TheatreLondon’s West End “Theatreland” and New York’s Broadway are jointly the subject of a new exhibition which opened at the V&A this week. Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York takes visitors on an immersive, behind the scenes look at how award-winning plays, musicals and productions are made as well as the history of theatrical awards and life on the red carpet. Objects – taken from the V&A collection and that of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Centre – on display include Maria Bjornson’s original costume designs from The Phantom of the Opera (1986), one of the longest-running West End musicals and the longest running Broadway production in history as well as a selection of golden top hats from A Chorus Line which won both the Tony Award and the inaugural Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 1976, a tunic worn by Rudolf Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet, winner of the Olivier Award in 1977, and a dress designed by Bob Crowley and worn by Dame Helen Mirren in The Audience, a production which earned the actress both an Olivier award in 2013 and a Tony Award in 2015. The free exhibition, organised in partnership with the Society of London Theatre as part of a year long celebration of 40 years of the Olivier Award, runs until 31st August in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Galleries before touring to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Centre later this year. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/curtainup. PICTURE: © Victoria and Albert Museum.

A visually stunning exhibition highlighting the talents of Leonardo da Vinci opened at the Science Museum in South Kensington yesterday. Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius takes a look at some of the unique mechanical concepts dreamt up by one of “history’s greatest minds”. The display features 39 historical models of designs da Vinci drew – including those of flying machines, diving apparatus and weapons – which were made in Milan in 1952 to mark the 500th anniversary of his birth. Runs until 4th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/leonardo.

Kensington Palace is taking you even further into the wardrobes of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, in a new display of dresses as part of the Fashion Rules exhibition. The new display continues the exhibitions exploration of how each of the three women have navigated the fashion ‘rules’ defined by their royal duties in their own unique style. Among the dresses on display is a candy-striped dress in the “Parisian style” created by Norman Hartnell in the late 1940s for Princess Margaret – on show for the first time at the palace, as well as formal dresses worn by the Queen on state visits to France and the Middle East, and a bottle green silk velvet halterneck worn by Diana which was later made famous in images by photographer Mario Testino. The new display goes on show today. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace.

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There are numerous memorials to Sir Winston Churchill around London and today we’ll look at a handful of them (while next week we’ll take a look at a couple of the most unusual memorials). We’ve already looked at the most famous statue of him in Parliament Square (in an earlier post here), but here’s some more…

Allies1 AlliesMayfair. These almost life-size bronze statues, located at the juncture of Old and New Bond Streets, depict Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt in an informal pose, sitting and talking together on a bench. The sculpture was a gift from the Bond Street Association to the City of Westminster and was unveiled by Princess Margaret on 2nd May, 1995 commemorating 50 years since the end of World War II. It is the work of US sculptor Lawrence Holofcener. There’s a space between the two World War II leaders where the passerby can sit and have their picture taken between them.

• Member’s Lobby, House of Commons. We’ve already mentioned this bronze statue (see our previous post here), erected in 1969, which stands just outside Churchill Arch opposite one of another former PM, David Lloyd George.  It is the work of Croatian-born sculptor Oscar Nemon who also created numerous other busts of the former PM now located both in the UK (one of which is mentioned below) and around the world.

Great Hall, Guildhall. Commissioned by the Corporation of the City of London and unveiled in 1955, this bronze statue shows Churchill, wearing a suit and bow tie, seated in an armchair and looking ahead. Another work of Nemon’s, it was commissioned as a tribute to “the greatest statesman of his age and the nation’s leader in the Great War of 1939-1945”.

Outside former Conservative Club, Wanstead. A very thick-necked bust of Churchill, erected in 1968, sits outside the 18th century mansion in Wanstead High Street, north-east London, which was once the Conservative Club and is now occupied by a restaurant. The bigger than life-sized bust is the work of Italian artist Luigi Fironi and stands on a plinth once part of old Waterloo Bridge. Churchill was the Conservative member for this area between 1924-1964 and based at the club from 1930 to 1940.

 • Woodford Green. Another tribute from his former constituents, this full length bronze statue in north-east London is the work of Scottish artist David McFall and was unveiled in 1959 in the presence of Churchill himself and Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery. Churchill was the MP for Woodford between 1945 and 1964.

Fashion-RulesA new exhibition looking at the fashions of three royals over four decades last century opens at Kensington Palace today. Fashion Rules features five rooms of dress displays with a focus on the fashions of Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, Princess Margaret in the 1960s and 1970s and Diana, Princess of Wales, in the 1980s. Twenty-one dresses are included in the display which explores how the royal women negotiated how to dress fashionably while observing the “rules” of the Royal Wardrobe and includes film footage and photography. The dresses include five of the Queen’s evening dresses – one of which is a gown fashioned for the Queen by Norman Hartnell in the colours of the flag of Pakistan, a full-length kaftan and matching turban of ivory sari silk worn by Princess Margaret while on the island of Mustique (on display for the first time), and, two Eighties dresses worn by Diana which have never before been displayed in the UK. Admission is included in entry price. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/. PICTURE: HRP/Newsteam.

The Rolling Stones are back in Hyde Park this weekend as part of a summer of music in the Royal Park. The concert will take place almost 44 years to the day since the Stones first played the park and comes in the wake of their ’50 and Counting’ shows last year. Their first performance in the park – on 5th July, 1969 – saw the live debut of guitarist Mick Taylor and was a tribute to founding member Brian Jones who has died only two days before. For the full programme of Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park, head to www.bst-hydepark.com.

Ngugi2010-2Daniel-Anderson-UnivCommThe British Library is partnering with the Royal African Society to host the UK’s largest festival of African literature – Africa Writes – this weekend. Kicking off on Friday, the three day festival features Ngugi wa Thiong’o, described as “Africa’s greatest living novelist” (pictured), and his son, rising star Mukoma Ngugi, in a conversation chaired by Ellah Allfrey, deputy editor of Granta Magazine. Other programme highlights include a poetry evening, ‘Diaspora Writes Back’; a tribute to Chinua Achebe, the “father of contemporary African literature”; and the writers short-listed for The Caine Prize – the most prestigious prize for African short fiction. For more, see www.africawrites.org. PICTURE: Ngugi wa Thiong’o © Daniel Anderson.

Given we’re marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a look at sites of significance to her story located in London, it’s perhaps only fitting that we take a look at the nearest royal residence outside the city.

Windsor, located as close as half an hour by train from London’s Paddington station (or around 50 minutes to an hour from Waterloo), boasts plenty to see including the historic town centre, nearby Eton, great river and country walks and, of course, Legoland. But today our attention will remain on Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.

There has been a fortress on this site since shortly after the Norman invasion when in about 1080 King William the Conqueror ordered it constructed on a ridge above the river bank as part of a series of defensive fortifications around London. The earth and timber Norman castle was gradually added to over the years – King Henry I (reigned 1100-1135), the first king to live here, added domestic quarters while King Henry II (reigned 1154-1189) built substantial royal apartments transforming the castle into a palace and began replacing the outer timber walls with stone fortifications as well as rebuilding the Norman Keep as the Round Tower (parts of which still date from this period). King Henry III (reigned 1216-1272) built upon and expanded his work.

But it was in the reign of King Edward III (1307-1327) that the castle was expanded enormously. This included the reconstruction of the lower ward including the rebuilding of the chapel, naming it St George’s (although the current chapel dates from the reign of King Edward IV – 1461-1470), and the reconstruction of the upper ward complete with apartments for him and his wife, Queen Phillipa, arranged around courtyards (although some of the work wasn’t completed until the reign of his successor, King Richard II – 1377-1399). It was also during King Edward III’s reign that the castle became the base for the Order of the Garter (which he created in 1348), a role it still fulfills.

Other works were ordered by successive Tudor monarchs including King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, and Queen Mary I. Parliamentary forces seized the castle during the Civil War (Oliver Cromwell did use it as his headquarters for a time) and Royalists were imprisoned here (King Charles I was in fact buried in a vault beneath St George’s Chapel after his execution having been previously imprisoned here).

The next major additions came in the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685) when the Upper Ward and State Apartments were reconstructed in baroque splendor, the latter complete with splendid murals ceiling paintings by Italian artist Antonio Verro (the murals were later destroyed but some of the ceiling paintings survive).

From the time of King William III (1689-1702), monarchs began spending more time at Hampton Court Palace but the focus returned to Windsor with King George III. He ordered a range of improvements and updates including modernising Frogmore House in the Home Park for his wife Queen Caroline (the property was subsequently used by various royals but no-one currently lives there), but many of these were stopped prematurely due to his illness. His son, King George IV, picked up where his father left off.

In the reign of Queen Victoria, Windsor became the royal family’s principal residence and was visited by heads of state including King Louis Philippe in 1844 and Emperor Napoleon III in 1855. The Queen’s husband, Prince Albert, died here on 14th December, 1861.

King Edward VII (1901-1910) and King George V (1910-1936) both had a hand in redecorating the palace and the Queen’s father, King George VI (1936-1952), was living in the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park when he succeeded to the throne.

In more recent times, the castle was the home to the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret, for much of World War II. The castle suffered its greatest setback in recent times in 1992 when a serious fire broke out in the Queen’s Private Chapel which destroyed several rooms including the ceiling of St George’s Hall which dated from the reign of King George IV. Restoration works took five years to complete.

Today the Queen spends many private weekends at the castle while the court is officially in residence here for a month over the Easter period and during Ascot Week in June – it’s at this time that the Garter Day celebrations take place with the installation of new knights.

The Queen also hosts State Visits here with banquets held in St George’s Hall as well as what are known as a ‘sleep and dine’ in which high profile figures are invited to dinner with the Queen before being shown a special display of items from the Royal Library and then spending the night. The Royal Standard flies from the Round Tower when the Queen is in residence.

As well as touring the State Apartments, the Gallery, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House (completed in the 1920s for Queen Mary, wife of King George V), and St George’s Chapel, visitors to the castle can experience the Changing of the Guard at 11am every day but Sundays between May and early August (and every second day after that).

WHERE: Windsor (a short walk from either Windsor Central Station or Windsor & Eton Riverside Station); WHEN: 9.45am to 5.15pm until 27th July (times vary after this date – check the website); COST: £17 an adult/£10.20 a child (under 17s – under fives free)/£15.50 concession/£44.75 family (price includes an audio tour); WEBSITE: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle.

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.

Where is it? #24

April 13, 2012

The latest in the series in which we ask you to identify where in London this picture was taken and what it’s of. If you think you can identify this picture, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!

Must have been a tough one because we only had one taker – Sue Kendrick – who was correct in saying that this was the memorial to 17th century English composer Henry Purcell located in Christchurch Gardens on Victoria Street (yes, near Scotland Yard!). The rather florid memorial, sculpted by Glynn Williams, was unveiled by Princess Margaret on 22nd November, 1995, the tercentenary of Purcell’s death. Purcell, credited as one of the greatest ever English composers thanks to his unique take on Baroque music, is believed to have been born nearby in a premises on a lane located off Old Pye Street. The gardens in which they are located also houses the Suffragette Memorial and is a former burial ground.

PICTURE: Bunting in Regent Street ahead of the Royal Wedding tomorrow.

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).

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.

Choices for a permanent home in London for the soon-to-be married couple reportedly include Buckingham Palace (see yesterday’s entry), as well as Kensington Palace.

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.

A once favored residence of British monarchs, Kensington Palace’s connections with royalty date back to 1689 when, then a private country home known as Nottingham House, the building was purchased by King William III and Queen Mary II.

The royal couple turned to Sir Christopher Wren, then Surveyor of the King’s Works, who was charged with adapting the property into a suitably regal residence.

Wren’s work included the addition of four new pavilions – one at each corner – to provide extra accommodation for the king and queen. The King’s Apartments, approached by a Grand Staircase, were located in the south east, and the Queen Apartment’s in the north west. While many later additions were made, the basic layout of these buildings remains true to Wren’s original design.

Among the many spectacular original rooms is the King’s Gallery, built for William in 1695. It features an 1694 wind dial connected to a weather vane which turns according to the direction of the prevailing wind.

The property’s subsequent royal residents have included Queen Anne, King George I and King George II (it was King George III who made Buckingham Palace his primary London residence). Princess (later Queen) Victoria was born here in 1819 (it was she who first opened the State Apartments to visitors in 1899) while more recent residents in the palace’s private areas have included Princess Margaret and, of course, Diana, Princess of Wales.

WHERE: The Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens, Kensington (nearest tube stations are High Street Kensington or Queensway); WHEN: Daily 10am to 5pm (last admission 4pm); COST: £12.50 adult/£11 concession/£6.25 child/£34 family (online booking discounts available, Historic Royal Palaces members free); WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace

PICTURE: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk