Fringe-LoomThe fringe loom of Queen Charlotte – wife of King George III – is among the objects on display at Kew Palace this year. Historic Royal Palaces is exploring some of the untold stories of the king’s daughters who once called the palace, which was originally built in 1631 for a Flemish merchant before it was acquired by King George II, home. Under examination are the pastimes of the royal women – from drawing and painting to weaving, paper cutting and even the decoration of a ‘Baby House’ created by the princesses as a showcase of their talents. Along with Kew Palace – located inside Kew Gardens in London’s west, also opened is the nearby rustic retreat built in 1770 known as Queen Charlotte’s cottage. Inside is the “Print Room”, hung with more than 150 satirical engravings, and the “Picnic Room”, decorated paintings of trailing nasturtiums and convolvulus – the work of Princess Elizabeth, an acclaimed artist. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KewPalace/.
PICTURE: Historic Royal Palaces

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Royal-Artillery-Memorial

Often deemed to be one of London’s finest war memorials, if not the finest (indeed London Historians’ Mike Paterson has said so previously on these very pages), the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner commemorates the more than 49,000 members of the Royal Artillery Regiment who died in World War I.

Royal-Artillery-Memorial3Designed by sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger – who had served in the infantry during the war – and architect Lionel Pearson, it was unveiled in 1925 by Prince Arthur and Anglican priest, Rev Alfred Jarvis.

The monument, described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as a “masterpiece of British 20th century sculpture”, features an oversized stone replica of a 9.2 inch Howitzer Mk I atop a stone plinth accompanied by a series of four realistic bronze figures and a series of carved reliefs depicting scenes of military life.

The figures represent a gun crew: a driver, artillery captain, shell carrier and, controversially at the time, a dead soldier lying beneath his cape and helmet with an inscription from Shakespeare’s Henry V –  “Here was a royal fellowship of death”.

Three bronze panels were later added at the south end of the monument in commemoration of the almost 30,000 of the Royal Artillery who died in World War II. It was unveiled by the then Princess Elizabeth in 1949.

In late 2011, English Heritage completed a major restoration of the Grade I-listed work with a grant from the Bulldog Trust.

PICTURE: Above – David Adams. Below – virtusincertus/Flickr

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

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.