London. One of the most vibrant, stunning and exciting cities on the planet. There are just so many things to enjoy in this great city, from visiting the imposing, historic landmarks of the United Kingdom’s royal past to savouring exquisite fine dining in opulent, stylish surroundings. Have you ever wondered how you could experience the best that London has to offer, safe in the knowledge that every detail from gastronomic delights through to luxurious transport had been meticulously planned for you? In our new blog series, ‘Celebrating London’, we will be bringing you a tempting glimpse into the unique culture that London bestows and whet your appetite for a truly memorable heirloom memory brought to you by Beyond Curated.
In the first of the new series, Celebrating London: The Royal Experience, we will step back in time to visit London’s colourful royal past and discover some surprising stories behind the city’s most feted royal locations. We will explore a selection of the iconic venues frequented by members of the Royal Family and reveal the enticing selection of British Monarchy inspired treats you will enjoy as part of your exclusive Beyond Curated experience.
As our glorious English summertime bursts into bloom, there can be no more fitting place to begin our celebration of Royal London, than Kensington Palace, birthplace of Queen Victoria and one time home to Princess Diana. The magnificent gardens, stretching out invitingly around the modern day edifice offer a tranquil escape from the surrounding city. The Palace began life as a large country house surrounded by farmland and was purchased by William III and his wife, Mary II, in the late 17th century for use as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the royal court. From 1689 and throughout their reign, the grand palace that we see today began to take shape. The royal couple created a famously luxurious yet comfortable home where lavish balls were held inside the green velvet draped walls. The reign of Queen Anne followed and during her time on the throne between 1702 and 1714, this fascinating monarch designed the formal gardens to the front aspect which echoed the imposing vertical lines of the palace façade. Anne was also the creator of the stunning Orangery, built to nurture her collection of tender citrus trees. Two of London’s most celebrated architectural talents came together here to create the quintessential English Baroque style masterpiece. The distinctive flourishes of both Nicholas Hawksmoor and Christopher Wren, designer of St Paul’s Cathedral, lend some serious architectural prestige. Summer nights would see Queen Anne’s sumptuous parties spilling out on to the expansive terrace.
Whisking ourselves back to the present, glance over to the southeast aspect during the summer months and drink in the spectacle of the wild flower garden, its jewel-like pops of colour bobbing in the gentle breeze. Your exclusive Beyond Curated experience begins as you enter the Palace to enjoy your private tour, marvelling at the splendour and ostentatiousness of the past, discovering more of its fascinating history and enjoying a unique glance at the home of the palace’s modern inhabitants, William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Kensington Palace
Perhaps the gemstone colours of the summer gardens at Kensington have prompted a curious thought about other radiant jewels enjoyed by royalty through the ages. The Royal Family and Monarchs of the past are often associated with their extensive collections of breath-taking, highly desirable jewels, the wearers captured for posterity by the painter’s hand, each jewel with a story to tell and a history all of its own. Queen Elizabeth I, fondly known to her subjects as Good Queen Bess, was bestowed with many fabulous jewel laden pieces by suitors and courtiers throughout her 44 year reign. An inventory compiled by her Lady Of The Bed Chamber in 1587 tells us her collection amounted to a staggering 628 items. In later times, Queen Victoria enjoyed a dazzling collection of her own, including an emerald studded tiara and a stunning sapphire and diamond coronet which passed through many owners’ hands until finding a fitting forever home in the Victoria And Albert Museum, a stone’s throw from her birthplace. Your Beyond Curated Royal Experience celebrates this royal connection as you are escorted to visit a royal heritage fine jeweller where you will have an exclusive view of some of the most rare, exquisite jewels imaginable, all in the opulent surroundings of a beautiful private salon. Whilst you are here, enjoy a mesmerising glimpse behind the scenes as master jewellers share the secrets of a craft with a heritage stretching back for centuries. This visit will cast a truly unique and unforgettable memory for you to cherish.
Whilst you catch your breath, pausing to relive the twinkling visual feast in your mind’s eye, perhaps you’d like to take a ‘leaf’ out of our late Majesty’s book and enjoy a traditional afternoon tea? According to her former personal chef, Queen Elizabeth always timetabled the pause in her day whether she was spending quiet time with close family in Buckingham Palace or another of the Royal Family’s historic homes, or whether set sail for Australia on board the Royal Yacht, Britannia. Reputedly a fan of Earl Grey, a delicious blend with the flavour of Bergamot, the Queen’s single most important requirement was that her tea be served piping hot.
Afternoon Tea, not to be confused with other British conventions the ‘Cream Tea’ or ‘High Tea’, is traditionally served during the late afternoon and is accompanied by a selection of delectable baked goods to ward off hunger pangs when dinner is not anticipated until much later in the evening. The Queen had her own recipe for drop scones, to rhyme with ‘cone’ in Royal pronunciation rather than ‘gone’ as in other British regional variations, which was handed down from her royal forbears. This simple, traditional food resembles a small pancake, rather than the thicker scone, sometimes baked with dried fruits, which is served with an English Cream Tea. Imagine those delicious morsels spread with a generous topping of jam made with strawberries picked on the Royal Estate at Balmoral!
Although the practice of tea drinking had been enthusiastically adopted on British shores when it was brought here in 1662 by Caroline of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II, it first became firmly ensconced in Royal tradition and ritual when Anna Maria, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford and Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria introduced the afternoon serving of refreshing Darjeeling accompanied by delicious, satisfying fare. By the late 19th century, ladies of high society would assemble in the fashionable tea rooms of the day, establishing once and for all a social tradition which is now famously enjoyed across Britain through all walks of life. Of course, there is an art and a sense of occasion to the traditional practice of taking tea, from the leaves that are used to the type of pot, from the china cup to the way he cup is held in the hand. Your Beyond Curated Royal Experience takes you to a stately private salon along your route through London where the magic and mysteries of taking tea will be revealed by our very own expert on English Etiquette.
When tea has been taken and the summer afternoon drifts into dusky evening, the sun setting gloriously over the River Thames…This is where we complete part one of the Celebrating Royal London blog article. Next time we will continue and discover London’s acclaimed hospitality. 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.
Until next time…