I won’t pretend – I was keen to catch up with Betty and the gang when I was in London. If you couldn’t give a fig about the royals, look away now. For everyone else, I’m about to tell you about soft furnishings, carriages and queens who know how to get things done.
5. Buckingham Palace – really, it’s hard not to be impressed. I might be the first person ever to have used the hash-tag #BuckPalaceselfie
4. Marble Arch might not be high on the tourist agenda but I love the story behind it: the Arch was finished as Queen Victoria began her reign. Victoria thought it was hideous. So she built a carriage that was too wide to fit through it. “Take your arch elsewhere, arch-makers!” Problem solved.
3. Diana Memorial Fountain – calm, serene and a perfectly fitting memorial to Diana. I had a few moments when I had the fountain all to myself. I like that paddling is encouraged.
2. Crown Jewels – some of the stones are so big and the pieces so lavish, they just don’t seem real. There’s a little moving walkway that transports you along the length of the main display cases. I think without it, people would just stand there gawking (because sapphires the size of your knee-cap and diamonds as big as apples).
So then it was all the tears.
I was cheered somewhat by a very, very long bench seat in the next hallway. It had a handy guide to the length of reign of each monarch painted above it and a series of cushions embroidered with the kings and queens on the bench (plus some popular extras – see pics). Kings and queens cushions. I know, I want my own set*.
So after I’d gathered strength by leaning against Wills and Kate for a bit, I headed into the Fashion Rules exhibition. The exhibition features dresses from the wardrobes of the Queen, the late Princess Margaret (who was quite the fashion plate in her day) and Princess Diana. Apart from seeing frocks that I’d seen in pictures, it was very interesting to read about all the other things a designer must take into account when creating a dress for a royal. For example, light colours are favoured as they are more discernible against a large crowd.
Diana’s dresses were the highlight – I remember thinking (in the eighties) that her drop-waist electric blue taffeta and black velvet combo (far right) was the most beautiful dress. Ever.
The rest of Kensington Palace was brilliant (far more was on show than I expected) and the gardens, although only just coming out of winter dormancy, were magnificent.
Special mention also of the Royal Mews, crammed with fabulous coaches; and the gift shops at all of these places, crammed with royal things you never knew you needed – like Buckingham Palace shower caps, Kensington Palace pot holders and Changing of the Guard lip balm.
* Unfortunately not available in the Kensington Palace Gift Shop *now learning embroidery*