It’s been a while since the other half and I had one of our historical trips out so last week we took off to London for the day. And what a jam packed day it was. Given the expense of train fares these days we decided to make the most of it and visit as many places as we possibly could.
The Banqueting House on Whitehall is somewhere I have wanted to visit for a very very long time. Many of you will know that I have a massive interest in Stuart history and in particular the reigns of both Charles I and Charles II. When we arrived at the Banqueting House and I saw the window in which Charles I was most likely to have stepped out of at his execution I may have gotten a little choked up. This building, one of the very last remaining parts of Whitehall Palace was where Charles I spent his last moments and it truly was a moving experience for me.
The Banqueting House itself doesn’t take all that long to look around. But seeing the beautiful Ruben’s ceiling was one of the highlight’s of the trip for me. Painted and installed in 1636, it is an absolute masterpiece and depicts three main scenes – the union of the crowns, the Apotheosis of James I and the peaceful reign of James I. The absolutely sunning piece of art is also the only surviving in-situ piece of work by Ruben’s.
After spending a bit of time at the Banqueting House and having a chat with the staff in the gift shop about the necklace of Charles II that I was wearing we took ourselves off to the National Portrait Gallery. There were many reasons that we wanted to visit this place and I have to say that we were not disappointed. The collection of Tudor and Stuart portraits is just utterly mindblowing and I found myself getting rather emotional here too. Seeing the famous portrait of Anne Boleyn was just…there are really no words to describe it, and then seeing the portraits of the Stuart individuals who I have long had an interest in. When we came across the portrait of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, I must have spent at least fifteen minutes standing there looking at it.
Prince Rupert, the stereotypical cavalier, is a man I have a longstanding interest in. He was a genius when it came to military strategy, a brilliant scientist, privateer and one of the first mezzotint artist. In the room next to the civil war portraits were portraits from the reign of Charles II, including portraits of John Wilmot (I had a bit of a squeak seeing him), Barbara Villiers, Louise De Kerouelle and Charles II himself. I sat before the massive portrait of Charles II for a very long time – in this famous portrait, done just before his death in 1685, Charles looks like an old man because of course he was. And yet he is still incredibly regal with his long black periwig. He exudes power and regality, and it truly was amazing to sit in front of such an amazing man.
John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester is a man I am often in awe over. His works of satire are just brilliant and have often had me laughing so hard I’m in tears. I am also a massive fan of his poetry – particularly “A Ramble in Saint James’ Park”
After a quick lunch in a rather quaint little pub just along Whitehall, we took ourselves off to 221B Baker Street. Both my partner and I are MASSIVE fans of the BBC drama and I’ve been a long standing fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels so actually being at the place these works are set in invoked a massive torrent of what we call “feels”. 221B Baker Street is a tiny museum set out over three floors with artifacts that tie in with Conan Doyles stories as well as some rather creepy wax images of the characters. It was really rather amazing to see the figures of how Moriarty and Irene Adler should have looked like. What I found particularly brilliant about the museum were the little quote placards from the books which provided an excellent explanation to the artifacts and figurines.
Casually sitting in Sherlock’s chair. You can see his famous Stradivarius violin just behind me
Bullet marks in the wall behind the couch reading “VR”
The little gift shop next door sold all sorts of awesome Sherlock related things including pipes and deerstalkers. I picked up a hardback copy of the Complete Sherlock Holmes collection for a very reasonable £15. I have to say, the staff in both the museum and shop were absolutely brilliant and friendly, and I loved how they were all dressed in period costume.
Once done here we took ourselves off for a brief look around the British Museum, although given how much walking we’d done we didn’t spent long here. A brief look at the Egyptian gallery and we were ready to take ourselves home.
All in all a fantastic trip. Next port of call – The Tower of London.