Leaving the Duke of York's Column, we headed towards Trafalgar Square and on towards Horse Guards.
"Why is it that wherever we go in London, we're always passing either Big Ben or Apsley House?"
"Because London, old London, is not really that big. The City of London was known as the Square Mile. Strictly speaking, our hotel in Mayfair is without the City."
"Without the City what?"
"Outside the City. As far as the time periods and people I'm interested in go, the most important bits of London are bounded on the east by the Tower, in the west by Knightsbridge, to the north by Bayswater Road and to the south by Southwark."
"But why do you keep going to the same places every time you come to London? How many times have you been to Horse Guards?"
"Practically every time I've been in London."
"That's nuts. Why do you do it?"
"For the same reason that I keep returning to Apsley House. I'm hoping that one day I'll see the Duke of Wellington. The first Duke of Wellington. I keep going to St. James's Street because I'm hoping to spot Brummell walking into White's. And I go to the Burlington Arcade because I want to one day find my carriage and coachman waiting there for me. I can't actually go back to 19th century London, so I return to the scenes of the crimes, so to speak, and imagine what once was. Plus, while I do the rounds of the same places, I'm always looking at other areas surrounding them, too. Each time I explore some new aspect of the area."
"Your ghost is going to haunt London when you die."
"One can but hope."
We walked down Whitehall and past the Clarence Pub, where Victoria and I have been known to raise a pint together, and were soon at Horse Guards.
The Household Calvary on duty are an impressive sight and there are always tourists surrounding the mounted guards and taking pictures. On this particular day, the crowds were huge - one could barely navigate the sidewalk for all the people pressing in to see the guards.
"Are they allowed to get that close? Look, the horse doesn't like it, he's tossing his head. Hey, they're touching the horse. Are they allowed to do that?
"I don't think there's a rule that you can't get that close, but I've never seen the guards being that crowded before."
"Why don't they back off? It's crazy." No sooner had Hubby voiced these words than the mounted guard slowly, but deliberately, backed his horse further into the archway. Still looking straight ahead, we watched as he raised his right arm and began pushing a button on the interior wall. It was as contained as a cry for help could be.
"Did you see that?" Hubby asked.
"Yeah. I didn't even know they had panic buttons in there. Come on, let's get out of this crowd."
"Are you nuts? I'm not leaving until I see who comes to rescue him."
So we waited. And waited. And waited. Reader - no one came to his rescue.
"I can't believe no one is coming," Hubby said, disappointed.
"No doubt they have cameras watching. Maybe whomever is manning them looked at the situation and didn't deem it enough of an emergency to send the guards. Come on; no one is coming so let's go."
We walked through the courtyard and into the archway that leads to the back parade ground.
There is always a guard stationed in the arch, near the entrance to what was once the Duke of Wellington's office.
"This is where they had the beach vollyeball during the Olympics," I told Hubby when we came out into the rear yard.
"You know, everyone goes to the Palace to see the changing of the guard, but if you come here any day at 4 p.m. you can see the daily inspection parade. Then you don't have to fight the crowds. Although it's not the same, is it?"
"Uh huh. Why are we standing here? It's freezing."
Sigh. "I'm just taking it all in, communing with the history. Look up there, that's the window to Wellington's office."
"Let's go inside."
"Inside where? What's this?"
"The Household Calvary Museum."
"What's in there?"
"Household Calvary stuff!"
The Museum traces the history of the Household Calvary from the 1600's to present day and, once Hubby got a look a the uniforms, arms, saddles, etc., he got into the spirit of the thing.
The Calvary's stable is adjacent to the Museum and there's a portion of the Museum that features a glass partition, through which visitors can see the horses in their stalls. It so happened that there was a guide on duty in the viewing room.
"Excuse me," I said, approaching him. "Can you tell me if Sefton
is here?" Sefton, you may recall, was the Calvary horse who was injured but survived the 1982 IRA bomb in Hyde Park.
He gave me a sad smile and a pitying look. "Sefton is dead, Madam."
"The original Sefton is dead, yes. But in his honour there is always a horse named Sefton in the regiment. I just wondered if he was stabled here."
He seemed somewhat taken aback. "I didn't know that. And I don't know much about the individual horses kept here. There's a bit about Sefton in the museum, however, towards the end. You may be interested."
"No doubt. Thank you."
"Thank you, Madam."
"I love it when you do that!"
"I didn't do anything. I just asked a question."
"I love it when you tell them stuff they didn't know and they give you that `just who the Hell are you?' look."
"You should get a job here."
"At Horse Guards?"
"Somewhere in England, at a museum or a castle or something."
God, are you listening?
We spent the next half hour looking at the various displays, with a particular focus on Waterloo relics, like the pistol ball that wounded Sir Robert Hill and, in my opinion the best of the lot, the Marquess of Angelsey's artificial leg. You may recall my previous post on Paget's leg. If not, you can find it here.
"Look, Paget's leg!"
"Henry Paget. Afterwards the Marquess of Angelsey. He ran off with the wife of Wellington's brother, Henry. Henry suffered a sort of mental breakdown and was unable to care for his children, who went to live with Artie and Kitty for a time. Later, at Waterloo, it turned out that Artie had to put up with having Paget on his staff. When the fighting was over, Artie and Paget were both on their horses, talking, when one of the last shots of the battle was fired and hit Paget, nearly taking his leg off. He had to have it amputated shortly afterwards."
"Maybe Artie shot him. Who could blame him?"
Who, indeed? We finished our visit to Horse Guards in the gift shop, where I bought the Christmas ornament below -
"I'll just take this," I said, pushing the ornament towards the clerk at the till. "Everyone should have the Duke of Wellington on their Christmas tree."
"Yes, they should," said the clerk. "Although you are the first person who's recognized it as being the Duke. Everyone else seems to think that it's Prince Albert."
Hubby put his lips to my ear and whispered, "That's my girl!"
Part Three Coming Soon . . . . .
Labels: A Couple in England, Duke of Wellington, Kristine Hughes