Did you know… ?
- Clarence House was built between 1825 and 1827 to the design of John Nash for the Duke of Clarence, third son of George III and future king William IV. It passed to his niece Victoria, who became queen in 1837. Clarence House passes through the royal line – in 1952 Princess Elizabeth, having become Queen, moved from Clarence House into Buckingham Palace. The Queen Mother moved back into Clarence House until her death in 2002, aged 102. Today Clarence House is the official London residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
- George III bought Buckingham House in 1761 for £21,000 from the Duke of Buckingham’s illegitimate son, Sir Charles Sheffield. Initially intended as a retreat for his wife Queen Charlotte, it was known as the Queen’s House. After his accession to the throne in 1820, George IV continued its renovation intending to create a small, comfortable home but he died before he could move in. The first monarch to live in Buckingham Palace and make it the principal royal residence was Queen Victoria in 1837. The Victoria Memorial located in front of the Palace was designed by Sir Thomas Brock at the Queen’s death in 1901. It was not completed until 1924.
- At St James’s Palace the Changing of the Guard takes place when the Queen’s Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace to the New Guard. There are five regiments of foot guards and two regiments of mounted guards comprising the Life Guards with white plumes and red tunics and the Blues and Royals. Princes William and Harry served in the Blues and Royals. When prince William married, he was not wearing the blue tunic of the Blues and Royals but the red tunic with the shamrocks on his collar from his position as Colonel of the Irish Guards.
- Captain Thomas Blood is buried in the churchyard of St Margaret’s Church (now Christchurch Gardens) near St James’s Park. He attempted to steal the Crown Jewels. Once captured, he demanded an audience with King Charles II and, after a meeting of 20 minutes, all charges against him were dropped; he was given the lands in his native Ireland that had previously been confiscated; and he was awarded a pension for the rest of his life. It is thought that perhaps he was actually put up to stealing the Crown Jewels, which had only just been remade for the restoration of the monarchy in 1661.
Photos by Paul Smith, Jill Taylor and Beryl Sinclair
- In Westminster Abbey, of the 3,500-plus resting places in the abbey, the only one one cannot step on is the tomb of the unknown warrior. When the Queen Mother married the Duke of York (later King George VI) in the Abbey she laid her floral bouquet on the tomb, a tradition that has been kept up to date. While royal funerals are still often held at Westminster Abbey, the last monarch to be buried there was George II, who died in 1760.
- Whitehall is so-called because it was a royal palace, of which only the Banqueting House remains. On the corner is a bust of Charles I marking where he stepped out on to the scaffold on 30 January 1649 at 2.10pm, as commemorated by a black mark on the clockface on the archway to Horse Guards Parade.
- St Paul’s Cathedral was where Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. King Henry VII’s son, Prince Arthur, also married his bride, Princess Catherine of Aragon, at St Paul’s in 1501.
- Oliver Cromwell was initially given a state burial in Westminster Abbey in 1658; but when Charles II returned from exile, he had the body exhumed, hung at Tyburn and then beheaded. The head was displayed on the roof of Westminster Hall but subsequently disappeared, probably into the hands of private collectors until it was finally buried at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, where Cromwell had studied. No one knows what happened to the body.
- The original Charing Cross was the last of 12 richly decorated monuments which marked the nightly resting places of Eleanor of Castile’s coffin as it was transported to Westminster Abbey. Married to King Edward I for 36 years, she died while on royal progress in Nottinghamshire in 1290. Charing Cross was the last and largest of the crosses and is the measurable centre of London.
These are just some of the stories Blue Badge guide Shaun regaled us with during our day visit to the Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace and its royal surroundings. His day-long commentaries were not only informative but also peppered with amusing anecdotes that made history come alive.
There was a lot of walking along the Mall but the views of Clarence House, Kensington Palace were memorable. The visit to Buckingham Palace was accompanied by an audio guide – the high point being the special Platinum Jubilee exhibition featuring some of the most important works of art relating to the Queen’s accession to the throne in 1952. Among these are a series of photographs taken by Dorothy Wilding, many of which form the basis for the profiles and silhouettes of Her Majesty that we see on stamps and coins to this day.