"Buckingham Palace, the King's residence, rises at the W. end of St. James's Park.The palace occupies the site of Buckingham House, erected by John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, in 1703, which was purchased by George III in 1761 and occasionally occupied by him. His successor, George IV, caused it to be remodeled by Nash in 1825, but it remained empty until its occupation in 1837 by Queen Victoria, since which date it has continued to be the London residence of the sovereign. In 1846 the east wing was added by Blore, giving the palace the form of a large quadrangle; and the large ball-room and other apartments were subsequently constructed. In 1913 Blore's façade towards St. James's Park, 360 ft. in length, was taken down and the present dignified new façade, by Sir Aston Webb, was erected in its stead".--Baedeker 1915.
Today was the day for the "Royal Day Out". This annual event is the opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace to the general public while the Queen is on holiday in Scotland. Susan had put much time into planning our attending the palace "open house". We purchased timed tickets online in advance for the State Rooms as well as tickets for the Queen's Gallery and the Royal Mews.
We took the Underground from Russell Square to Green Park. Thence, we crossed Green Park, a quiet and green oasis in the middle of the London. Buckingham Palace came into view at the other side of the park. It was interesting to note that the palace guards, in their red tunics and bearskin hats, are now stationed inside the palace fence. They are no longer outside at the gates, where generations of tourists have had their picture taken with them. A security measure, I assume.
Time-wise, our tickets called for first visiting the Queen's Gallery, to the side of the palace. On exhibit was the Queen's collection of Canaletto paintings. (Exhibits at the Queen's gallery change from time to time to highlight different aspects of the Royal Collection.) The
Devonshire Gates in Green Park. The wrought-iron entrance gates, between piers with rusticated quoins topped with seated sphinxes, were relocated from the demolished Devonshire House to form an entrance to Green Park. DSC_0565p1
Royal Collection has one of the world's largest collections of Canalettos, assembled by George III from the estate of John Smith, English consul at Venice. One usually associates Canaletto with scenes of Venice, produced for travelers making the Grand Tour. Seeing all these in once place is wonderful in itself. But, the exhibit showed other sides to Canaletto, including his paintings of Rome and his "fantasy" paintings of ruins or palaces, real or imagined placed in fantastic or impossible settings.
I learned a great deal about the latter genre, and realised I have seen many examples of this type of work, without the context presented here.
The next tickets were for a visit to the Royal Mews. The Royal Mews contains the stables, carriage houses and automobile garages for the Royal Family. It also contains living quarters for the chauffeurs and coach attendants. The carriages are on interpreted display, including the Gold State Coach. While we were here, a mounted police riding class was in progress at the Riding School within the Mews.
The visit to the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace was absolutely brilliant. The grand staircase in the Marble Hall, White Drawing Room, Ballroom, Picture
Diana Fountain in Green Park. Commissioned in 1950, installed at its present location in 2011.
Gallery Ballroom and Throne Room were all on the walk-through tour. Unlike museum palaces, these are functioning reception rooms during the year. The Ballroom is where the Queen's Birthday Honours are awarded. Gifts to the Queen from various heads of state and from Commonwealth countries were on display. Among American gifts was a framed photo given by JFK. Buckingham Palace was also commemorating the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death. William and Harry had selected items from their mother's possessions to display, including her collection of music cassettes. Following the tour, we had lunch on the palace terrace and then a pleasant walk though Buckingham Palace Gardens. The public are admitted to the Lawn and Garden only on a Royal Day Out and special occasions. On a Royal Day Out, a tea room is set up on the West Façade terrace overlook the Lawn. Visitors then exit through a gate leading to Grosvenor Place from the Garden.
A further walk along Grosvenor Place led past the Wellington Arch and brought us to Hyde Park Corner Underground station. Our destination was Westminster and the Churchill War Rooms. Of course, while in the vicinity we had an opportunity to hear Big
Queen's Guardsman at Buckingham Palace. DSC_0665p1
Ben chime the hour.
The Churchill War Rooms is a museum of the World War II underground bunker where the British government carried out command and control operations during World War II. Officially, the location was known as the Cabinet War Rooms. The War Rooms were put together in what had been storage space underneath the New Public Offices (now HM Treasury). Operations began in 1939 just before Germany invaded Poland and remained staffed until the surrender of Japan in 1945. The space was abandoned after that. Perhaps the relief of those who served there was so great that they simply left everything behind. When the rooms were opened to the public in 1984 under the auspices of the Imperial War Museum, the space was as it had been during the war.
Visitors see the War Cabinet Conference Room, the Map Room, the BBC studio, the telephone room, typing pool room and the accommodations for key personnel, including Churchill. Mannequins add realism to the scenes. An audioguide is available, but the individual rooms are interpreted very well. The overall pace of the war and situation on all theatres and continents were charted In the Map Room. Convoys, troop
movements, supply lines and damage and casualty reports were charted. Winston Churchill made four wartime speeches from the BBC studio. The Transatlantic Telephone Room equipment enabled Churchill and FDR to converse. Speech was scrambled and descrambled using the SIGSALY device developed by Bell Labs.
The living quarters on view belie the nature of life in the bunker. Visitors can see that quarters were cramped. But on top of that there were no flush toilets (chemical toilets and chamber pots were used). Nor were there any bathing or shower facilities, and people were down in the bunker for days. Ventilation shafts were installed to draw off cigarette and pipe smoke. It is indeed interesting to observe how determined a group of people were to work together for years in less than ideal conditions in order to win the war. In addition to the Cabinet War Rooms, there is a Churchill Museum tracing the life of Sir Winston. A cafe serves refreshments.
A long day. We enjoyed dinner at the Constellation Room restaurant in our hotel.
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