Published: Monday 30th of July 2012
When it comes to things London is famous for, the royal family has got to be up there. The iconic family has always been the subject of fascination, as they live a life the rest of us can only dream of, but the past two years have seen them thrust even more into the international spotlight.
The stunning wedding of Prince William to 'commoner' Kate Middleton in April last year saw the whole world tune in to witness the fairytale nuptials which took place at Westminster Abbey. Since then, the couple have continued to win the hearts of the world with glamorous trips abroad and philanthropic charity work at home.
However, it is not just the young royals that have been in the news, with Brits turning out in their masses to pay homage to the Queen as she reached the impressive milestone of Diamond Jubilee. The Olympic Opening Ceremony then saw the much-loved monarch take part in a comedy skit with James Bond, allowing the globe to get a glimpse of her much-reported sense of humour, before she declared the Games open.
With all this in mind, visitors to London may want to spend some of their time in the capital becoming familiar with royals past and present, learning how the kings and queens of the past lived and met their tragic end and how being a royal has evolved to become the role it is today. Fearsome monarchs like 'virgin queen' Elizabeth I and her notorious tyrant of a father Henry VIII were known for their fondness for ordering beheadings, while today's royal family are more likely to be found carrying out charity work. Visiting the palaces of the past and present is a great way to get a glimpse into the lives of the royals.
What better place to start than Windsor Castle - the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, and the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II?
Highlights at the castle include the Magnificent State Apartments, which are furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection, as well as St George's Chapel - touted as "one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England" - which has fittingly seen ten monarchs laid to rest in there.
Currently in the exhibition space the Drawings Gallery, there is a display to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee entitled "The Queen: Sixty Photographs for Sixty Years". This encompasses a photograph for every year Her Majesty has been on the throne, and includes the work of leading press photographers of the past six decades. Running until October 28th this year, the exhibition looks at moments of the Queen's reign, from official state moments to intimate family gatherings.
People who are more interested in the history of the royal family should try Kensington Palace.
Kensington Palace originally passed into royal hands in around 1689 when William III and Mary II came to the throne, and the pair bought Nottingham House in order to escape the grime of Whitehall. The Jacobean mansion was originally built around 1605 and the royals ordered it to be expanded.
One of the palace's most famous residents was Queen Victoria - the only monarch aside from our own to have reached the milestone of Diamond Jubilee. In Victoria Revealed, visitors are invited to explore the fascinating queen in her own words with the exhibition being inspired by Victoria's own journals, and featuring displays of personal objects in the rooms she once inhabited. It looks at her turbulent private life, intense love affair with husband Albert and her reign, starting in 1837, which was as eventful as the times she lived in.
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