Royal Albert Hall

I had the privilege of visiting The Royal Albert Hall for a private tour and saw the backstage, the lounge for the Royal Family, the Royal Box and other parts of the Hall usually off limits to the public. 

The Royal Albert Hall was built between 1867 and 1871 and was officially opened on 29 March 1871 with the presence of Queen Victoria, who was overcome with emotion as she was reminded of her late husband, Prince Albert, who had died a decade earlier, never having seen the Hall named in his honour. 

After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, plans of commemorating him a hall on the present site came up. The Prince had suggested as early as 1853 that the Royal Academy of Music might like to build a music hall on the south side of Cromwell Road.  But it remained an idea and never even came to a planning stage until after the Prince’s death.

The Hall was originally designed with a capacity for 8,000 people. But historically, since its opening in 1871 it has a few times accommodated as many as 12,000 people. Under the present day safety restrictions, the maximum permitted capacity is now down to only 5,544 including standing in the Gallery.

I’ve been here many times prior and it was quite eerie and strange to see the hall practically empty.

The bust of Victoria and Albert are on display in one of the walls.

The hallway on the 2nd floor.

This set of steps lead to the Royal Box.

Lounge or reception where members of the royal family would wait before they proceed to the Royal Box.

Royal Albert Memorial as seen from one of the massive windows on the 2nd floor.

Prince Albert’s bust and Albert Memorial.

The details of the stone works and other ornamentation all over the building are quite impressive. Loads of initials, ‘RAH’ – Royal Albert Hall – or ‘VR’ – Victoria Regina or ‘VA’ – Victoria and Albert are seen everywhere.

The Royal Albert Hall is a very historic and magnificent edifice and it certainly is one of my favourite buildings in London.

I’ve been here for different musical events over the years but my all-time favourite has always been the Handel Messiah and Christmas Carols.
My friend Kristine and I at the Carols by Candlelight on December 2017.
Jared took this photo of myself sometime in 2015.
After watching The Messiah with Jared a few years ago.
Taken after the tour at the very top floor where the sound, lighting, recording facilities, etc., are located.

Prince Albert Memorial

The Prince Albert Memorial is a monument, essentially a ciborium, erected in honour of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s Consort. His death only at age 42, not only shocked the nation but also devastated the Queen. The monument is one of the great works of the Victorian renowned architect George Gilbert Scott in 1863-72.

Prince Albert holding the catalogue of the Great Exhibition, held in Hyde Park in 1851, which he inspired and helped to organise.

The cast-bronze statue of the late prince sits on a plinth upon a larger pedestal, which also has marble figure groups of the four continents and a frieze of great artists, figures representing manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering.

From the centre rises a massive spire, containing a smaller niche with gilt bronze statues of the Christian virtues. Through two more tiers of plinths with bronze angels, the spire is finally topped with a cross.

There’s four massive marble figures representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America that stand at each corner of the memorial as shown in the following four photos.

The monument is inside Kensington Gardens right across the street from Royal Albert Hall. 

Taken on a spring morning, 2019.

It’s beguiling even from a distance.

If you happen to visit London, and wanna stroll around Kensington Palace and Gardens, it’s worth seeing this monument. And of course, Royal Albert Hall is just across the street, another iconic building in the city that’s worth visiting. If interested to read more about Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, here’s a link to an old blog post.

Featured Image: royalparks

From ‘Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’ to ‘House of Windsor’

Today, 17th of July, marks 102 years since King George V, frightened by the depth of anti-German sentiment at the height of the Great War, created the “House of Windsor”. The king cleverly anglicised the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha dynasty to the steely British name, taking their name and legacy from the castle that had been built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. George V was dutiful, diligent, and discreet, while essentially conservative (never had a mistress and remained faithful and devoted to his wife), he had been prepared to depart from tradition when his Kingdom’s survival demanded it. George V did this in creating the new House and in his role in the Great War. His first born, Edward VIII’s brief reign (only 326 days — thanks to Wallis Simpson) was fraught with scandal, but George VI picked up the shattered pieces left by his brother, and did well most especially during the Second World War.

Four Generations of British Sovereigns. Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII (Image: Pinterest)

Sadly, his daughter Queen Elizabeth II has seen not just the demise of the Empire but also the continuous spiritual and moral decline of the country. She not only modernised her family but also her reign. When the Queen’s consort, Prince Philip, sought to have his paternity recognised in their children’s names, her grandmother, Queen Mary, was horrified and went to Churchill for advice. Philip apparently wanted the ‘House of Edinburgh’ (since it did reflect the Dukedom invested in him by George VI) which is indeed an odd choice for a descendant of the ‘House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg’. The royal family and the Churchill government did not grant The Duke’s wishes; and while the current members of the royal family recognise their paternity ‘Mountbatten-Windsor’ whenever they use a surname, the House remains solidly a “Windsor.”

King George V and Queen Mary with their children (Image: NPG)

Incredibly today also marks the 72nd birthday of the Duchess of Cornwall, the woman who the House of Windsor thought would destroy it. But, at least in the eyes of her husband, Prince Charles, she’s the perfect partner. Gyles Brandreth says in his book Charles and Camilla that ‘Camilla and her family without question, belonged to the upper class.’ Her mother Rosalind was the daughter of 3rd Baron Ashcombe, a descendant of Tom Cubbitt, the English master builder of the Victorian era, notable for developing many of the historic streets and squares, while her mother, Sonia, was the daughter of Alice Keppel, the famous ‘La Favorita’ (favourite mistress) of King Edward VII. Other historians also consider Camilla of remarkable resemblance with her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel. It was said that not only her looks but her manner and habits is very much like Alice Keppel. And interestingly, Tina Brown claims, in her book ‘The Diana Chronicles’ that, and I quote: “If you slapped an Edwardian-style picture hat on the head of Camilla Parker Bowles you would be struck by her resemblance to Prince Charles’s adored nanny, Mabel Anderson.”

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles aka The Duchess of Cornwall

With the current state of the British monarchy (and the country that sadly has gone to the 🐕 🐩 🐶), perhaps King George V’s rolling over in his grave.😂  Or may be on his deathbed he did warn his descendants, “You better straighten yourselves out, or I’d raise from the dead and die all over again if I had to!”😂 

(Featured Image of King George V and Queen Mary: NPG)

St Stephen’s Tavern

Standing next to Westminster tube station and right across the street from The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, St Stephen’s Tavern is a traditional pub that originally opened in 1875. It has been frequented by many  renowned personalities including prime ministers such as Winston Churchill, Stanley Baldwin and Harold Macmillan and even today it is one of the watering holes of some famous British politicians.

The pub still retains its original division bell which rings to warn the British lawmakers that there are only a few minutes to vote.
I like old buildings and as soon as I entered the door I immediately noticed the Victorian wooden carvings on the walls and the ceiling.
Photographs and newspaper clippings adorn the walls of the building.
From the ground floor, there’s a set of stairs that leads you to the 1st floor (2nd floor to the Americans), and on both sides of the wall there’s all types of framed old magazines/newspaper articles, photographs, caricatures, etc., that will make any political history buff to stop and have a look.

It’s on a Grade II Listed building with ornate wooden carved high ceiling and other fittings from the original Victorian structure. (According to English Heritage, “A building is listed when it is of special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance and therefore worth protecting.”)

The pub retains many of the original fixtures and fittings.

Unarguably, it is one the best pubs to visit in London for those interested in political history. It’s mentioned in one of Winston Churchill’s biography books and it’s been on my list of ‘historic places to visit’ in the city for over a decade. I’ve only visited once to take these photos with a visiting friend from Manila, and it was packed with tourists and possibly with some of the British government’s elite, too.