Seventeenth century politician, diplomat and royal courtier, Henry Jermyn’s influence can still be seen in London’s West End today.

Jermyn was born as the fourth, but second surviving, son of courtier Sir Thomas Jermyn, of Rushbrook, Suffolk, and his wife Catherine, in early 1605. He was baptised soon after at St Margaret’s Lothbury in London in late March of that year.

Having already been among several diplomatic missions, he entered the political world at about the age of 20 in 1625, when he was elected member for Bodmin in Cornwall – the first of several seats he (and his brother Thomas) would hold around the country.

He joined the household of Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, in 1627, becoming her vice-chamberlain in 1628, and Master of the Horse to the Queen in 1639 (although he apparently spent a couple of years in exile in France during this period when he refused to obey the King and marry another courtier).

An ardent royalist, in 1641, he participated in a plot against Parliament and was forced to flee to France. In 1642, he joined the Queen in The Hague and returned to England with her in 1643 as the Civil War raged.

His loyalty was rewarded on 6th September that year when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Jermyn of St Edmundsbury (he was apparently wounded just 10 days later at the Battle of Aldbourne Chase). He was made the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain in early 1644 and in April that year accompanied the Queen to France where he helped her raise money for the Royalist cause.

He was made Governor of Jersey in 1645 (a post in which he succeeded his father), although it was a role he apparently had little interest in, at one point proposing selling the island to France.

In 1649, it was apparently Jermyn who had to give the Queen the news of King Charles I’s execution. Her closest advisor, it was subsequently falsely rumoured that he had secretly married the Queen – some even went so far to suggest he had fathered her children.

Jermyn became a member of King Charles II’s Privy Council in 1652 and, in 1659, just before the Restoration, he was created the Earl of St Albans. Created ambassador to France in 1661, he would go on to play a key role in helping King Charles II negotiate the secret 1670 Treaty of Dover with the French King Louis XIV.

In the early 1660s he was rewarded with land grants including land located to the north of St James’s Palace in London. He encouraged the development of the area, centred on St James’s Square and surrounding streets including Jermyn Street – such was his impact on the area that he became known as the “Father of the West End”.

He returned to France with Queen Henrietta Maria in 1665 and was present when the Queen died on 31st August, 1669, at Colombe in France. He subsequently returned to England and served as Lord Chamberlain to King Charles II between 1672-74 as well as, in 1672, being invested as a Knight of the Garter.

Jermyn, who never married, was generally said to have been a prolific gambler (and, some said, a glutton) and while he attempted to retire more than once to Rushbrook, the lure of London’s gaming tables proved too strong.

He died in his house in St James’s Square on 2nd January, 1684, and was buried at Rushbrook. While his earldom became extinct, his barony passed to his nephew Thomas Jermyn.

PICTURE: A City of Westminster Green Plaque located at the site of Henry Jermyn’s former home in St James’s Square.  (Simon Harriyott/licenced under CC BY 2.0

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Hampton-Court-PalaceArchaeologists have uncovered the remains of one of five highly ornate towers, luxurious banqueting houses from which the court would view tournaments in King Henry VIII’s walled tiltyard at Hampton Court Palace.

Built in the 1530s, the multi-storey towers were largely demolished by the 1680s and, with the exception of one of the towers which still stands at the palace (and is now a Grade I listed building), their precise location eventually lost.

Until now, that is. The green-glazed tiled floor of one of the ‘lost’ towers were unearthed earlier this month during works taking place as the tiltyard undergoes a family-oriented makeover by award-winning landscape architect, Robert Myers (to be known as ‘The Magic Garden’, it will be unveiled next Easter).

The richly decorated towers – where the king entertained dignitaries and ambassadors – are thought to slightly predate the tiltyard which was apparently laid out in 1537 – perhaps, it’s been suggested, to mark the birth of King Henry VIII’s son, the future King Edward VI.

The first recorded tournament at Hampton Court took place in 1557 when Queen Mary I held one to celebrate Christmas. Her sister Queen Elizabeth I continued the tradition by occasionally holding tournaments there but most days the tiltyard was used to train the young men of the court in warfare.

When tournaments gradually fell out of fashion, the towers were used as multi-purpose storage facilities housing, according to Historic Royal Palaces, everything from pigeons to two Catholic priests in service to King Charles I’s queen, Henrietta Maria, who were spent time ‘quarantined’ there after an outbreak of plague.

For more on Hampton Court Palace, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

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.

Bond-Street

No, the name of the famous Bond Street in Mayfair has nothing to do with James Bond. Rather, the street – in fact, two streets named Old and New Bond Street – takes its name from a 17th century courtier, Sir Thomas Bond.

Bond was the comptroller of the household of Queen Henrietta Maria, then the Queen Mother thanks to being the widow of King Charles I and the mother of King Charles II. He was also something of a land developer – the head of a consortium that purchased Albermarle House from Christopher Monck, the 2nd Duke of Albermarle, in 1683.

The house was promptly demolished and the area redeveloped with what is now Old Bond Street – which runs from Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens – laid out in 1686 and given Sir Thomas’ surname (he’d died the previous year).

AlliesThe northern extension of Old Bond Street (which runs from Burlington Gardens to Oxford Street) – named New Bond Street – was developed in the 1720s. Caroline Taggart, in The Book of London Place Names, says it was residents of Old Bond Street who insisted on the use of ‘new’ in the name, no doubt to differentiate between themselves and the newcomers or, as Taggart suggests, ‘upstarts’.

Traditionally known as a location for art dealers (Sotheby’s auction house – identified by an ancient Egyptian bust of the goddess Sekhmet which sits on the facade – has stood there for more than a century), the street has become increasingly known for its luxury fashion and accessories retailers such as Asprey’s, Chanel, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari and Tiffany & Co (see the Bond Street Association for more). Other landmark buildings in the street include the home of the Fine Art Society and the Royal Arcade.

Bond Street is also home to US sculptor’s Lawrence Holofcener’s work, Allies (pictured above), depicting former British PM Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D Roosevelt, and at the northern end stands the Bond Street Underground Station which opened in 1900.

Famous residents have included Admiral Horatio Nelson – who stayed at number 147 in 1797-98 while he recovered after losing his arm at Tenerife, eighteenth century satirist Jonathan Swift and politician William Pitt the Elder, as well as twentieth century spy Guy Burgess, who lived at Clifford Chambers before his defection to USSR.

Around Christmas, the street plays host to a rather special display of lights (pictured top).

Located on the site of the former Blackfriars Monastery which has closed during the Dissolution (see our earlier post here), the origins of the Blackfriars Playhouse or Theatre go back to the mid-1570s when children connected with the Queen’s Chapel Choir performed plays in part of the former monastery.

While those plays were performed in order to practice for those performed before Queen Elizabeth I, the organisers did also apparently use the theatre for paying audiences. This first theatre ceased operation in 1584.

In 1596, part of the priory and an adjoining building were bought by James Burbage in 1596 who created a playhouse within them. It was used by the Children of the Chapel, a group of choristers and other boys, until 1608 when the King’s Men took over – with Burbage’s son Richard and Shakespeare among those who had a share in the theatre – and used it as their winter playhouse.

The theatre – where Shakespeare himself is believed to have performed – was apparently the first commercial premises of its type to used artificial lighting and, usually for the time, featured music between acts.

The wife of King Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria, is known to have attended the theatre later in its life in 1634 and again a couple of years later.

The theatre closed with the commencement of the English Civil War and the theatre was demolished in 1655.

The candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which opened in January at the Globe Theatre on Bankside, was designed based on drawings of indoor theatres of the era (there’s also a recreation of the Blackfriars Playhouse in the US which is home to the acting troupe of the American Shakespeare Center).

While nothing remains of the playhouse today, it lives on in the name Playhouse Yard.

Once a visible sign of London’s legal system, the city had several pillories which were used to degrade and humiliate those offenders put within them.

Titus-OatesOriginating in medieval times, the pillories were wooden contraptions in which a standing person’s head and hands were held in place and exposed to the ridicule of the crowd (not to mention their rotten foodstuffs and other less savoury things). They were a similar form of punishment to the stocks and were designed to humiliate those put within them.

They were used to punish a broad range of offenders including everyone from con-men and forgers to traders who didn’t play fair with their customers, people publishing unlicensed literature, and homosexuals.

Some people were pilloried repeatedly and additional punishments could be handed out to some put in the pillory – such as the nailing of the offender’s ears to the structure. There was cases of enraged mobs injuring the person locked in the pillory so badly that they died and the journey to the pillory – a formal parade of the malefactor before the people – was another chance for people to shout abuse and throw things at the offender.

As well as in Charing Cross where the pillory was located just to the south of Trafalgar Square, pillories were found at locations in Cheapside, Cornhill and Old Bailey in the City as well as Old Palace Yard and Tyburn in Westminster.

Among the most famous occupants of London’s pillories was the writer Daniel Defoe. The author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, he was placed here on 31st July,1703, due to his publication of pamphlets criticising the church. It didn’t prove the harshest of punishments, however – Defoe was greeted with flowers, not stones, by a crowd rather sympathetic to his cause.

Others to suffer the punishment of the pillory included Titus Oates, who fabricated a plot to kill King Charles II, and puritan William Prynne, who lost both his ears when pilloried for libelling Queen Henrietta Maria  (although they were apparently sewed back on before he lost them again for a subsequent offence).

The punishment was formally abolished in 1837 – the last time it was used was in 1830.

PICTURE: Wikipedia. Image is from Robert Chambers’ Book of Days, 1st edition.

A quiet square at the heart of the area known as St James, the square’s origins go back to the 1660s when King Charles II granted what was initially a lease (and later the freehold) over a section of St James’s Field to Henry Jermyn, a favourite of King Charles I’s queen Henrietta Maria who was created the 1st Earl of St Alban.

William-IIIThe earl began developing the residential square (the original design had houses on the south-side fronting onto Pall Mall) and, thanks to its proximity to Whitehall and St James’s Palace, quickly attracted some of the who’s who of London to live there.

Indeed it’s said that by the 1720s, seven dukes and seven earls were in residence in the square – other residents included PMs William Pitt the Elder and William Gladstone (both lived in Chatham House, at numbers 9 and 10, albeit at different times) as well as two of James II’s mistresses, Arabella Churchill and Catherine Sedley, who apparently lived at number 21 in the late 1600s.

Among the architects who designed houses around the square were Robert Adam, Sir John Soane, and, in more recent times, Edwin Lutyens.

The square – which reached its final layout, designed by John Nash, around 1854 – remained a desirable place to live even as in the 19th century, some of the houses gave way to financial institutions, private clubs, offices and even lodging houses. These days it’s dominated by business and other institutional organisations.

Organisations located in the square today include the Naval and Military Club (number four – former home of Nancy Astor), the East India Club (number 16) and the London Library (located at number 14, it was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841) as well as the international headquarters of BP.

The gardens feature an equestrian statue of King William III at their centre (the work of John Bacon Sr and Jr, it was installed in 1808 and is pictured above). Other monuments include The Stag (located in the south-west corner, it is the work of Marcus Cornish and was installed in 2001) and, just outside the garden railings in the north-east corner, a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who was killed when a gun was fired from the Libyan Embassy (known as the Libyan People’s Bureau, it was located at number 5) during a demonstration on 17th April, 1984. The pavilion on the south side was designed by John Nash.

The gardens are private – managed by the St James’s Square Trust – but open to the public on weekdays from 10am to 4.30pm.

A new exhibition on the work and legacy of John Snow – who traced the source of a deadly cholera outbreak in the 1850s to a Soho water pump – opened at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine this week. Cartographies of Life & Death – John Snow and Disease Mapping – part of a series of events planned for the bicentenary of Snow’s birth – features both historical treasures, such as disease maps from the school’s archives, and new artworks inspired by science with the entire display presented as a disease mapping ‘detective trail’. There will be a pop-up water bar and street lectures and performances. Snow (1813-1858) is considered the founder of modern epidemiology, the study of patterns and causes of health and disease in populations. His work remain influential even today. Admission is free. The exhibition runs until 17th April at the school in Keppel Street. For more, see www.johnsnow.org.uk.

A new installation at the V&A opening on Saturday will explore the rise – and fall – of the music hall. Music Hall: Sickert and the Three Graces picks up on artist Walter Sickert’s obsession with the New Bedford Music Hall in Camden Town and features film, music and objects presented in a ‘theatrical narrative’ which focuses on the world of the Edwardian Music Hall. Highlights include filmed extracts of Tanika Gupta’s specially produced play The Boy I Love (directed by Katie Mitchell) which takes its name from George Ware’s celebrated music hall song The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery. Admission is free. The exhibition, which is in the Theatre and Performance Galleries of the V&A, runs until 5th January next year. For more see www.vam.ac.uk.

Three specially commissioned artworks by British textile artist Alice Kettle will be unveiled today at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The Garden of England – Royal Museums Greenwich’s first contemporary arts program – features Flower Helix (hanging in the Tulip Stairs), Flower Bed (a “textile garden” found in the North West Parlour), and Queen Henrietta Maria (a stitched portrait of the wife of King Charles I also found in the North West Parlour). The display is accompanied by a program of events – for more on them, see www.rmg.co.uk. Entry is free – the exhibition is on show until 18th August.

On Now – From the Shadows: The Prints of Sydney Lee RA. This exhibition at the Royal Academy represents a reappraisal of the work of painter-printmaker Sydney Lee (1866-1949) and features more than 50 prints and two major paintings. Lee studied in Manchester and Paris before coming to London where he lived in a house and studio in Holland Park Road in Kensington. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1930 and served as Treasurer from 1932-1940. The first exhibition devoted to his art since 1945, the event coincides with the publication of the first book on Lee written by its curator Professor Robert Meyrick, head of the School of Art at Aberystwyth University. Runs until 26th May. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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