145 Picadilly, The Queen’s Childhood Home

After moving out of 17 Bruton Street, the Duke and Duchess of York moved into 145 Picadilly, a townhouse near Hyde Park Corner. It had previously been the home of the Marquesses of Northampton and the neighbours were…

145 Picadilly (Via Alexander Palace)
145 Picadilly (Via Alexander Palace)

They took over the lease on the house in 1926 but didn’t move in unti 1927 when they returned from their tour of Australia and New Zealand.

A few facts about the house. It had:

  •  26 bedrooms
  • a nursery that had no plumbing, so princess elizabeth would wash your face and hands with a jug and basin
  • a staff of 21 (19 of whom lived in the house) that included
  • a butler
  • under butler
  • housekeeper
  • three housemaids
  • a cook
  • three kitchen maids
  • two footmen
  • a ladies maid
  • valet, steward
  • odd-job man (how’s that for a job title)
  • RAF orderly
  • telephone operator
  • a night watchman

Surprisingly by today’s standards, at the time this was considered a relatively modest house – even for the second son of the king. Here’s a look at the drawing room:

Now that's a drawing room (via Alexander's Palace)
Now that’s a drawing room (via Alexander Palace)

And this was the Duchess of York’s boudoir:

Love the chandelier (via Alexander Palace)
Love the chandelier (via Alexander Palace)

This photo shows Princess Elizabeth just outside the gates of 145 Picadilly

Princess Elizabeth (via Getty images)
Princess Elizabeth (via Getty images)

And here we have a two year old Princess Elizabeth pushed her pram in the ground of the house in 1928

(via Daily Mail)
(via Daily Mail)

With her corgis 1936

(via )
The garden of 145 Picadilly (via Beaumont Enterprise)

And with her parents on the steps of the house

On the steps of the house (via Pinterest)
On the steps of the house (via Pinterest)

A sweet story comes from Robert Lacey’s book A Brief Life of the Queen:

When the King returned to London, he declared that regular contact with his granddaughter was essential to his health.

He’d also worked out that, when the trees in Green Park shed their leaves, he could actually see the windows of her home from the rear of Buckingham Palace.  So every winter morning, soon after breakfast, the young Princess would draw her curtains and wave across the park, and her grandfather would wave back.

The York family lived there until the abdication, when they moved to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately the house didn’t make it though the bombing raids of WWII. Where the house once stood stands The Intercontinental Hotel.

A Look at 17 Bruton Street

For this post we thought it would be fun to look at a royally historic address in London and to see how it has changed over the years.

17 Bruton Street in Mayfair was the London residence of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. The Earl and Countess (their Christian names were Claude and Cecilia) were Elizabeth Bowes Lyon’s parents, shown here on the left in this famous wedding portrait.

The Earl & Countess of Strathmore (via flickr)
The Earl & Countess of Strathmore with Elizabeth & Bertie on their 1923 wedding day (via flickr)

This photograph of Bruton street was taken in 1904. The street stretches towards the lovely Berkeley Square Gardens.

dWED50

The Strathmore’s moved into 17 Bruton Street in 1920 from their previous residence at 20 St. James’s Square. Several of the letters documented in the book Counting One’s Blessings The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth were written there or reference going to and from the house.  It seems that some extensive work was done on the house before the family moved in. In April 1921 Elizabeth wrote this letter to her governess Beryl Poignand from the Strathmore’s stately Hertfordshire home St. Paul’s Waldenbury:

12 April 1921 to Beryl Poignand

St. Paul’s Waldenbury

Dear M, 

I haven’t heard from you for years fickle Beast. I am longing to hear, so take up your pen oh Medusa, & forthwith set down on paper all your doings & thoughts […]

Mother & I have been here since Xmas now- isn’t it extraordinary? I am longing for ’17’ [Bruton Street] to be finished, and then you must instantly come and see it…”

It was at that point that Elizabeth struck up a closer friendship with Prince Albert. She left from the house on her way  to Westminster Abbey on her wedding day April 26, 1923:

Elizabeth-Bowes-Lyon-wedding-day-300x240

 

Another look. We wrote about her very of the moment dress here, if you’f like to see.

(via Chic Vintage Bridal)
(via Chic Vintage Bridal)

Three years  the Duke and Duchess of York moved there for a few months for  the birth of their first child. They had previously lived in Chesterfield House and Curzon House in Mayfair. The future Queen Elizabeth was born at 17 Bruton on at 2:40am 21 April 1926. Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks was present in the house following tradition. At the time, Princess Elizabeth was third in line to the throne after her dad and uncle, and was named HRH Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York after her mother, paternal grandmother Queen Mary and great-grandmother Queen Alexandra. Both King George V and Queen Mary visited the home to see the new baby and massive crowds gathered at the house to witness it all. Despite that – no photos of the King and Queen’s arrival can be found.  By the way, they switched things up for Princess Margaret, who was born at her maternal grandparents Scottish estate Glamis Castle on August 21 1930.

Princess Elizabeth was christened on May 29, 1926 at the private chapel in Buckingham Palace. At the time, she was still living on Bruton Street, and here she is heading to BP with the Duchess of York. This is also a a rarely seen look at the famous christening gown (lots more about the christening gown can be found here).

Duchess of York leaving 17 Bruton Street (via )
Duchess of York leaving 17 Bruton Street (via The Times)

Here’s an excerpt of one from 1926, which goes to show how much the Duke and Duchess of York appreciated being able to stay and live at the house. It wasn’t until later that the Duke and Duchess of York took a London house at 145 Picadilly, which we’ll just have to write about in a future post.

28 October 1926 to Lady Strathmore

Sandringham 

Norfolk

My Darling Mother

Thank you a thousand times for your two last letters. I am so sorry that poor father has a cold, and I do hope he is better now. I wonder when you will be coming south? […]

We leave here tomorrow, & return to B.[ruton] Street. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without it. 

The baby is very well, and now spends the whole day taking her shoes off & sucking her toes! She is going to be very wicked, and she is very quick I think…

Sadly, the house has been demolished and we haven’t yet unearthed when this happened or when the Strathmores decided to sell (do you know?). However, a plaque is on the building that now stands in its place. The plaque was added as part of the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012.

via London Remembers
via London Remembers

It reads On this site at 17 Bruton Street stood the townhouse of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne where Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, later to become Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was born on 21 April 1926. 

Here’s the building that stands there now.

 

via London Remembers
via London Remembers

In fact, there’s a restaurant there that holds the address 17 Bruton Street. It’s highly rated and called Haakasan.

As a side note, favourite royal Designer Norman Hartnell also has some history on Bruton Street. On 11 May 2005, Hartnell was commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at 26 Bruton Street, London W1, where he lived and worked from 1935 to 1979.

Do you know anymore about 17 Bruton Street? Have you taken a stroll by where it once stood?

 

Royal Mourning Gowns at the Costume Institute

Last weekend we found ourselves in New York City soaking up the fall foliage and vibrant energy around the annual marathon.

A view (via he Royal Post)

On Saturday we stopped by the Metropolitan Museum for a good look around and – surprise, surprise – it was packed. There was a  particular crush getting into the Costume Institute’s current exhibit, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire.  Quite appropriate for Halloween weekend, right? Plus, knowing that some royal gowns were there we just had to peak in.

via The Metropolitan Museum
Welcome! (Courtsey The Metropolitan Museum)

Visitors are guided around the exhibit in chronological order from the first costume that dates to 1815 to the last from 1915, and you can really see the progression of how the tradition of mourning dress evolved over the years. The backgrounds and mannequins themselves are all a crisp white, so even more attention is brought to the costumes.

This could be Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester (via Metropolitan Museum)
This could be Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester (via Metropolitan Museum)

Quotes about the tradition of mourning dress are reflected up on the walls giving more insights into the culture surrounding mourning. One that stood out for me was this quip:

“When we see ladies persist in wearing sable, we are reminded of the reply a young widow made to her mother: ‘Don’t you see,’ said she, ‘it saves me the expense of advertising for a husband.'”

While widowers could get away with remarrying a month or two of grieving, for women tradition dictated two and a half years plus a day of mourning in various shades of black, grey, and purple. The first year was for “full mourning” (nothing but dull fabrics and often a veil worn over the face), followed by a year of  “half-mourning” (some taffeta and trays and purples might be all right) and another six months of “ordinary mourning” (you might get away with some white). So as you would expect there was a big industry for mourning clothing and accessories.

Once you hit the second half of the room, some Royal dresses await. The first belonged to the Queen of Mourning herself, Victoria. After all, this is a woman who wore a version of mourning dress 40 years from the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1961  until her own death in 1901.

photo 3

 

Seeing her gown with that ghostly veil is another reminder of just how small in stature she was. They had to put her up on this pedestal so she wasn’t completely dwarfed by the others.

photo 4

A closer look at some of the ribbon detailing

photo 5

 

Things start to lighten up considerably when we see Queen Alexandra’s sparkly mourning gowns worn after her mother-in-law Queen Victoria’s death.

photo 1

 

These two gowns are so ornate – unfortunately these pictures from my phone just don’t quite do them justice.  The beadwork is incredible, but they still follow the rules of mourning in that the colours are subdued.

 

photo 2

Remember, Queen Alexandra didn’t shy away from diamonds- this is a woman who had them encrusted on the handle of her coronation fan– so there would have been extra sparkle.

photo 4

That train! This can’t have a been a lightweight dress to wear around.
photo 2

 

The exhibit also includes a look at some Victorian mourning accessories and discusses how the tradition started to end after the first World War. In a nutshell, the thought of the whole population is mourning was too overwhelming. The exhibit runs from October 21 – February 1, 2015 if you have  a chance to check it out for yourself!

Here are a few other royal-themed museum visits we’ve discussed, if you’d like to see:

(Unless otherwise specified, images belong to The Royal Post)