Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Stroll Through London circa 1932

Queen Elizabeth II (age 3) with her father, the Duke of York
who went on to become King Edward VI
July 1929

A. Edward Newton is a delightful tour guide. For an American, he is well versed in the history and the streets of London.

We start off in the morning with a church service at the Guards' Chapel, Wellington Barracks:

"At the stroke of eleven, such guards as are in attendance enter. They come in with heavy tread, in their gorgeous uniforms, carrying their tall black bearskin headgear at rest, so to speak, upon their left arm, as though each man had been entrusted with a baby."

The service ends with "a rattle of kettledrums and everyone in the church stands at attention, while "God Save the King'" is sung."

We are in for a morning walk afterwards from the Chapel to Piccadilly, past the Burlington Arcade, the Ritz Hotel, Mayfair, and on to Hyde Park where "Subjects which are taboo in the drawing room  -- chiefly, politics and religion; the wickedness and stupidity of the party in power, whichever it may be, or the superiority of Mohammedanism over Christianity" are shouted about from talkers on the open stands or pulpits.

Along the way we are given histories of Nell Gwyn, the favorite mistress of Charles II; the purported burial site of Lawrence Sterne; Hercules Pillars, a famous tavern where Squire Western in Tom Jones takes a rest; Coutts's Bank; and, the Underground.

There is also a point at which we approach Apsley House "which is now the residence of the Duke and Duchess of York, with the young Princess who will in all probability become a second Queen Elizabeth."

What a splendid stroll. And all before lunch.

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