| Putting on the
by Corinna Lothar
was young, handsome, intelligent, a lady killer before he became a killer
of ladies. Henry VIII was not quite 18 years old when he ascended the
throne of England in 1509, a talented and well-educated prince.
Young Henry. Credit:
English School, Portrait of Henry VIII, ca. 1509. Oil on panel
set in its original
frame; 15 x 9-3/4 in. Berger Collection at the Denver
Depicted in history primarily for his girth, his dedication
to the institution of marriage, if not necessarily dedication to his
wives, and for his bloodthirstiness, Henry had another, less well-known
side. England is celebrating the 500th anniversary of his ascension
to the throne with exhibitions, performances and festivals, all to make
sure that that other side is known.
Henry was deeply religious, a voracious reader and a
revolutionary monarch before his time, whose ideas changed the course
of British history. His mother, Elizabeth of York, taught him to read,
and the 2,000 books in his library are now in the British Library. He
annotated his books with thoughts and opinions, both personal and political.
He composed music and even wrote poetry. More changes occurred during
his reign than at any time since the Norman Conquest in the 11th century.
Visitors can learn about Henrys prowess as a sportsman
and warrior in a temporary exhibition, Dressed to Kill.
The kings personal arms and armor and the military equipment associated
with him are on display in the Tower of London until January 17, 2010.
Although not as finely crafted as Spanish armor of the same period,
Henry had access to the best armorers in Britain and the exhibition
highlights the kings power, money and taste.
|Tonlet Armor of Henry VIII, c.1520.
Tudor life as it was under Henry can be experienced
at Hampton Court Palace, the kings residence. The Palace hosts
a series of events including Tudor cookery, a simulated royal wedding,
and an exhibit explaining the characters and stories surrounding Henry:
Catherine of Aragon, his wife for over 20 years; Cardinal Wolsey, chief
minister and trusted ally; and the young Henry, a lusty and courageous
Windsor Castles special exhibition includes the
kings hunting sword and a portrait of Henry Fitzroy, Henrys
illegitimate son by Elizabeth Blount.
In the Jewel House of the Tower of London, visitors
can see the crown jewels, used to this day in the coronation ceremony.
The jewels were originally brought to the Tower in 1303, but several
were stolen, others were secretly sold. After the execution of Charles
I, Oliver Cromwell ordered the jewels sold or melted down for coin.
It wasnt until the Restoration in 1660 that 32,000 pounds were
set aside for new crown jewels, which Colonel Thomas Blood attempted
unsuccessfully to steal in 1671.
The only pre-Commonwealth piece to survive is the golden
ampulla and spoon, used in the coronation ceremony to anoint the monarchs
head, palms and breast with holy oil. The new jewels on
display at the Tower have been in the Jewel House since 1967. Among
the many crowns is St. Edwards Crown of 1661, which weighs 5 pounds
and is worn during the coronation ceremony for only 15 minutes. The
display includes swords of state, banqueting plate, silver trumpets
and the largest diamond in the world contained in the Royal Scepter.
Kensington Palace is less a palace than a private mansion,
which it was when built in about 1605. It was purchased by William III
and Mary II in 1689 and adapted for royal residence by Sir Christopher
Wren. Until George III made Buckingham Palace his London home, Kensington
was the center of royal life.
It was in Kensington Palace that the Victorian Age began
when Princess Victoria was born there in 1819. She was still living
in Kensington Palace when she was awakened early in the morning of June
20, 1837 with the news that she had become queen during the night. The
State Apartments, although slightly shabby, and the Royal Ceremonial
Dress Collection, which contains many of Princess Dianas ball
gowns, are now open to the public.
Tea in the Orangery at Kensington Palace is a special
treat. The Orangery is a separate neo-classical building. Tea is served
on the terrace overlooking the palace and a beautiful green lawn with
rose bushes growing along the side. Its a unique and delightful
Tea in the Palm Court
Perhaps the most famous spot for tea in London is the
Hotel Ritz, where tea is served at five daily sittings in the elegant
Palm Court. The china is delicate, the choice of teas vast, the sandwiches
and cakes traditionally small and delicious. Tea is accompanied by a
string ensemble performing classical music. Be sure to reserve a table
well in advance.
A visitor cant turn back the clock to partake
of Tudor splendor, but a quasi-royal experience awaits anyone staying
at the Ritz where old-fashioned style, service and elegance reign supreme.
You can treat yourself to the Ritz Experience and feel every
bit as royal as a king (or queen).
The Ritz London, conceived by hotelier Cesar Ritz, opened
its doors on May 24, 1906. It features a French chateau style of architecture
and Louis XVI inspired interiors with lots of decorative gold leaf moldings.
The 113 rooms and 24 suites are all slightly different; all have spacious
bathrooms featuring amenities by British perfumer Floris.
Ritz Casino bar
The Ritz has a first-class kitchen good enough,
in fact, for Queen Elizabeth to have celebrated her 80th birthday in
a private dining room of the hotel in the neighboring William Kent House
which was incorporated into the hotel in 2006. The Rivoli Bar, re-opened
in 2001 is pure art deco. The Ritz Club Casino and bar are located in
what was the hotels ballroom. Guests of the hotel are given complimentary
membership in the casino.
Even if you dont stay at the hotel, you can go
for tea, lunch or dinner, or for the dinner dance on Friday and Saturday
evenings. For 85 pounds (approximately $130) per person, you can dine
in the beautiful turn of the century dining room and dance to your hearts
content. But remember, no jeans or athletic shoes are allowed in the
public rooms of the hotel.
When youre in London, And you dont
know where to go to/ Why dont you go where fashion sits/ Puttin
on the Ritz.
View of the Ritz
When You Go:
Mayfair is currently the in neighborhood
for dining, which includes traditional restaurants for serious dining,
restaurants owned by famous chefs, and trendy restaurants where people
go to see and be seen. Here are some traditional and some new popular
(55 Jermyn St.) has been a London fixture since 1742. The style today
is more Edwardian than eighteenth century, but the restaurant is replete
with the charm of an era gone by. The walls are covered with paintings
in all styles, lending a bit of color and amusement to the classic décor
of paneled walls, elegant table settings and beautifully prepared and
presented traditional dishes such as house smoked Scottish salmon, dressed
crab, a carving trolley with the roast of the day, seasonal vegetables
and divine Dover sole.
Alban (4-12 Lower Regent Street) is the opposite. Its a relatively
new restaurant featuring contemporary cooking based on Mediterranean
influences. Breads are delicious and baked in-house. Dishes vary from
a delightful salad of different varieties of tomatoes to slow roasted
pig belly. Pizzas and pastas are on the menu too as are 24 wines by
Honey (12 St. Georges St.) is a delightful small restaurant in Mayfair
where the informal atmosphere belies the quality of the kitchen. A cold
carrot soup with grapefruit segments and hazelnuts was splendid, as
was a smoked eel salad. Its noisy, not the least fussy, with very
good food and a prix-fixe lunch of 19 pounds (approximately $30).
(20-22 Queen Street), owned by super chef Gordon Ramsay, has been receiving
rave reviews. Its more traditional than Wild Honey, but the Italian
influenced dishes prepared by Chef Angela Hartnett are very good. The
restaurant offers a lunch special of a three-course prix-fixe for 25
pounds (approximately $40).
(160 Piccadilly) is a trendy café-restaurant, where guests go
to see and be seen. Its a European-style brasserie, noisy, busy,
attractively decorated, frequented by actors and artists. Waiters and
waitresses scurry about with good cheer. Breakfast is the star attraction
with lunch not far behind. A puff pastry tart of cheese covered with
tiny roasted tomatoes was delicate and fragrant, and finely chopped
steak tartare was adorned with a pretty quails egg. Steak frites
is on the regular menu. Good wine selections and excellent coffee too
are part of the attraction. The building was constructed in 1921 as
a showroom for the Wolseley automobile. The car didnt sell well
so in 1927, Barclays Bank took over the building. It became a
restaurant in 2003. Its great fun along with good food.
For a special treat, take lunch at the elegant Ritz
(150 Piccadilly) and enjoy the superb cuisine of Executive Chef John
Williams and the best service in town. On a nice day, you can lunch
on the terrace overlooking Green Park.