Wondering which ‘great’ Queen this street name is referring to? Perhaps Queen Victoria, our own Queen Elizabeth or even her namesake, Queen Elizabeth I?

None of the above – the West End thoroughfare which runs between Drury Lane and Kingsway, is named for Queen Anne (of Denmark), consort of King James I (and the ‘great’ in Great Queen Street, we imagine, refers to the size of the thoroughfare and not the ‘greatness’ of the Queen).

Originally a residential street dating from the first half of the 17th century (one of which apparently sported a statue of another queen, Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, on its facade), the houses were gradually replaced  over the years but some early 18th century abodes do remain.

Famous residents include everyone from Civil War Parliamentarian General Thomas Fairfax and 18th century composer Thomas Arne to late 17th and early 18th century portrait painter Sir Godfrey Kneller and James Boswell, biographer of Samuel Johnson.

Freemason’s Hall, home of the United Grand Lodge of England, is located on the corner with Wild Street and the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms next door stand on the site of the former Freemasons Tavern where, in 1863, the Football Association was founded.

PICTURE: View down Great Queen Street with the edifice of Freemason’s Hall on the right. (Google Street View)

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Born to humble origins in London, Inigo Jones rose to become the first notable architect in England and, thanks to his travels, is credited with introducing the classical architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to the nation.

Jones came into the world on 15th July, 1573, as the son of a Welsh clothworker, also named Inigo Jones (the origins of the name are apparently obscure), in Smithfield, London. He was baptised in St Bartholomew-the-Less but little else is known of his early years (although he was probably apprenticed to a joiner).

At about the age of 30, Jones is believed to have travelled in Italy – he certainly spent enough time there to be fluid in Italian – and he is also said to have spent some time in Denmark, apparently doing some work there for King Christian IV.

Returning to London, he secured the patronage of King Christian’s sister Queen Anne, the wife of King James I, and became famous as a designer of costumes and stage settings for royal masques (in fact, he is credited with introducing movable scenery to England).

Between 1605 and 1640, he staged more than 500 performances – his first was The Masque of Blackness performed on twelfth night in 1605 – including many collaborations with playwright Ben Jonson with whom he had an, at times, acrimonious relationship.

His architectural work in England – heavily influenced by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (his copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura is dated 1601) as well as the Roman architect Vitruvius – dates from about 1608 with his first known building design that of the New Exchange in the Strand, built for Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury.

In 1611 Jones was appointed surveyor of works to Henry Frederick, the Prince of Wales, but, following the prince’s death on 6th November, 1612, he was, in 1615, appointed Surveyor of the King’s Works (having first accompanied Thomas Howard, the 2nd Earl of Arundel, on what would be his second visit to Italy).

Jones’ big break came in 1615 when he was made Surveyor-General of the King’s Works, a post he would hold for 27 years. He was subsequently was responsible for the design and building of the Queen’s House in Greenwich for Queen Anne (started in 1616 and eventually completed in 1635), the Banqueting House in Whitehall (built between 1619 and 1622, it’s arguably his finest work), the Queen’s Chapel in St James’s Palace (1623 to 1627) and, in 1630, Covent Garden square for the Earl of Bedford including the church of St Paul’s, Covent Garden.

Other projects included the repair and remodelling of parts of Old St Paul’s Cathedral prior to its destruction in 1666 and a complete redesign of the Palace of Whitehall (which never went ahead). He’s also credited with assisting other architects on numerous other jobs.

Jones’ career – both as an architect and as a producer of masques – stopped rather abruptly with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642 and the subsequent seizing of the king’s properties. Forced to leave London, he was eventually captured by Parliamentarians following a siege at Basing House in Hampshire in October, 1645.

His property was initially confiscated and he was heavily fined but he was later pardoned and his property returned.

Never married, Jones ended up living in Somerset House in London and died on 21st June, 1652. He was buried with his parents at St Benet Paul’s Wharf. A rather elaborate monument to his memory erected inside the church was damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 and later destroyed.

Jones’ legacy can still be seen at various sites around London where his works survive and also in the works of those he influenced, including Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, designer and builder of Chiswick House, and architect and landscape designer William Kent.

PICTURE: Bust of Inigo Jones by John Michael Rysbrack, (1725) (image by Stephencdickson/licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

the-queens-houseThe Queen’s House in Greenwich has reopened this week following more than a year long restoration to mark its 400th anniversary. The property was designed by Inigo Jones for King James I’s wife, Queen Anne of Denmark (supposedly it was a gift from the king, given as an apology for swearing in front of her after she accidentally killed one of his dogs while hunting), and, commissioned in 1616 (but not finished until 1636, well after Queen Anne’s death), is regarded as Britain’s first fully classical building. The newly reopened premises houses more than 450 works of art from the National Maritime Museum’s collection and a new gold leaf artwork – inspired by the newly restored Tulip Stairs – on the ceiling of the Great Hall created by Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright. Other attractions include Gentileschi’s painting Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, which has returned to the house, where it is on display in the King’s Presence Chamber, for the first time since 1650, and the iconic Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, which is now on permanent display. Entry to the property is free. The property’s reopening is being accompanied by a series of talks. For more, see  www.rmg.co.uk/queens-house.

The first major exhibition to explore the work Italian artist Caravaggio has opened at The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square this week. Beyond Caravaggio features 49 paintings traces the life of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), from his early years in Rome producing highly original works depicting youths, musicians, cardsharps and fortune-tellers through to his sensational first public commission in 1600 and the many commissioned works which followed, his two trips to the Kingdom of Naples (both times while fleeing the law, the first after committing murder), and how his works inspired – and were reflected in the works of – other painters. Works on show include Caravaggio’s Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-95) and The Supper at Emmaus (1601), as well as the recently discovered The Taking of Christ (1602) and Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1603-04) along with a host of works from other painters. The exhibition is a collaboration with the National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Scottish Academy and will head to these institutions after it finishes its run at The National Gallery on 15th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.

egyptian-hallA free exhibition exploring the popular Victorian entertainments which have shaped today’s theatrical traditions opens at the British Library in King’s Cross tomorrow. Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun focuses on five performers who were instrumental entertainers during the 19th century – from mesmerist Annie De Montfort and ‘Royal Conjurer’ Evasion to Dan Leno – the “funniest man on earth”, circus owner ‘Lord’ George Sanger and magician John Nevil Maskelyne of the Egyptian Hall. The display features decorative posters, handbills, musical scores, advertisements and tickets and  includes items drawn from the 6,000 pieces of printed ephemera contained in the library’s Evasion collection as well as original sound recordings, artefacts on loan from The Magic Circle Museum and memorabilia from the Egyptian Hall in London. Five original performance pieces have been commissioned for the exhibition and every Saturday until 17th December, a company of actors and performers will present archive material from the exhibition in a contemporary performance. There’s also an extensive events programme accompanying the exhibition. Runs until 12th March. For more, see www.bl.uk/events/victorian-entertainments-there-will-be-fun. PICTURE: Modern Witchery Maskelyne at the Egyptian Hall; © British Library Board

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The-Queen's-HouseGreenwich icon, the Queen’s House, is set to close on 27th July this year to allow for refurbishment and upgrade ahead of the 400th anniversary of its commissioning and design in 2016. The landmark will be closed until 4th July, 2016, after which those visiting the house will be able to see Orazio Gentileschi’s Biblically-themed painting, Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, displayed in the building for the first time since 1650. Part of the Royal Collection, the painting was one of a series commissioned for the building by King Charles I and his wife Queen Henrietta Maria. The Queen’s House was designed by Inigo Jones in 1616 for King James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark, and, acknowledged as a masterpiece of 17th century architecture, was the first classically-designed building in country. The makeover will see galleries refurbished, the introduction of new displays and the restoration of components including the ceiling in the King’s Presence Chamber (the Queen’s Presence Chamber was restored in 2013). For more, see www.rmg.co.uk.

Often noted as the second greatest English dramatist of his generation (after that Shakespeare guy), the playwright Ben Jonson stands tall in his own right as one of the leading literary figures of the late 16th and early 17th century.

Born in 1572, Jonson was educated at Westminster School in London and possibly went on to Cambridge before he started work as a bricklayer with his stepfather and later served as a soldier, fighting with English troops in The Netherlands.

It was on his return to London that he ventured into acting – among his early roles was Hieronimo in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedie – and by 1597 he was employed as a playwright.

While one of his early play-writing efforts (The Isle of Dogs, co-written with Thomas Nashe) led to a term of imprisonment in Marshalsea Prison in 1597 (he was also briefly imprison about this time for killing another actor in a duel, escaping a death sentence by pleading “benefit of the clergy”), the following year – 1598 – the production of his play Every Man In His Humour  established his reputation as a dramatist. Shakespeare, whom some suggest was a key rival of Jonson’s during his career – is said to have been among the actors who performed in it.

Further plays followed including Every Man Out Of His Humour (1599), his only tragedy Sejanus (1603), the popular Volpone (1606) and The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and it was during these years, particularly following the accession of King James I in 1603, that he became an important figure at the royal court).

His political views continued to cause trouble at times – he was again imprisoned in the early 1600s for his writings and was questioned over the Gunpowder Plot after apparently attending an event attended by most of those later found to be co-conspirators – but his move into writing masques for the royal court – saw his star continue to rise.

All up he wrote more than 20 masques for King James and Queen Anne of Denmark including Oberon, The Faery Prince which featured the young Prince Henry, eldest son of King James, in the title role. Many of these masques saw him working with architect Inigo Jones, who designed extravagant sets for the masques,  but their relationship was tense at times.

In 1616 – his reputation well established – Jonson was given a sizeable yearly pension  (some have concluded that as a result he was informally the country’s first Poet Laureate) and published his first collection of works the following year. Noted for his wit, he was also known to have presided over a gathering of his friends and admirers at The Mermaid Tavern and later at the Devil’s Tavern at 2 Fleet Street (Shakespeare was among those he verbally jousted with).

Jonson spent more than a year in his ancestral home of Scotland around 1618 but on his return to London, while still famous, he no longer saw the same level of success as he had earlier – particularly following the death of King James and accession of his son, King Charles I, in 1625.

Jonson married Anne Lewis – there is a record of such a couple marrying at St Magnus-the-Martyr church near London Bridge in 1594 – but their relationship certainly wasn’t always smooth sailing for they spent at least five years of their marriage living separately. It’s believed he had several children, two of whom died while yet young.

Jonson, meanwhile, continued to write up until his death on 6th August, 1637, and is buried in Westminster Abbey (he’s the only person buried upright in the abbey – apparently due to his poverty at the time of his death).

For an indepth look at the life of Ben Jonson, check out Ian Donaldson’s Ben Jonson: A Life.

• The first ever exhibition focusing on Henry Stuart, older brother of King Charles I, has opened at the National Portrait Gallery. The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart features more than 80 exhibits including paintings, miniatures, manuscripts, books and armour gathered from museums and personal collections around the UK and abroad – with some of the objects being displayed in public for the first time. Opened on 18th October – the 400th anniversary of the Prince’s death, among the paintings displayed in the exhibition are works by Holbein, Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver as well as Robert Peake as well as masque designs by Inigo Jones and poetry  by Ben Jonson. Henry, Prince of Wales, was the eldest son of King James I and Queen Anne of Denmark, and died at the age of 18 of typhoid fever. As well as looking at his short life, the exhibition covers the extraordinary reaction to his premature death (and the end of hope that King Henry IX would sit next upon the throne). The exhibition runs until 13th January. An admission fee applies. For more, see www.npg.org.uk. PICTURE:  Henry, Prince of Wales by Isaac Oliver, c. 1610-12; Copyright: The Royal Collection Photo: Supplied by Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2012

The Lord Mayor’s Show – the largest unrehearsed procession in the world – will be held on 10th November. This year’s procession – celebrating the election of the 685th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Roger Gifford – will feature more than 6,500 people winding their way through the City of London in a three-and-a-half mile-long display including 22 marching bands, 125 horses, 18 vintage cars, 21 carriages, an original American stagecoach, a Sherman tank, a steamroller and a Japanese Taiko drum band. While there will be no fireworks after this year’s parade, following the success of last year’s trial there will be an early morning flotilla with the Lord Mayor conveyed in the barge QRB Gloriana from Vauxhall up the Thames to HMS President, just below St Katharine Docks, from where he will make his way to the Mansion House to join the procession as it heads first to St Paul’s and then on to the Royal Courts of Justice before returning (via a different route). There are no grand stand seats left but plenty of places you can watch it for free (for a chance to win free Grandstand tickets, head to the Lord Mayor’s Show Facebook page and ‘like’ it). We’ll be talking about this more next week, but in the meantime, for maps and details of a new smart phone app, head to www.lordmayorsshow.org.

Two prehistoric Japanese pots have gone on display at the British Museum. Loaned from the Nagaoka Municipal Science Museum, the pots date from the Middle Jomon period (3,500-2,500 BCE) and consist of a ‘flame’ and a ‘crown’ pot which were excavated in Nagaoka city. The pots form part of the Asahi Shimbun Displays in room 3 and will be there until 20th January. Meanwhile, continuing the Asian theme, an exhibition of more than 100 contemporary carved Chinese seals by artist Li Lanqing is on display in room 33 until 15th January. Admission to both is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

• On Now: Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present. The National Gallery’s first major exhibition of photography, the display looks at the relationship between historical paintings and photography, both its early days in the mid-19th century and the work of contemporary photographers – in particular how photographers have used the traditions of fine art to “explore and justify” their own works. Almost 90 photographs are displayed alongside a select group of paintings for the show. Admission is free. Runs until 20th January in the Sainsbury Wing. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

The oldest livery company building, that of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, dates from just after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Originally built in 1672 to the designs of surveyor Edward Jerman, it replaced an earlier building which had been destroyed in the fire. It has since been refurbished several times and while the external facade appears as it did in the late 1700s, the interior layout, with Great Room – complete with original Irish Oak panelling, Court Hall and Parlour, is as it was when first built after the Great Fire.

Previously members of the Grocer’s Company (and earlier still, the Guild of Pepperers), the Apothecaries Society was incorporated as a City livery company on 1st December, 1617, when it was granted a royal charter by King James I.

They purchased a building in 1632, known then as Cobham House (previously owned by Lady Anne Howard), on land formerly part of Blackfriars Priory (see our former post on the priory here) – it was this building which was destroyed in 1666.

Among treasures inside the current hall is a portrait of Gideon de Laune, Royal Apothecary to Queen Anne of Denmark, wife of King James I, and credited as founder of the Society which was was presented to the Society  in 1641 and hangs in the Court Room. There’s also a 24-branch candelabrum in the Great Hall which was presented to the society by Sir Benjamin Rawling, Sheriff of London and Master of the Society in 1736.

Now one of the largest of the livery companies in the City and still active in regulating medical practitioners, it is 58th in order of precedence and is still active in its trade with the organisation’s constitution requiring 85 per cent of the Society’s membership belong to the medical profession. Past luminaries have included the Romantic poet, John Keats.

The society is also known for having established the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1673 – making it one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world – on land granted it by Sir Hans Sloane (see more on him in our earlier post here).

The hall is available for hire. For more information on the Society, see www.apothecaries.org. Visits to the hall are by prior arrangement only. Contact the Beadle via the above website to find out more.

It’s fitting given the important role Hampton Court Palace played in the creation of the King James Bible that we include it in this series. But Hampton Court Palace is also notable for some other events during King James I’s reign. First, however, we turn to the Hampton Court Conference…

It was in 1604 that King James I meet at Hampton Court with representatives of the Church of England, including one party led by Archbishop John Whitgift (representing the church hierarchy) and another party led by John Rainolds (representing the Puritans), to discuss complaints made by the Puritans concerning a range of matters. While a new Bible wasn’t initially on the agenda, the three days of discussions did eventually lead to King James I commissioning the creation of a new Bible which eventually became known as the King James Version.

King James I was already familiar with Hampton Court Palace – it was in the palace that he had celebrated his first Christmas as king the previous year. Notably, it was during this Christmas and New Year period that Shakespeare’s acting company, the King’s Men, performed in the palace’s Great Hall for the king and his court.

At that stage, the palace hadn’t been dramatically updated since Tudor times – in fact, it wasn’t until after the accession of King William III and Queen Mary II following the “Glorious Revolution” in 1689 that the Tudor palace was given a major overhaul.

King James I continued to visit Hampton Court during the remainder of his reign and his visits, which were generally proceeded by a program of repairs, were noted for the lavish entertainment that took place when they occurred.

It was also at Hampton Court Palace that James’ wife, Queen Anne, died of dropsy in 1619. And where his son King Charles I, who had commissioned some improvements to the palace, was imprisoned for a period during the Civil War. But more of that another time…

WHERE: Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey (nearest station is Hampton Court from Waterloo); WHEN: 10am to 6pm everyday (winter hours 10am to 4.30pm from 31st October to 26th March); COST: Adult £15.40, Concession £12.65, Child under 16 £7.70 (under fives free), family tickets, garden only tickets and online booking discounts available; WEBSITE:www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/

Long an admired landmark of Greenwich, the origins of the Queen’s House go back to the reign of King James I.

It was the Queen, Anne of Denmark, who commissioned the building of The Queen’s House in 1616 and gave it the name by which it is still known. Sadly, however, she died before it was completed.

King James I was said to have been a frequent visitor to the Tudor Palace of Greenwich (the building had earlier been known as the Palace of Placentia and was the birthplace of King Henry VIII in 1491).

King James  is traditionally said to have awarded the Manor of Greenwich to Queen Anne as an apology after he had publicly sworn at her when she had accidentally shot one of his favorite hunting dogs.

In 1616, Queen Anne decided to build a new property on the site as both a private retreat and a place where she could entertain and it was to the rising star Inigo Jones that she turned to for the design (in recognition of his growing status, he was appointed Surveyor of the King’s Works the following year).

The house was Jones’ most important job to date and the design he came up – based on a H with the two sides joined by a bridge over the Greenwich to Woolwich road – with is said to be the first Classical building in England.

Among the original features which survive to this day are the striking black and white geometrically patterned marble floor of the Great Hall (the room having been designed as a perfect cube), the painted ceiling of the Queen’s Presence Chamber and the iron balustrade the Tulip Stairs – said to be the first “geometric self-supporting spiral stair in Britain”.

Queen Anne became ill in 1618 and died the following year without seeing the end result of her commission. The work subsequently was shelved and only restarted (and completed in 1638) after King Charles I gave it to his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria.

She only had possession for a short time before Parliamentary forces seized it during the Civil War. After the Restoration, the Queen’s House was returned briefly to her by her son King Charles II (it was at this time that the original H-shape of the house was altered to a square) before part of it as later used as studio for painters and then as grace and favor apartments.

With the Old Royal Naval College now occupying the surrounding site, in 1805, King George III gave the property to the Royal Naval Asylum – a charity caring for the orphan children of seamen – and it later became part of the Royal Hospital School.

The National Maritime Museum took possession in 1934 and the building now houses the National Martime Museum’s collection of fine art. As an interesting aside, there have been several reported sightings of ghosts in the house, the latest as recently as 2002.

WHERE: The Queen’s House, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (nearest DLR station is Cutty Sark); WHEN: 10am to 5pm daily (check website for closures); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.nmm.ac.uk/places/queens-house