London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

Royal London - 2003 - Part One

26/12/2003, By Candice Caster

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 22450 votes

Admiralty Arch

The Mall in London - that grand boulevard created as a ceremonial route in the early 20th century - runs between Buckingham Palace at the western end through Admiralty Arch at the east, gracefully drawn alongside the path laid out during the reign of Charles II and which became London’s most fashionable promenade in the 1600s. It was no wonder that we were drawn there on the last day of our January 2003 vacation.

We had warm memories of our first stroll down the Mall two years earlier on a balmy winter’s afternoon, late on a Sunday when the Mall is closed to traffic and pedestrians are free to veer off the pavement and walk in the street itself. The crowd of other strolling tourists was small and quiet, and the place had the feel of “specialness” as we watched the sun slowly descend behind that grand structure that is Buckingham Palace, seemingly into the very spot where the Queen hosts her garden parties.

Buckingham Palace

But those memories were to remain sealed in the albums of our minds and not to be recreated on this particular day, for it was rainy, windy and cold - the first unpleasant weather of our ten-day stay in London (and the adjective “unpleasant” doesn’t apply to that one day of glorious snowfall that had turned London into a true winter wonderland).

However, the gray and white color of the day evoked images from newsreels seen over the years; gazing at the balcony on the front of the Palace, we could very nearly see Winston Churchill, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), beaming and waving triumphantly to the crowd gathered below in celebration of the end of World War II.

Queen's Gallery

We hurried into the Queen’s Gallery, our first stop along the Mall, shaking the rain off our drenched umbrellas. If not given a true royal reception, we were nevertheless greeted warmly and made to feel welcome at this place (constructed forty years ago from the bomb-damaged ruins of the Palace’s private chapel and recently renovated) which houses rotating exhibitions of the Royal Collection. The Royal Collection consists of works of art and other treasures held in trust by the Queen for the Nation and thus made available to the public. Many of these items were gifts from a king to his queen and are noted as such.

It’s difficult not to be impressed by the intricately designed and exquisite Faberge eggs and the vast array of canvases produced by distinguished artists. Several rather eminent Londoners we had had the privilege to meet during our stay had highly recommended a visit to the Queen’s Gallery, and we were so glad they had. I would, in turn, recommend it to anyone reading this article as well worth the small amount of time it takes to tour. It had the amazing effect of providing that connection with royalty that we as Americans find so fascinating.

The gift shop was full of treasures as well, and one of the finest I have visited in all of England. We purchased several items for friends, including lavender bath oil made from lavender grown at the royal estate of Sandringham where the Queen spends her Christmases. As we browsed, a recorded performance of the Prom at the Palace (part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebration the previous year) was playing on a large screen against one wall, and consequently we fell under its spell and were moved to purchase the CD - and the DVD!

Candice Caster

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