistent brand for the stations – include the now-closed Aldwych (pictured) along with Oxford Circus (originally two stations), Covent Garden and Russell Square as well as Belsize Park, Brent Cross, Caledonian Road, Chalk Farm, Chesham, Perivale, Redbridge, St John’s Wood, West Acton and Wood Green. Three other stations – Arnos Grove, Oakwood and Sudbury Town – have had their status upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*. These three were all designed by modernist architect Charles Holden for the extension of the Piccadilly Line in the 1930s. The new listings were made by Tourism and Heritage Minister John Penrose on the advice of English Heritage.
• A new permanent exhibition showing would-be sailors what it is like to fight at sea opens at the HMS Belfast this weekend. Gun Turret Experience: A Sailor’s Story, 1943, is an immersive experience using lights, imagery, sound, smoke effects, movement and smell to recreate the atmosphere and conditions of a gun turret tower when a crew was at battle stations. Visitors are encouraged to follow the story of a young sailor on Boxing Day, 1943 when the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst is sighted leading to the Battle of the North Cape. The Gun Turret Experience, housed within the original triple gun turrets overlooking the quarterdeck, was developed with the help of Royal Navy veterans and eye-witness accounts from the Imperial War Museum (of which the HMS Belfast is part). Entry is included in normal admission price. For more information, see www.hmsbelfast.iwm.org.uk.
• Now On: See the dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore when she was married to Prince William in April at this year’s summer opening at Buckingham Palace. The gown, which features a nine foot long train, will be displayed along with the Halo Tiara until 3rd October in the palace ballroom (the same room used for the newly married couple’s reception). The exhibition features video footage of designer Sarah Burton, explaining how the dress was made. This year’s summer opening also features a display of the work of Carl Faberge – including his magnificent jewel-encrusted Imperial Easter Eggs as well as bejewelled boxes and miniature carvings of favorite pets of the royal family. More than half a million people are expected to visit the exhibition. For more information, see www.royalcollection.org.uk/default.asp?action=article&ID=30
June 11, 2011
A ceremony first believed to have been performed during the reign of King Charles II, since 1748 the parade has been used to mark the Official Birthday of the Sovereign.
The parade includes six Guards groups. This year it was the turn of the Scots Guards, raised in 1642 at the behest of King Charles I, to parade their colours.
Part of the Household Mounted Cavalry, the Blues and Royals.
April 29, 2011
Along with tens of thousands of others, Exploring London took up a post in The Mall to watch festivities surrounding the London wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Here’s some of what we saw…
Kate Middleton, newly titled Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, rides in a 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom IV from the Goring Hotel in Belgravia to Westminster Abbey via The Mall, greeting crowds along the way. Others, including Prince William, had already passed by.
The crowds cheered along The Mall throughout the morning, including after Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was heard over loudspeakers announcing that the couple were now man and wife. The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, delivered the address while James Middleton read the lesson.
After the ceremony, the newly married couple processed in the 1902 State Landau down Whitehall and The Mall through a sea of flag-waving well-wishers towards Buckingham Palace after the wedding ceremony. The Landau was the same used by Prince Charles and Princess Diana after their 1981 wedding.
The couple, along with other members of the royal family and Kate Middleton’s parents, appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at around 1.30pm, waving to the crowd and exchanging kisses. Here they are flanked by Queen Elizabeth II (right) and the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (left) along with bridesmaids and pageboys.
A Lancaster bomber and two Spitfires flew over the top of Buckingham Palace as part of an RAF flypast. They were followed by two tornados and two typhoons. The flypast brought official celebrations to an end after which the royal rejoined the champagne and canape reception already underway.
Crowds fill The Mall in the wedding’s aftermath. The newly weds later left Buckingham Palace driving a vintage convertible Aston Martin owned by Prince Charles. Overhead hovered a Sea King helicopter manned by some of Prince William’s colleagues.
Ahead of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton tomorrow, here’s a look at some of the more curious and interesting facts related to London’s Royal Wedding past…
• The first public Royal Wedding in modern times was that of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) which took place on 26th April, 1923. Instead of being held at a royal chapel as was more usual, they were married at Westminster Abbey in a public display which was apparently staged to lift the national spirit in the aftermath of World War I.
• Lady Diana Spencer (later Diana, Princess of Wales) memorably said Prince Charles’ name in the wrong order during their wedding ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29th July, 1981. Lady Diana accidentally called him Philip Charles Arthur George instead of the correct Charles Philip Arthur George.
• Queen Victoria’s extravagant wedding cake was the first to feature a model of the bride and groom on its summit (with a figure of Britannia looming over them). The two tier cake measured nine foot across and weighed 300 lbs.
• While white wedding dresses had been worn for some time, it was apparently after Queen Victoria wore a white dress at her 1840 wedding that the idea spread to the masses. (Interestingly, the first documented princess to wear a white wedding dress is said to have been Philippa of England, the daughter of King Henry IV, in 1406).
• The first televised Royal Wedding was that of Princess Margaret, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, to Antony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon) on 6th May, 1960. It attracted some 300 million viewers worldwide.
• The tradition of a royal bride leaving her bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was started by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She apparently did so in tribute to her brother Fergus who had died during World War I. Princess Mary, daughter of King George V, made a similar gesture at her wedding in 1922 – she left her bouquet at the Cenotaph in Whitehall after her wedding.
• One of the most scandalous Royal Weddings was that of George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV) to Princess Caroline of Brunswick on 8th April, 1795 at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace. Described as being “far from a love match” on the Historic Royal Palaces’ website, Prince George was said to have been drunk during the wedding and at one stage apparently even attempted to escape from the ceremony.
• If the rain stays away, the newly married prince and his bride will be returning to Buckingham Palace in the 1902 State Landau. The open-topped carriage was constructed for King Edward VII’s coronation and apparently made roomy to accommodation him. The carriage was used by Prince Charles and Lady Diana when they left St Paul’s Cathedral after their 1981 wedding. If the weather it poor, it’s expected that the 1881 Glass Coach, bought for the coronation of King George V in 1911, will be used instead.
For more fascinating facts on Royal Weddings, see the BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk/history/royal_weddings), or Historic Royal Palaces’ blog, The ‘other’ royal weddings (http://blog.hrp.org.uk). For more on the current Royal Wedding, see the official website (www.officialroyalwedding2011.org).
April 27, 2011
Word is that Prince William and his soon-to-be wife, Catherine Middleton, have yet to formally decide where they will live when in London (they are expected to spend much of their first two-and-a-half years of marriage in North Wales).
Their initial London base, however, will reportedly be Clarence House. Located in The Mall, just down the road from Buckingham Palace and beside St James’s Palace, the grand building is currently the home of William’s father Charles, the Prince of Wales, his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and, William’s brother, Prince Harry (it is also the home of William himself).
In years gone past, Clarence House served as the home of the newly married Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Charles, who lived there with his parents until the age of three, returned to the property in August 2003 after the death of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who had lived in the building from 1953.
Clarence House was built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of architect John Nash on the orders of Prince William Henry, the Duke of Clarence and later King William IV.
It was converted from a Jacobean mansion for King William III and Queen Mary II and has since been the home of many royals including, most famously, Diana, Princess of Wales. She and her then husband, Prince Charles, moved in following their wedding in 1981, and Princess Diana continued to live there after her divorce in 1996.
Other notable royal residents have included Queen Anne and Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II.
Another option – St James’s Palace – was built in 1531 on the site of a medieval leper hospital by King Henry VIII. Used initially for state occasions and to house royal relatives (Tudor monarchs actually lived at Whitehall Palace), it became the official royal residence in 1702, when Whitehall Palace burnt down, and remained so until the 1830s when King George III moved to Buckingham Palace.
April 25, 2011
In the first of a series this week looking at aspects of royal weddings in London in days past, we canvas some of the venues which have hosted the sometimes glittering occasions.
First up is Westminster Abbey (pictured), the location of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding this Friday, which, despite its thousand year history, is only believed to have hosted 15 royal weddings.
Among them is said to have been the wedding of King Henry I to Matilda of Scotland on 11th November, 1100, as well as that of Richard, Earl of Cornwall and brother of King Henry III, who married his second wife, Sanchia of Provence, there on 4th January, 1243, and Joan of Acre, daughter of King Edward I, who married Gilbert, Earl of Gloucester, on 30th April, 1290 (her sister Margaret married John, Duke of Brabant, at the same venue less than three months later). The abbey also hosted the wedding of King Richard II to Anne, daughter of Emperor Charles IV of Bohemia, on 20th January, 1382.
The abbey church has become increasingly favored as a venue for royal weddings in more recent times. Among the most prominent hosted there last century were that of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), who married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on 26th April, 1923 and that of their daughter Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) who married Prince Philip of Greece (later the Duke of Edinburgh) there on 20th November, 1947.
Two of the current Queen’s children were also married there – Princess Anne, who married Captain Mark Phillips on 14th November, 1973, and Prince Andrew, who married Sarah Ferguson on 23rd July 1986. (For more on Royal Weddings at the Abbey, see www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/royals/weddings)
A notable break with the trend in recent times was the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer – they were married in a fairytale ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29th July, 1981.
Other London locations for royal weddings have included the now non-existent Greenwich Palace (King Henry VIII married Katherine of Aragon on 11th June, 1509) and Hampton Court Palace (another of King Henry VIII’s marriages – that in which he was wed to Catherine Parr – was held here in a private chapel on 12th July, 1543).
Along with St George’s Chapel at Windsor, the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace in London was particularly popular in Victorian times – Queen Victoria married Prince Albert there on 10th February, 1840, and their eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, married Prince Frederick (the future German Emperor Frederick III) there on 25th January, 1858. On 6th July, 1893, the chapel also hosted the wedding of the future King George V and Princess Mary of Teck.
PICTURE: Copyright Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Keats’ love letter to be returned home; a royal wedding Oyster; youngest Spitfire pilot honored; and, The Cult of Beauty at the V&A
March 31, 2011
• A love letter Romantic poet John Keats wrote to his beloved Fanny Brown will be returned to the house in which it was written. Keats wrote the letter in 1820 while living next door to her at Wentworth House in Hampstead, north London – his home from 1818 to 1820 and the setting that inspired some of his most memorable poetry including Ode to a Nightingale. The City of London Corporation, who manage the house – now a museum known as Keats House, recently purchased the letter with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for £80,000. They say it will now be returned to the house and displayed there. In the letter Keats wrote: “I shall Kiss your name and mine where your Lips have been – Lips! why should a poor prisoner as I am talk about such things.” He said his consolation was “in the certainty of your affection”. See www.keatshouse.cityoflondon.gov.uk.
• Amid the host of souvenirs and trinkets up for sale in the lead-up to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton comes news of a unusual offering from Transport for London – a limited edition royal wedding Oyster card. The card, which will go on sale in the week leading up to the ceremony, features a portrait of the couple and their wedding date – 29th April, 2011. More than 750,000 of the cards will be offered for sale. The move is not without precedent – in 1981, a unique ticket was produced for the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
• Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum, the youngest Spitfire pilot to take part in the Battle of Britain, was granted the Freedom of the City of London at a ceremony at Guildhall last week. Wellum was just 18-years-old when he joined the RAF in August 1939. Serving in a frontline squadron, he flew many combat missions including dogfights during the Battle of Britain and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
• On Now: The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in . Said to be the “most comprehensive” exhibition ever staged on the Aesthetic Movement in Britain, it brings together masterpieces in painting as well as sculpture, design, furniture, architecture, fashion and literature of the era and explores some of the key personalities involved in the movement – from William Morris and Frederic Leighton through to James McNeil Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Oscar Wilde. Organised in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the exhibition runs until 17th July. Tickets are £12 (concessions available). See www.vam.ac.uk.