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Monday, May 30, 2016


One of the places Victoria and I were most anxious to visit on Open Houses Day in London was Horseguards. As you all know, neither Victoria nor I are strangers to Horseguards, but Open Houses Day presented a unique opportunity for us to finally see the Duke of Wellington's office and desk, both of which are pretty much untouched since the Duke's departure, though still used by the commanders through the years.

As you can see by the photos below, it was glorious day, so Victoria and I decided to walk to Horseguards from Trafalgar Square. 

 Looking South on Whitehall,  Horse Guards is coming up on the right.

Approaching Horse Guards:  Big Ben in the Distance

 Upon arrival at Horse Guards, we found that there was a bit of line to get in. Normally, we would have grumbled at the wait, but heck, when one is treated to a review and change of guards during the wait one would be an idiot to complain.

The Life Guards above, and the Blues and Royals below.

As it turned out Horse Guards was overwhelmed by the number of people who had turned out for tours of the building, so a young soldier in fatigues was handed a few sheets of historical notes and told to have at it. Thus, our tour began.

One of our first stops was the Cock pit, located below the stables.

Once our group was assembled within the confined space, our guide read from his notes, telling us about the history of cock fighting at Horse Guards - and how Wellington had allowed it to continue while serving as Commander in Chief of the Army.

"Ridiculous. Wellington would never have countenanced such a thing!" Had I just said that aloud? Apparently I had. 

Our guide looked down at the notes in his hand. "But it says so right here," he protested valiantly. 

"I don't doubt it. However I'm telling you that it's rubbish. The Duke served as Commander in Chief of the Army from 1842 to 1852. Cock fighting had been banned in England well before that time (Cruelty to Animals Act 1835) and Wellington would not have flaunted the law, nor allowed his men to do so."

Victoria laid a calming hand upon my arm. Oh, Lud, I thought, I have become that old woman. You know, the one who goes about correcting strangers and sticking her nose in where it don't belong. For several years now, I have been known as the Wellington woman in various quarters. I had just elevated myself to the old Wellington woman. Sigh. 

Eventually, we made our way upstairs.

Stairs to the first floor

Looking above

In the Floor: Seven Joined in One, referring to seven regiments of Household Division --
The Life Guards, Blues and Royals, Welsh Guards, Grenadier Guards, Scots Guards, Coldstream Guards, Irish Guards.

 Each regiment has its own ceremonial drum.

And then, before our very eyes was the entrance to the 
Duke of Wellington's office, wherein lies his desk. 

Portrait of Queen Charlotte

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

 View from the Duke's office of the forecourt and Whitehall

Once we were all in the room, our guide read from his notes and told us, "And above the door is a bust of Lord Palmerston."

"Palmerston? That's the Duke of Wellington," Victoria said aloud. 

"Look," said our guide, turning his notes so that Victoria could see them, "it says Lord Palmerston."

"I see that," Victoria agreed, " but I can assure you that it's Wellington. She looked at me, "Isn't it?"

I had decided not to say anything else on the subject after my outburst in the cock pit. After all, the majority of the people in the room with us wouldn't know Wellington from Churchill if push came to shove. Nevermind Palmerston. Put on the spot now, I had to admit, in front of many pairs of staring eyes, that the bust was indeed that of Wellington. We moved on. 

The dividing line between the parishes of St. Martin in the Fields and 
St. Margaret's Westminster passes through the Horse Guards Building.

The Duke's office fireplace

 In the Duke's Office, above and below, our fellow attendees

 The office window overlooking the parade grounds.

And last, but certainly not least, the Duke's desk.

You can find a complete history of this desk and its origins in this article by 
retired Major Ian Mattison on the Waterloo 200 website. 

The plaque reads, "This table was habitually used by Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington K.G. during his tenure as Commander in Chief 1842-52. It was restored to this room by Field Marshal The Duke of Connaught, Inspector General of the Forces 1904."

In the background, a portrait of George III

At the end of the tour, we left by a set of backstairs -

which provided a unique perspective of one of the guards on duty.

Friday, May 27, 2016


The London Library in St, James Square

Aaah, the London Library. The Holy Grail of research libraries as far as most historians are concerned. The oh so hard to get into Valhalla of archives. Such is the mystique that has been built up about the Library, one is certain that access into it's hallowed halls is as difficult to attain as a ticket to Almack's had once been. So, when Victoria and I were in London in September over Open Houses Weekend, we put the London Library in St. James's Square at the top of our list. This would be our chance to finally see the inside of this venerable institution. Unfortunately, we didn't know that one had to sign up for the Library tour prior to the date, but the very nice lady at the reception desk invited us to take a seat and to wait for the next tour to start. If the anticipated numbers did not show up, we would be more than welcome to join the group.

So we waited. And we eagerly eyed all who entered. Surely, we'd see the likes of world famous historians, household name authors and mayhap an Oxford don or two. Not a bit of it - everyone who entered the Library looked quite ordinary. Many of them looked to be students. When a pair of particularly young seeming male students walked by, Victoria whispered, "How do you think they got in here?"

"Don't know," I whispered back. "How did any of these people get in here?"

"The entrance fee is supposed to be really expensive, and besides that, you have to provide references. What sort of references could a pair of seventeen year olds have?"

"I think you're making it harder than it really is to get in here. I mean, we have references."

"We do?"

"Yes," I hissed, "of course we do. We're both published authors, aren't we? And we have the blog, which has been up and running on a regular basis for six years now. That should demonstrate a serious academic bent. At the very least it proves that our interest in researching 19th century Britain is more than a passing fancy."

"I don't know," Victoria said, "I think you have to have like three references from people who are already members of the Library."

"Are you sure? Maybe you're confusing it with White's Club."

The next tour group began to form and, miraculously, Victoria and I both got in. Joy! I must say, we really were given a behind the scenes tour: we were shown through many of the rooms and miles of stacks. We went up floor by floor to the attics and down again to the basement, all the while being surrounded by books we longed to get our hands on. The pictures below will give you some idea of the Library's holdings.

Upon our return to the States, I went online to seriously investigate exactly what membership in the London Library involved. Unsurprisingly, I soon got distracted - the Library has an online catalogue of its holdings called Catalyst, that will not only search for books and journals in the Library, but will also search for titles and in many cases the content of the Library's eJournal and database collections, as well. So, again unsurprisingly, I searched for the Duke of Wellington.

And got 6,614 results.

I also found online guides to various collections: The Food and Drink Collection,  A Guide to the French CollectionsGuide to the Topography Collections. Many more can be found on the Library's website

At long last, I got around to the membership page - Individual annual memberships are £485 or forty pounds per month. Victoria was correct, you do need a reference, or Referee, but they do not necessarily have to be a Library member:

Referee: Applicants are asked to give the name of a referee, who should be someone to whom you are known personally (but not someone living at the same address) and whose position can be verified if necessary (e.g. a member of a professional body, an academic, teacher, current member of the Library etc.). 

And there are alternatives to an annual membership for those who are just visiting the UK, shown below. Can't wait to let Victoria know - we actually do know several people in the UK who might vet us and we could always split the membership fees and share the online membership. Now it's just a question of how long it will take me to get through over six thousand results for the Duke of Wellington. 

Daily and Weekly Tickets
Daily & Weekly Tickets

  • A limited number of temporary tickets are made available for non-members who wish to consult specific material from the Library's collections which is not available in other publicly accessible national, specialist or public libraries
  • Daily tickets £15.00. Weekly tickets £50.00. (Cash or cheque payment only)
  • Advance booking required
  • Tickets are for reference use of the Library only
  • Applicants will need to produce two identification documents – one including a photo (eg passport, driving licence, travel card, student card, ID card) and one including confirmation of their current address (eg driving licence, recent bank statement or utility bill, official letter). Visitors to the UK are required to produce confirmation of their address while in the UK.
  • Contact Book Enquiries in the first instance to enquire about the materials you wish to consult. Contact Reception thereafter to make a booking

Temporary Overseas Visitors Membership

Temporary Overseas Visitors Membership

  • £243.00 for 4 months
  • Available for visitors from overseas with no permanent address in the United Kingdom. In addition to the subscription fee a deposit of £243.00 is payable on admission, refundable at the expiry of the membership, or earlier, provided that the membership card is surrendered and that all loans have been returned