London 2019 – Day 2 Part 3 National Portrait Gallery

London 2019 – Day 2 Part 3 National Portrait Gallery

Can you say exhausted? This is our last stop for Day 2 but by this time, I’m surprised either of us can actually walk! It was necessary though, as I had been dying to see some real Tudor portraits and the National Portrait Gallery is the place for those!

First up, we have King Richard III. This portrait was painted long after he had died at the Battle of Bosworth Field and lost the throne to Henry VII. I have such a soft spot for this king. Aside from the incredibly inaccurate but hilarious retelling of his defeat in the 1980s sitcom, Blackadder, I feel poor Richard was totally cheated by Henry Tudor! (More about him when I get to documenting our visit to Leicester.)

Richard VIII

Here are Henry VIII’s parents – Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Hard to believe these portraits were painted in the early 1500s. They have been preserved (and probably restored) beautifully!

Then we see a portrait of their infamous son, King Henry VIII. This one was painted during Henry VIII’s lifetime but shortly before he died. It is believed to have been owned by his personal chaplain and displayed to show loyalty to the king.

Here she is! Poor ol’ Anne Boleyn. Another royal for whom I have a big soft spot. Granted, she created some serious drama by marrying Henry VIII while he was still married to Catherine of Aragon, helping him break away from Rome to establish the Church of England so he could be head of the church and get a divorce, but she was SERIOUSLY ripped off by Henry in the end. He accused her of adultery and incest without any evidence, mostly because she hadn’t bore him a son. Then it was off to the Tower of London and off with her head! Anyway, this portrait was lovely to see. I love her little B necklace with pearl drops and her headdress. So iconic!

Anne Boleyn

Now we get to the two portraits I found most intriguing. Queen Elizabeth I. The gold paint actually glittered. I walked around the portraits and saw them from different angles…they glittered! How did they do that back in the day? Real gold? I could have stared at these paintings for hours! Such intricate brush strokes they almost didn’t seem real.

Some very famous non-Tudor portraits are also housed at the NPG. William Shakespeare’s portrait doesn’t quite have the sparkle or detail of the Tudor portraits (it probably didn’t get royal-level preservation treatment) but still wonderful to see. According to the Gallery, this was the first portrait it acquired when it was founded in 1856.

Thanks again to Blackadder for giving me a rather inaccurate portrayal of British royal history; portraits of George IV will always make me giggle. But he was quite the character in real life, apparently! George IV’s father suffered from mental illness, so he stood in as Prince Regent and then only reigned for 10 years after his father died. He lived a very indulgent lifestyle and ran up a lot of debt that had to be paid off by parliament. I guess that persona actually is portrayed pretty well in Blackadder after all. Here he is…

George IV

Still on the non-royal portraits, we came across portrait of George Washington. Mostly likely painted after he died it was done by the painter for whom Washington had previously sat, so we’re all good here.

Then finally, with pure exhaustion and jetlag sinking in once again, we came across this lovely and romantic sculpture of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria before we headed back to the hotel. Aww, they were so in love.

The National Portrait Gallery is jam packed with both significant historical portraits and modern art. Again, it’s one of those places you could spend a significant amount of time and still not see it all. Can we live in London now, please? We have so much to see and learn and these short little visits aren’t nearly enough.

London 2019 – Day 2 Part 2 Westminster Abbey

London 2019 – Day 2 Part 2 Westminster Abbey

We headed to Westminster Abbey via the Thames from the Tower of London. On the ferry, we traveled under famous London bridges – Tower Bridge, Millenium (aka Harry Potter) Bridge and got our first glimpse of Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben. It was undergoing renovations so it was covered in scaffolding.

Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben

It was just a short walk from the pier to Westminster Abbey and when we arrived, the line into the Abbey was very long and was still raining. Photography of any sort is not permitted inside the Abbey, so this post is a little light on pics but here are some outside shots.

Tip: order the guidebooks when you buy your entry tickets online. #1 you’ll save a bit of money and #2 you’ll have photos when you’re not allowed to take your own.

We had tickets to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. This is an attic-like space above the Abbey that was actually hidden from the public for over 700 years! It is chock-full of artifacts of British monarchy dating back 1000 years. Staring at the actual funeral effigy King Henry VII was remarkable and don’t get me started on the marriage license of Prince William and Kate Middleton. My calligraphy-and-royal-loving heart couldn’t take it! You are also able to peer over the open balconies for the most breathtaking view down onto the Abbey! I admit, again, I lost my mind at this sight and the tears started rolling again. 🙂 No photos allowed though, so I’m not able to share this view, unfortunately.

To get your own glimpse, click HERE for the official video about the Queen’s Jubilee Galleries.

Back downstairs the Abbey was very crowded, so it was a bit of a challenge to see everything. We somehow managed to miss Poet’s Corner completely!! It’s also a particularly tight squeeze to get in and around the area where Queen Elizabeth I is buried but still a must if you’re into Tudor history. Her sister, Queen Mary, is also buried with her but if you didn’t know it, you might miss it, so keep your eyes peeled. So much drama from this time in history! Amazing to see these things with our own eyes. Truly amazing!

Navigator’s Memorial – Westminster Abbey south cloister

The cloisters are full of different memorials and plaques and this one is dedicated to Captain James Cook, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Francis Chichester who all circumnavigated the globe. Captain James Cook in the 1700s is credited with being the first European to land in Botany Bay – the area where I grew up on the east coast of Australia.

As we were leaving the Abbey, we stopped by the Coronation Chair sitting in its own little protected room on the way out. By now, the crowds had dissipated so we were able to take our time staring at it through the glass. Such a treat to be able to see the real thing! Then, we walked out the big arched doors with the gift shop on our left and I was struck by the familiar view. As I looked back, I realized I was standing where Kate Middleton entered the Abbey to marry Prince William. Ahh! May not be a big deal for most people but it was a total fairytale moment for me. Hehe!

Photo credit: Huff Post

Again, we could have spent an entire day exploring Westminster Abbey. There is something to look at and learn about literally from floor to ceiling! I actually got a bit dizzy trying to see it all and walk at the same time. You also have to be careful and dodge the tourists who purchased the audio guides. They spend so much time staring at those silly devices, they will just stop in front of you. I’m sure they are getting a lot of good info, but goodness me…look at the real thing instead of a pic on a screen!

After the Abbey we quickly popped in to see the relatively new UK Supreme Court. We were able to wander around freely after going through security and even sit in one of the courtrooms. Then we jumped on the Tube to Soho to catch up with a dear friend over a delicious Mediterranean dinner before he dropped us off at the National Portrait Gallery.