LONDON…A WALKING TOUR. Begin the walk on Whitehall, near Big Ben:
THE ADMIRALTY: The rambling building on your right … and the chief office of the governing body of the Royal navy. Here Admiral Nelson lay in state after his death at Trafalgar in 1805. The building is secluded from Whitehall by a charming stone screen designed by Robert Adam in 1760.
ADMIRALTY HOUSE … on the south of the Admiralty … used for government receptions.
HORSE GUARDS…This section of the Admiralty has a picturesque clock tower built in 1742. Two mounted troopers of the Household Cavalry (in resplendent uniforms) are posted here from 10 AM – 4 PM, but they are relieved every hour. At 11 AM, the ceremony of the CHANGING OF THE GUARD is performed… a colorful spectacle lasting about 1 ½ hour.
BANQUETING HOUSE…This is the chief surviving part of the Royal Palace WHITEHALL, which was an early and splendid example of Classical architecture, built in 1619, and the first example in England of the style evolved by the Italian architect Palladio. In the 13th century this was known as York House, when it was seized by Henry VIII who enlarged it and changed the name to Whitehall. The old palace originally covered a large area now bisected by Whitehall Street and extended east to the river. For 100 years this was the chief residence of the court of London. Henry VIII was married here to Anne Boleyn in 1533, and died here in 1547. Elizabeth I was taken from the palace to become a prisoner in the Tower, and returned in triumph on her accession as queen. After the building was mostly destroyed in the great fire of 1619, plans for a new palace were drawn up, but only the Banqueting House was completed. From a window in an annex on the north side, Charles I stepped to his execution in 1649. The well-proportioned Banqueting Hall is 110 feet long by 55 feet high, and is especially remarkable for the 9 allegorical ceiling paintings designed for Charles I by Rubens.
10 DOWNlNG STREET…the official residence of the Prime Minister… famous out of proportion to its appearance. It is named after its builder, Sir George Downing. The interior was rebuilt in 1960 but most of the historic features were incorporated. During the demolition of the old building, remains of the original Whitehall Palace were brought to light, including part of the great hall converted by Henry VIII into a tennis court. Samuel Pepys the diarist, lived approximately on this site from 1658 to 1660.
CENOTAPH… rising in the center of Whitehall Street, this monument is inscribed …to the Glorious Dead” and commemorates all servicemen of the Empire who gave their lives in the two World Wars.
JAMES PARK… the most attractive park in London … 93 acres bounded on the north by THE MALL and on the south by Birdcage Walk. It was once a marshy meadow, which was drained by Henry VIII and converted into a deer park adjoining his new palace of Whitehall. The lake was added in 1829.
QUEENS GALLERY … on the south side of Buckingham Palace and through Buckingham Gate. This was formerly the private chapel of the palace, but was converted to show a selection of the best art in the Royal Collection.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE … originally built in 1702 and rebuilt in 1913, this palace has a classical facade 360 feet long. The palace was little used until the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, after which it became the permanent residence of the Court. The apartments of the royal family are in the north wing. Visiting is not allowed. (Recently the queen opened part of the palace during the months of Sep/Oct…to help pay for rebuilding Windsor).
ROYAL MEWS … where the Queen’s horses are stabled and her coaches are kept. The coaches include the splendid State Carriage from 1762, which is used for all coronations, and the Irish State Coach used in 1852 by Queen Victoria for the Opening of Parliament, and the glass State Coach from 1910, which is used for Royal weddings.
VICTORIA MEMORIAL … completed in 1911 by Sir Thomas Brock. From a platform embellished with marble water basins, rises a pedestal surmounted by a gilt-bronze figure of VICTORY, at whose feet sit COURAGE and C0NSTANCY. At the base, facing the Mall, is the seated figure of Victoria, 13 feet high, carved from a solid block of marble. On the sides of the pedestal are marble groups, which represent TRUTH, MOTHERHOOD, and JUSTICE. Around the memorial are further groups in bronze symbolizing SCIEIICE, ART, PEACE, PROGRESS, NAVAL POWER, INDUSTRY and AGRICULTURE. The small garden surrounding the memorial is enclosed by a balustrade with piers supporting sculpture, which includes the Heraldic Shields of countries in the British Commonwealth.
CLARENCE HOUSE … the home of the Queen Mother until her death in 2002. The interior was restored in 1949 for Princess Elizabeth, who occupied the home until 1952. Princess Anne was born here.
JAMES PALACE…a rambling and picturesque brick mansion of Tudor origin built around several courtyards. It was once the official London residence of the Royal Family and the scene of all-important Court Functions. Foreign ambassadors are still accredited to “the Court of St. James”. The name of the palace is derived from a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less, which was located here until Henry VIII replaced it with a palace designed by the artist Holbein. The chief relic of this Tudor palace is the picturesque four-story GATEHOUSE or CLOCK TOWER. No public visits to the palace. (Princess Diana’s casket was “held” in the chapel until public outcry caused the monarchy to move it to Kensington Palace).
PICCADILLY CIRCUS… a very colorful square … on the north is the NEW PICCADILLY HOTEL from 1908 … on the south is the modern wrought-iron entrance to ST. JAMES CHURCH, designed by Christopher Wren in 1676. The heavy Renaissance-style facade belongs to BURLINGTONHOUSE, and is the headquarters of the ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS. An imposing archway opens to the center where there is a statue of the founder of the Academy … Sir Joshua Reynolds. Special loan exhibitions are often held here. Galleries also contain diploma works presented from artists on their election by Academicians, such as self-portraits by Reynolds and by Gainsborough … plus many sketchbooks of famous artists, as well as their palettes and painting tables. Here, also, is the MICHELANGELO TONDO, a relief of the VIRGIN AND CHILD, and the only sculpture by Michelangelo in England. The RITZ HOTEL is on the south side of Piccadilly, and was one of the first steel-framed buildings built in London.
TRAFALGAR SQUARE…commemorates Nelson’s great naval Victory of 1805. The square was laid out in 1929, partly on the site of the Royal Mews. On the south side rises the NELSON MONUMENT. On the pedestal are four bronze lions by Sir Edwin Landseer. They were cast from cannon recovered from the wreck of the Royal George, which sank in 1782. Additional reliefs, cast from captured French cannon, show scenes from Nelson’s battles. At the corners of Trafalgar are statues of Generals Napier and Havelock. Behind the Nelson monument are two ornamental fountains. Above the northeast corner is an equestrian statue of George IV. A fir tree, the annual gift of the people of Norway in memory of the hospitality shown their Royal Family during WW2, is illuminated here every Christmas. On the north side, across the street is THE NATIONAL GALLERY. The church is ST. MARTIN IN THE FIELDS.