Welcome back to our Celebrating London blog series.
We pick up from where we left Celebrating Royal History part I, when tea has been taken and the summer afternoon drifts into dusky evening…
The sun is setting gloriously over the River Thames and we begin to see London’s acclaimed hospitality come to life. From the grand hotels with their exalted in-house restaurants to the hidden, family owned gems favoured by those in the know, lights begin to twinkle, glassware and silverware are polished to perfection and front-of-house teams prepare to throw open the doors and welcome you. It comes as no surprise that the British Royal family throughout living memory and beyond were regular patrons at many of London’s heritage hospitality venues. With an enviable selection of prestige establishments within strolling distance from the key royal households, our first stop on our round up of royal favourites is even rumoured to be connected to Buckingham Palace via a secret tunnel. Established in 1910, The Goring has offered its discreet hospitality to Royal guests for over a century, notably filling the rooms and suites for the coronations of both George VI and Elizabeth II and more recently for the coronation of Charles III. The Queen Mother was said to favour the lobster omelette which still makes a splash on the menu at the hotel’s world class restaurant.
Strolling along a little further in the direction of Hyde Park, once the hunting ground of William The Conqueror, the next royal hospitality favourite is the fabulous Mandarin Oriental, conveniently situated for luxurious shopping in Knightsbridge. The current Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, have often been entertained here.
Head north across Hyde Park from here and we stumble across another clutch of hospitality gems. The Dorchester, loved by Prince Philip so much so that he chose to host his stag party here, has evolved through a series of constructions since the Earl of Dorchester first set up home here in 1792. The previous buildings made way for the breathtaking Art Deco dream that stands on the spot today. Opened in 1931, the hotel has retained its uniquely 1930s feel despite offering all the modern convenience expected of a prestige hotel, including a muti Michelin starred restaurant. In 1953, a leading stage set designer decorated the famous façade in celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
A short stroll along Piccadilly brings us to The Ritz, much loved by The Queen Mother and a firm favourite with the Royal Family of Monaco. A legendary institution amongst London’s glittering hospitality players since 1906, this hotel has often set the scene for royal headlines, most memorably in 1999 when King Charles III, then The Prince Of Wales, was first captured by the press with Camilla by his side.
North a little from here, wandering through the grandeur of Mayfair, we find another classic London hotel with an impressive royal history. When William and Mary Claridge first expanded their small, family run hotel in the early 19th century, little did they know that by 1860, Claridge’s would be hosting Queen Victoria herself, thus sealing the destiny of what remains a favourite with heads of state from Europe and beyond. In fact, so important was this haven to European royalty, some took refuge here throughout the Second World War. Winston Churchill even declared that Room 212 should temporarily become Yugoslavian territory so that the new Crown Prince could be born on his own country’s soil. The turmoil of war passed and the hotel was the setting for more joyous Royal Events. It was here that a celebratory reception was held for our late Queen’s Coronation and when her son, then Prince Charles, married Lady Diana Spencer, Claridge’s was the chosen venue for their lavish reception. Their sister hotel just around the corner on Carlos Place, the inimitable Connaught, is another icon of grandeur and impeccable luxury that our guests frequent and adore as much as we do.
Heading on towards the River Thames, the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden and Theatreland beckon. It’s here, on The Strand, we find another bastion of exemplary service and welcome, where the walls are steeped in royal history, a favourite through many generations since the reign of Queen Victoria. Opened in 1889, The Savoy was readily adopted as the royal preference by Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Victoria and later to become King Edward VII. He was known to regularly wine and dine here, entertaining his male friends, female friends and occasionally his wife. Fast forward to 1989 and The Savoy Centenary Ball when all eyes turned to the icon of the day, Princess Diana, whose stunning pale blue column dress prompted a frenzy of camera flashes, the images dominating the next days’ newspapers. The Savoy has another charming royal connection. After the end of the Second World War, the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret emerged on to the social scene and frequently enjoyed the elegant dinners, dancing and the occasional cocktail. In 1946, at the wedding reception of a minor royal, a radiant and smiling bridesmaid was photographed with a dashing mystery man in a military uniform. So who were that intriguing young couple, relaxed in each others’ company and enjoying the first flushes of love? The handsome Naval Officer was Prince Philip, reunited with his Princess after the war. Elizabeth and Philip married the following year and enjoyed nearly 74 years of loving marriage.
Of course, there are one or two more classic heritage hotels offering impeccable hospitality and service. Your Beyond Curated Royal Experience offers you the exclusive opportunity to enjoy private fine dining at an iconic London hotel, an unmissable chance to experience the pinnacle of culinary excellence in elegant surroundings. Relax as your Sommelier offers guided recommendations for the array of fine wines available to indulge in and linger as you savour each tempting course, forging cherished memories of your experience day as you dine.
As the sky darkens and night time descends, there’s still time to squeeze in one more fascinating, uniquely London experience. We’re heading east along the river until the looming hulk of one of London’s most recognisable and historic landmarks comes into view. The Tower Of London has dominated this spot near the banks of the River Thames for nearly one thousand years since William The Conqueror, victorious in battle over the English, asserted his power with the construction of the imposing stone stronghold. In the centuries that followed, its walls would become for some embers of the nobility a place of safety and refuge in times of conflict yet for others who had fallen foul of the powers that be, it became a symbol of fear and foreboding. The same plush quarters where Henry VIII entertained his new bride, Anne Boleyn, were the same luxurious rooms where she was incarcerated three years later ahead of her demise on Tower Green. The Tudor era saw many a subject ‘sent to the Tower’, even the daughter of Henry VIII was imprisoned by her half sister, Mary I. Happily for Elizabeth, she was released in May 1554, after just a few weeks, returning to the Tower to prepare for her own coronation five years later, thus securing her reign as one of Britain’s most celebrated monarchs.
As a melting pot of celebration and conflict, the Tower Of London has accrued many, many stories of ghosts and legends over its one thousand years of history. The Yeoman Warders, who for many centuries have guarded the Tower and its precious contents, will often regale listeners with tales of their own sightings of the ghosts of headless queens or the Princes In The Tower. The ‘Beefeaters’ as they are often known, instantly recognisable in their red uniforms which have changed little since Tudor times, carry out their tasks, overseen by the famous Tower Ravens, the impressive black birds who have been resident here since the 17th Century. Charles II decreed that they should always be present or the kingdom would fall.
With such sturdy stone walls and an ever vigilant guard, it is little wonder that the Tower houses the most dazzling and precious collection in the country, The Crown Jewels. As part of your Beyond Curated Royal Experience, your own dedicated Yeoman Warder will lead you to The Treasury where a truly unforgettable spectacle awaits you. As you sip champagne, you’ll take in the magnificence of the world’s most famous jewel collection, learning about the provenance, symbolism and significance of every piece. Be amongst one of the rare few who can enjoy their splendour at close hand and linger over their astonishing beauty with this personal, exclusive viewing, the memory of the experience becoming as priceless as the Jewels themselves in the years to come.
Enhance your Royal Experience with Michelin Star fine dining within the walls, served surrounded by crowns from the Royal Collection or within the sumptuous Medieval Palace favoured by the Kings and Queens of history. Delight in the unique atmosphere as musicians lend an unrivalled ambience and listen as your Yeoman Warder shares more fascinating insights into the life and history of the Tower. One more privileged glimpse into London’s celebrated royal history is to come as Beyond Curated invites you to join the Tower Guards for their final ritual of the day. The Ceremony Of The Keys, a military practice for over 700 years, takes place each night as the Tower and its riches are safely locked up. Listen as the guards call out the same words, little changed throughout the centuries, enjoying one last exclusive glimpse of history as the first of our Celebrating London series concludes.
If Celebrating London: Celebrating Royal London has whetted your appetite, Linda at Beyond Curated will be delighted to discuss your exclusive Royal Experience with you soon. Your Royal Experience may also include chauffeur driven transfers in a classic Daimler which was once owned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in which she famously attended royal engagements. There are other Beyond Curated Experiences with a royal theme are available, including The Tower Of London Experience and The Three Charleses Experience. Visitors to London looking to make more of their visit or for those looking for another unrivalled experience may also be interested in The Bond And Beyond Experience which offers the chance to delve into the elegant and exciting world of James Bond or the Champagne and Churchill Experience, a unique opportunity to trace the footsteps of Churchill in chauffer driven comfort and take a helicopter ride to his birthplace in the stunning Oxfordshire countryside. Further information on all Beyond Curated Experiences can be found on the Beyond Curated website.