The birth of Prince George of Cambridge, third in line to the British throne, in late July was a much-anticipated, much-watched event. His impending arrival and the days after created a surge in interest in the country’s monarchy that has not been seen in decades. As a native Londoner, I have had front row seats to the frenzy and it has been quite the experience.
Months before the due date, London was already awash with royal baby fever. Extensive and intensive media coverage; buntings, a traditional 17 th century decoration, at pubs, houses and gardens; and speculations and even wagers on everything from the gender of the baby to its name and even how its nursery would be decorated – there was so much excitement and anticipation.
At my serviced residence, Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square London, we also got into the celebratory mood. We decorated our renowned deli corner with union flags and patriotic royal souvenirs to give our guests a regal reception.
It may be weeks since the birth but the city is still in the throes of royal baby mania. Now is, perhaps, the best time to come and visit the place where arguably Europe’s most popular royals reside and Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square London is in a prime location from which to do your sight-seeing.
Being the seat of British power past and present, London is steeped in royal history. Your first stop in the tour of its aristocratic attractions should be Buckingham Palace, office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen herself. The Palace is just 15 minutes’ walk from Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square London.
Here is where the royal family live when they are in the city, where The Queen receives visitors from around the world and where several royal functions take place. During summer (late July through to September), the Palace is opened to visitors. I went there when it was first opened to the public 20 years ago and truly enjoyed the experience. There was so much interesting history in the place.
There are a staggering 775 rooms in the Palace but it is the 19 State Rooms, which form the heart of the Palace, that are opened for viewing. They are specially designated public rooms where the monarchs have received, rewarded and entertained their subjects and visiting dignitaries for centuries.
Short of the wonder of treading on the very ground royals, world leaders and celebrities have walked, the State Rooms are lavishly decorated wonders in themselves. Many of the exquisite pieces of furniture; sparkling chandeliers and candelabra; ornate décor and magnificent works of art reflect King George IV’s taste. It was he who commissioned architect John Nash to transform what was Buckingham House into a grand palace. The rooms are also furnished with many of the treasure from the Royal Collection such as painting by Van Dyck and Canaletto, a sculpture by Canova and splendid Sèvres porcelain.
This year being the 60 th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, there is also a major exhibition that will bring together, for the first time, an array of items from Coronation Day. You will have the chance of a lifetime to see the spectacular dresses, uniforms, and robes worn by the royal party; and works of art, painting and objects used on that day.
Don’t forget to catch the Changing of the Guard at the Palace. At this time of the year, it takes place at 11.30am on alternate days: even days in August and odd ones in September (from May till end July, it takes places every day) weather permitting. These Guards or Household Troops are the ones who have the honour of guarding the Sovereign. During the ceremony, also known as Guard Mounting, one regiment takes over from the other. The precision marching, elaborate uniform and grandeur of it all will certainly hold your attention for the 45 minutes the ceremony takes.
About 15 minutes’ walk away from my serviced residence is Westminster Abbey, where royals are crowned, christened, married and buried. The gothic church holds within its hallowed halls 700 years of history. At the Abbey museum, you can see figures of kings and queens, some in their full costumes. These lifelike displays owe their realism to the fact that some were created from death masks.
In addition, there are 450 tombs of kings, poets and notable figures throughout history. Sir Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, David Livingston and Sir Stamford Raffles are all interred there. It is also the resting place of literary giants like William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Jane Austen, William Blake, the Bronte sisters, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Dickens.
Less than 10 minutes’ drive away is Victoria & Albert Museum, named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and said to be the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. Its 12.5-acre grounds with 145 galleries houses an impressive permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects that span 5,000 years. The British Galleries will take you through the country’s history as seen in its art and design while the Jewellery Gallery is where you can see some of the most stunning pieces of accessories ever.
There is no better time to pick up a royal baby souvenir than now. So, if you are visiting Buckingham Palace, drop by the Garden Shop. There is a range of products that were commissioned to commemorate the birth of Prince George of Cambridge. China, pill box, tea towel, velvet cushion, charm, and tree decorations - these make good birthday gifts, too. There are also homeware, china, clothing, jewellery, children’s toys, books and postcards all inspired by the works of art in the Royal Collection, many of which adorn the State Rooms.
You can pick up royal-themed gifts elsewhere, too. At upmarket department store, Harrods, you can buy a King Teddy Bear or a Queen Teddy Bear so you can cuddle up with a monarch, or take home shopping bags with a crown motif.
To have a taste of royalty, go to Fortnum & Mason, a department store in central London. They have a special blend of tea which was first blended for King Edward VII in 1902. Royal Blend is smooth, with an almost honey-like flavour. Both Harrods and Fortnum & Mason are within a five-minute drive from the serviced residence.
For the first time, the Royal Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint have also issued commemorative coins to mark the birth. These are worth collecting for their historical value.
A Feast for a King
There are several royals-inspired food. My favourite is Coronation Chicken which was said to have been invented at the banquet of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The cold chicken, curry cream sauce and dressing dish is great in sandwiches and salads. I like the slight spiciness of the dish.
At The Original Maids of Honour, a tea shop that is a half an hour tube ride from Embankment tube station next to Citadines Prestige Trafalgar London, you can sample Maid of Honour cakes. The pastry has a melt-in-your-mouth crisp shortbread base is filled with a cake-like centre and topped with crunchy almond. The tea shop was said to have been created the delectable dessert for King of England, Henry VIII, and still uses the original secret recipe.
Royal London has lots to offer the visitor, now more so than ever before. So, come on by and stay with us and let London treat you like kings and queens!
Come stay with us::
|Ascott Mayfair London|
No 49 Hill Street, Mayfair
London W1J 5NB
Tel: (44) 207 499 6868
Fax: (44) 207 499 0705
|Citadines Barbican London|
7-21 Goswell Road
London EC 1M 7AH
Tel: (44 20) 7 566 80 00
Fax: (44 20) 7 566 81 30
|Citadines Prestige Holborn-Covent Garden London|
94-99 High Holborn
London WC 1V 6LF
Tel: (44 20) 7 395 88 00
Fax: (44 20) 7 395 87 99
|Citadines Prestige South Kensington London|
35A Gloucester Road
London SW7 4PL
Tel: (44 20) 7 543 78 78
Fax: (44 20) 7 584 91 66
|Citadines Prestige Trafalgar Square London|
18/21 Northumberland Avenue
London WC2N 5EA
Tel: (44 20) 7 766 37 00
Fax: (44 20) 7 766 37 66
|Citadines St Mark’s London|
No 300 City Road
London EC1V 2PW
Tel: (44 20) 207 253 2039
Fax: (44 20) 207 490 3171