As London swelters, the Troopers of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment conducting the Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards take care to ensure their loyal horses are well looked after. That includes a hose off in the shade after duty to help them cool down, bobbing for in the water trough to help ensure they’re drinking enough and providing fans in the stables.
All eyes turned to Whitehall last week with Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerging from 10 Downing Street to announce he would resign. The move has sparking a leadership contest in the Conservative Party which is expected to be complete by 5th September.
Standing on the edge of Parliament Square opposite the UK’s home of government, this statue of the 16th US President was erected to mark the friendship between Britain and the United States of America.
The statue was proposed by the American Committee for the Celebration of the Hundredth Anniversary of Peace Among English Speaking Peoples to commemorate the centenary of the end of conflict between the two nations in 1915.
But World War I broke out and so it wasn’t until July, 1920 that this statue, a replica of a statue Auguste Saint-Gauden made for the city of Chicago and now Grade II-listed in its own right, was formally presented to then UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George by the US Ambassador and subsequently unveiled by Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught.
The 12 foot high, larger than life, monument – which includes a granite plinth – depicts Lincoln wearing a frock coat standing in front of his Grecian chair and about to give a speech. The original was completed in 1887 and was unveiled in Chicago’s Lincoln Park with Abraham Lincoln II, grandson of the President, in attendance as well as a crowd of some 10,000.
Interestingly, the UK wasn’t the only nation given a copy of the statue – a replica was also given to Mexico in 1964 and now stands in the Parque Lincoln in Mexico City.
There is also a replica at Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois and in 2016, a newly cast replica of the statue was installed at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site – the former home and studio of the sculptor – in Cornish, New Hampshire. There are also numerous smaller replicas including a bust which is sometimes displayed in the Oval Office in the White House.
From the Trafalgar Square end. PICTURE: Johen Redman/Unsplash
A memorial commemorating the role of the Chindit Special Forces in Burma during World War II has been awarded a Grade II listing on the National Heritage List for England in honour of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day. Located in Victoria Embankment Gardens outside the Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall, the memorial’s granite plinth is topped with a bronze chinthe, a mythical beast that stands guard outside Burmese temples. The Chindit Special Forces, which were formed by British Army officer Major General Orde Charles Wingate and disbanded in early 1945, are credited with helping to turn the tide of World War II against Japan in the Far East. The memorial was designed by architect David Price and the chinthe sculpture the work of Frank Forster. It was unveiled by Prince Philip on 16th October, 1990. On Saturday, as the nation commemorated VJ Day, a military delegation lad a wreath at the foot of the memorial. PICTURE: Derek Voller (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were among those taking part in ‘Clap for Carers’ – in their case outside Number 10 Downing Street in Whitehall – on Thursday night. People across London took part in the countrywide initiative thanking healthcare workers for their efforts during the current coronavirus crisis. We join in thanking them! PICTURE: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Images of London from the 1960s showing, top, a view of Whitehall ad the Cenotaph, and below, looking across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament. PICTURES: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
The most grand of the entrances to the now demolished Whitehall Palace, this monumental gateway – located in what is now Whitehall, at the south end of and on the other side of the road to the Banqueting House – was built in 1531-32 on the orders of King Henry VIII.
The name apparently comes from the tradition that the three story gate was designed by Hans Holbein but there is apparently some doubt that was the case.
The gate had rooms on the first and second floor with small flanking turrets to either side. It boasted a Royal Coat of Arms over the archway under the gate along with other royal emblems including the Tudor rose. There were also several busts set into roundels on the black and white chequerboard facade, possibly by Giovanni da Maiano.
King Henry VIII apparently used the chambers as a study and library (and later, it’s said, to store the wheelchairs he required late in life). Most famously, the upper room is also believed to have been the location where he secretly married Anne Boleyn on 25th January, 1533.
The upper floor was used as the Paper Office between 1672 until 1756 while the lower floor was used as lodgings with residents including the Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox and Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, famed as one of the mistresses of King Charles II.
Remarkably, the building, along with the Banqueting House, survived the fire of January 1698 which destroyed most of the palace. Proposals were subsequently put forward to demolish the gate to allow better flow of traffic but these were fended off until August, 1759, when it was destroyed along with an adjacent house.
PICTURE: Whitehall Showing Holbein’s Gate and Banqueting Hall by Thomas Sandby, c1760 (now at the Yale Center for British Art)
News today that Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister of the UK. Johnson, who will take over from Theresa May – only the second woman to hold the office – as PM tomorrow after winning the Conservative Party vote over Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will be the 14th Prime Minister to serve in the office during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. PICTURE: US State Department
This year marks 350 years since London’s now famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, wrote the final entry in what was his private diary.
The final entry was written on 31st May, 1669, and mentions a liaison with one Betty Mitchell, a trip on the Thames to Whitehall where he met with the Duke of York, and an outing with his wife Elizabeth and friends to the The World’s End, a drinking house at the western end of Hyde Park in Knightsbridge.
Pepys had started writing the diary on 1st January, 1660, at the age of just 26, and over the next nine years, its more than a million words covered some of the critical events including the coronation of King Charles II, the Great Plague of 1665 and The Great Fire of 1666.
Many believe that the diary was never intended for a mass readership (although some scholars disagree with this opinion), but, if that was the case, Pepys did take some precautions just in case, using codes for the mistresses he met, for example.
He stopped writing the diary because he assumed he was going blind – he asks in the final sentence for God to help him “prepare all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind”.
You can read Pepys’ final entry and the the complete diary of Pepys online at www.pepysdiary.com.
Thousands of people, including Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Royal Family, attended Whitehall on Sunday to take part in the National Service of Remembrance, this year marking 100 years since the end of World War I. The event included two minutes silence at 11am and wreaths were laid at the base of the Cenotaph to commemorate the servicemen and women killed in all conflicts from the World War I onwards. In an historic first, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier laid a wreath during the ceremony. Following the service, a procession involving 10,000 members of the public who were selected by a ballot marched past the monument and through London. ALL PICTURES: Crown Copyright/Ministry of Defence.
• The 803rd Lord Mayor’s Show will this Saturday wend its way through the streets of the City of London as new Lord Mayor Peter Estlin takes office. This year’s hour-and-a-half long procession features more than 7,000 people, 200 horses and 140 motor and steam-driven vehicles. Leaving from Mansion House at 11am, it travels to the Royal Courts via St Paul’s and then returns along Embankment at 1.15pm. And while there will be no fireworks this year, there will be two new ‘family entertainment zones’. The first, in Paternoster Square and around St Paul’s Cathedral, will include a film show featuring archival footage, art installations and street theatre as well as food stalls. The second, in Bloomberg Arcade near Mansion House, will feature music and dance, art and sound installations, the MOLA’s (Museum of London Archaeology) Time Truck, as well as technology and apprenticeship workshops and food. For more information, head to https://lordmayorsshow.london. PICTURE: The Lord Mayor’s coach during last year’s procession (John; licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
• The National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall will this Sunday mark a century since the end of World War I. Starting at 11am (the public will be admitted to Whitehall from 8am), the service commemorates the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women involved in the two World Wars and later conflicts. This year’s ceremony will be followed by ‘The Nation’s Thank You – The People’s Procession’, featuring 10,000 members of the public. Large viewing screens will be placed to the north of the Cenotaph, near the green outside the main Ministry of Defence building and outside the Scotland Office, and south of the Cenotaph on the corner of King Charles Street. For more on the day, follow this link and for more on bell-ringing ceremonies across the day, see https://armistice100.org.uk.
• The relationship between the British Royal Family and the Romanovs in Russia is explored in a new art exhibition opening at the The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, this Friday. Highlights of Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs include a series of watercolours specially commissioned by Prince Alfred, second eldest son of Queen Victoria, to record his wedding to Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, daughter of Alexander II, at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg in 1874 so that his mother, who was unable to attend, didn’t miss out. There’s also works by Fabergé and portraits of royal figures by the likes of Sir Godfrey Kneller and Sir Thomas Lawrence. The exhibition is accompanied by another display featuring renowned photographer Roger Fenton’s images from the war in Crimea in 1855. Both exhibitions run until 28th April. Admission charges apply. The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events. For more, see www.rct.uk/visit/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace. PICTURE (above): Nicholas Chevalier, The Bal Polonaise at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, 23 January 1874, 1876 (Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018).
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OK, this is an unusual one – a TV show instead of a person, but given it’s 30 years this month since the last episode was broadcast on 28th January, 1988, we thought we’d pause to remember a landmark couple of TV series.
Yes Minister, which starred Paul Eddington as the hapless newly-elevated first time government minister Jim Hacker, first aired on BBC on 25th February, 1980.
The show centred on the trials and tribulations of Mr Hacker as he tried to bring about the sort of changes he had dreamed about as a candidate, opposed by an obstructionist civil service – in particular the Permanent Secretary to the Minister for Administrative Affairs, Sir Humphrey Appleby (played by Sir Nigel Hawthorne). Caught between the two – with loyalties to both – was Mr Hacker’s Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds.
While the Houses of Parliament (pictured above) are shown as a drawing on the opening credits, the action rarely moves to the House of Commons but largely takes place in Mr Hacker’s Whitehall office and other offices and private clubs in the Westminster area under the premise that it’s behind the scenes where the real work of politics does (or doesn’t) get done.
The show was famous for almost always finishing with Sir Humphrey muttering those immortal words “Yes, Minister”, even as he has thwarted another of the minister’s plans.
Three series of seven episodes were made which ran until 1984 (there were also two Christmas specials) . A follow-up series, Yes Prime Minister, first aired in 1986 and centred once again on Jim Hacker, this time following his elevation to the role of PM. Sir Humphrey continued to be a thorn in his side.
The show, which was also adapted for radio, won several BAFTAs and was said to be a favourite of British PM Margaret Thatcher. It was later made into a stage play and this in turn lead to a “revival” series being produced.
The show has been referenced numerous times in popular culture as well as real-life politics – Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was a fan and even Humphrey, a former Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, was named after Sir Humphrey.
PICTURE: Jamie Street/Unsplash
Located beneath the Banqueting House – a remnant of the Palace of Whitehall, the undercroft was originally designed by Inigo Jones (who designed the building as a whole) as a private drinking den for King James I.
French landscaper and architect Isaac de Caus was commissioned to decorate one end of the vaulted undercroft as a shell grotto where the king could relax with his friends. In 1623, it received a dedication from Ben Jonson:
“Since Bacchus, thou art father
Of wines, to thee the rather
We dedicate this Cellar
Where now, thou art made Dweller.”
Following the Restoration, during the reign of King Charles II, the basement was used to hold lotteries – John Evelyn describes one such event taking place in 1664 in his famed diary, although soon after this was moved into a purpose-built facility nearby.
The undercroft was subsequently used for storage including during the reign of King James II when it was apparently used to store furnishings from the Privy and Council Chambers of Whitehall Palace while they were being rebuilt.
From the late 1890s until the 1960s, it became part of the museum of the Royal United Services Institute (which also used the hall upstairs) but following a restoration in 1992, is now open to the public and also used for special events at the building.
WHERE: Undercroft, Banqueting House, Whitehall (nearest Tube is Westminster or Charing Cross); WHEN: 10am to 5pm daily (check if there is a private function); COST: £5.50 adults (16+)/children under 16 free/Historic Royal Palaces members free; WEBSITE: www.hrp.org.uk/banqueting-house/
Palmerston, the ‘chief mouser’ to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, captured by photographer Steve Way during the Open House London weekend, apparently oblivious to the crowds. Palmerston was recently the subject of a Freedom of Information release which stated that since his arrival at the FCO in April, 2016, he had been seen capturing 27 mice (although the Office of the Permanent Under-Secretary at the FCO reports the actual figure is “likely to be much higher as these are only reported sightings”). The FOI document also revealed Palmerston eats a variety of food brands, usually ‘Whiskas’ and is cared for by a number of volunteers from across the FCO.
With the recent change at 10 Downing Street – David Cameron out/Theresa May in – we thought it a good time to look back at when the man considered Britain’s first PM moved in.
Sir Robert Walpole, commonly considered Britain’s first Prime Minister although he was never formally known by that title, was actually First Lord of the Treasury when in early 1730s King George II presented him with the terrace house at 10 Downing Street, off Whitehall, and the large mansion behind it (in fact the title of ‘First Lord of the Treasury’ can still be seen inscribed on the brass letter-box on the property’s front door).
Sir Robert accepted the king’s gift, but only on condition that it be made available to all future First Lords of the Treasury And he didn’t move in until 22nd September, 1735, having had architect William Kent join the terrace house with the mansion behind it before doing so.
Kent had joined the houses on two levels with the main entrance facing onto Downing Street instead of Horse Guards. The Walpoles would live at the back of the new house where Kent had created a series of grand rooms – suitable for receiving honoured guests – and had built an unusual three sided staircase which remains a star sight of the building today.
Walpole used the ground floor of the new property for business and set-up his study in what is now the Cabinet Room. Lady Walpole used the upstairs room now known as the White Drawing Room as her sitting room and what is now called the Terracotta Room (although the name of this room changes with the colour scheme) as the dining room.
Among those who attended 10 Downing Street during the Walpole’s residency were luminaries such as Queen Caroline (wife of King George II) as well as prominent politicians, writers and military figures.
The Walpoles left in 1742 and it was more than 20 years later before another First Lord of the Treasury moved in.
PICTURE: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC/ Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
The site of the climatic showdown in V for Vendetta between the silent hoards of masked protestors and the military, Parliament Square is featured in some dramatic aerial shots before, moments after midnight in the early hours of 5th November, the Houses of Parliament explode to the sprightly sounds of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Of course, it’s far from the only London location to feature in the 2006 film which is largely set in the city – among other locations are Trafalgar Square where the protestors gather before marching down Whitehall, and the Old Bailey which explodes in the first scene as well as the former Underground station of Aldwych – located on a former spur line of Piccadilly Line which closed to the public in 1994.
Meanwhile, the Houses of Parliament – also known as the Palace of Westminster (for more on its history, head here) – and the Clock Tower (see our Treasures of London article for more here) have made innumerable appearances on the big screen, including in several Bond films including Thunderbolt (1965), 28 Days Later (2002), and, more recently, in Suffragette (2015).
It’s not often that we feature living people in ‘Famous Londoners’, but this prominent figure, albeit not a human, deserves special mention.
A resident of Number 10 Downing Street in Whitehall, Larry the cat is officially Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office – a position for which he has won accolades (and, at times, reproaches, for a seeming lack of action in the face of invasion – this includes, most recently the arrival of a heron at the residence, with Larry nowhere to be found).
Larry arrived at Downing Street (then home to Conservative PM David Cameron) in February, 2011, then a four-year-old tabby who came from the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in south London and was apparently recruited to deal with a rodent problem after they were spotted in news broadcasts behind correspondents. It was June, some four months later, before he apparently made his first kill.
Larry has had an at times prickly relationship with the media – it started soon after his arrival at Downing Street when he scratched ITV reporter Lucy Manning who was trying to get him to pose for a news item (you can see it here).
He’s also apparently had some run-ins with visiting dignitaries – although US President Barack Obama apparently was able to stroke him without incident – and with Freya, Chancellor George Osborne’s cat (who has since been exiled to Kent).
Larry isn’t the first cat to live at Downing Street – his predecessors include Wilberforce who lived there for 18 years during the tenure of PMs including Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, and Margaret Thatcher, and Humphrey, who served Ms Thatcher, John Major and, briefly Tony Blair, before he retired in 1997. But Larry is the first who has officially held the title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office.
PICTURE: HM Government (via Wikipedia).