Since we don’t have a queen and covet theirs, I saw every palace I could get into. It is obviously good to be the Queen.
Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle were (not surprisingly) very grand, but both had the feeling of a well-loved and well-used building. And while the private apartments were not on the tour, they can be clearly seen and are actually pointed out, mainly to pass on the Queen’s request that you not photograph them. It all seemed very polite. I didn’t and didn’t see anyone else who did, either, showing the success you can achieve with a request, but it also helps to be the Queen. And there are so many other deserving views from Windsor.
While I had imagined all this royal pomp and circumstance existing in a sort of carefully controlled vacuum, on both occasions, the weather was balmy and many of the doors and windows were opened to let the breezes blow through. This was like the feeling I had in the Uffizi some years back when, because it was uncomfortably warm both outside and inside, they opened all the windows. Maybe art really is meant to be lived with and treated with less bloodless reverence.
Just as grand but less personal was Hampton Court. Touring the palace stolen from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII, in which he went through wives quicker than underwear, is a cultural way to spend your day outside London in the beautiful Surrey countryside. Oh. And I also had a really good lunch and handcrafted red ale at the Mute Swan just across the road from the palace, with good views and a comfortable, sunny terrace full of small tables. I recommend it.
Of course the main draw is the Tudor portion of the palace, but the Georgian wing, as completely different from Henry VIII’s palace as the Louvre and its glass pyramid, is just as interesting. Less “English” and more European, its construction was meant to provide England with a palace to compete with Versailles and we should consider ourselves lucky today that the Georgians basically ran out of money and lost interest before they could completely destroy Henry VIII’s palace, which was sadly out of fashion at the turn of the eighteenth century.
There is a good exhibition being presented at all the Royal Collection venues just now called ‘The First Georgians’ in which they bring those dour, in-fighting Germans back to life through exhibitions of Georgian art and fashion and what were very entertaining and some slightly salacious tours given by talented, costumed guides. If you like that sort of thing…and I do.