Last week, I visited England for the 43rd (or something like that) time! I spent the first weekend in Surrey, where I stayed with a friend. We visited Hampton Court as I was eager to see the Henry VIII exhibit, Heads and Hearts. This year is the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne, and there are celebrations and exhibitions throughout England. Hampton Court, which was one of Henry's primary residences, featured an exhibition of portraits of Henry and his wives, which I saw before it closed on August 3. But the star attraction is Heads and Hearts, which employs historical interpreters as Henry VIII, Kateryn Parr, Anne Herbert, Thomas Seymour and a servant. It Henry's wedding to Kateryn Parr, and we get to be the guests.
Quite enjoyable and very historically accurate. When I was in London in April, I saw something similar at The Tower, but the focus was on Henry and Anne Boleyn.
You won't regret visiting Hampton Court to enjoy the preparation for Henry's wedding. You get to meet the bride and groom and talk with them and with the others, too.
I also visited Polesden Lacey, the home of the great Edwardian hostess, the Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville. She was the illegitimate daughter of William McEwan, the millionaire Scottish brewer, and his housekeeper, whom he married when Margaret was 21. Maggie's bar sinister did not prevent her from marrying the Hon. Ronald Greville, the heir to 2nd Lord Greville. Margaret was the sole heiress to her father's fortune.
Polesden Lacey was bought by the Grevilles in 1906. They were "well-connected friends of Edward VII." The house, only 25 miles from London, was scene of many weekend parties. Mrs. Greville's circle of friends included Queen Ena of Spain and Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia. The house is filled with Old Masters and photographs of numerous royals who visited Polesden Lacey. One table feature portraits of Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia and her brother, Grand Duke Friedrich Franz of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (their mother was Grand Duchess Anastasia). Leaning over to get a closer look at a photo would set off an alarm. Let's just say I set off a few alarms.
I turned to my friend, and said, Oh, that's Franz Friedrich, Cecilie's brother. Makes sense because of the photo of their mom in the other room. One of the docents heard me and said in that very clear British accent: "Well done," Little did she knew what I do.
I nearly freaked out when I saw a super photograph of Grand Duke Michael of Russia and his wife, Countess Sophie Torby. For one brief fleeting moment, I considering grabbing the photo and running as fast as I could ... but I knew I would be caught!
Polesden Lacey is where the newlywed Duke and Duchess of York spent their honeymoon in 1923. One sweet photo shows the couple visiting Polesden Lacey several years later with their little blonde daughter in tow, running through the rose garden, which is still extant. In 1942, Mrs. Greville bequeathed Polesden Lacey and her other property to the National Trust. Today, it is one of the top 5 most visited National Trust properties. A truly lovely place.
I saw the magnificent Henry VIII exhibit at the British Library, and visited Buckingham Palace (2nd time) and Clarence House. On Tuesday, I took the Eurostar to Brussels (2 hour train ride), where I spent the day doing a lot of walking. My friend, Eric, met me in at the Grand Place, and we took the tram to Laeken, where we walked and walked and walked .... In the afternoon, I visited the Royal Palace and the Bellvue Museum, which is next door to the Palace. The Bellvue was the residence of Leopold III and his first wife, Astrid. It was very hot in Brussels. I certainly earned the Gaufre and the Belgian beer.