Queen Elizabeth II arriving to visit the dance company Rambert in London, on March 21, 2014
Queen Elizabeth II arriving to visit the dance company Rambert in London, on March 21, 2014 Photo: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

London Calling – HM The Queen and London

The Nation wept when the Kingdom’s longest serving Monarch died earlier this month. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022. Her reign of 70 years, 214 days is the longest of any British monarch and, in fact, the longest reign of a female head of state, anywhere, ever.

The Queen was famous for travelling the far-flung corners of her country, the Commonwealth and the world but, in essence, she was a Londoner!

Her Late Majesty was born on April 21, 1926, at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair. The property bears a plaque commemorating this moment in history that was to shape the future of the country into which she had arrived. Sadly, the original Georgian house was demolished in 1937.

This was a very smart area of London for sure, but certainly not a palace, stately home, or even a hospital. This was a townhouse on a busy London street owned by the Queen’s Scottish grandparents. At this point, of course, there was no likelihood that Elizabeth Alexandra Mary would become Queen as her Uncle, not her father, was the heir to the throne.

Famously, the Queen loved her other homes in the United Kingdom, but Buckingham Palace in West London is the official residence of the monarch in the UK. Sandringham, Norfolk was the favourite at Christmas time, Windsor Castle, just 25 miles west of Central London, became the Queen’s principal residence in Lockdown and, of course, Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland was the summer place and where her Late Majesty died.

During World War II, the future Queen spent much of her time with her sister, the future Princess Margaret at Windsor and they were often separated for long periods of time from their parents who steadfastly stayed at Buckingham Palace, experiencing the horrors of the Blitz so that they could, in the words of the Queen Mother, ‘look the East End in the face’.

At the age of 19, the future Queen signed up to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) to help with the war effort, but it was the day that war in Europe ended, May 8, 1945, that was to become the real stuff of legend!

With her younger sister in tow, the future Queen joined revellers outside Buckingham Palace to celebrate. They danced the Hokey Cokey and The Lambeth Walk and joined in chanting ‘We Want the King’, trying to entice their father George VI out onto the balcony of the palace. Later that evening, they were seen dancing a conga through the Ritz in nearby Piccadilly!

When she later became Queen, Her Late Majesty enjoyed life in London. A city full of amazing restaurants and entertainment, the choice was bedazzling as the country emerged from the depravations of war and austerity.

A real favourite was Bellamy’s Mayfair. Located close to where she was born, the establishment, which won Tatler Magazine’s most civilised restaurant, was the venue she chose to celebrate her 80th birthday. Other firm favourites were the original Ivy in the West End, along with Claridge’s and Quaglino’s.

Invitations to premieres and high-profile events aside, the Queen enjoyed the amazing variety that London theatre had to offer. Famously, she and the late Duke of Edinburgh would arrive unannounced at shows and plays, slipping in, often just before curtain up, to see a show. This continued until quite recently – in 2009, they arrived just in time to see “War Horse”, apologising to the audience who had to stand up to let the late arrivals into their seats and, in 2006, it was a similar story for “Billy Elliot”.

Queen Elizabeth II was a style icon. Famously, she said that if she dressed in beige, no one would know who she was and though this was doubtful, her fondness of bright, bold colours was well known. She enjoyed shopping for fashion at John Lewis, Barbour, Smythson and Aspinal of London.

Perhaps her favourite London store of all though was Fortnum & Mason. Located just around the corner from Buckingham Palace in Piccadilly, this was where the Queen did her Christmas shopping every year. Fortnum & Mason has served many monarchs since it was established in 1707 and is famous for inventing the Scotch egg and so much more!

Another famous signature item for the Late Queen were her handbags – so where did these come from? Launer of London provided Her Majesty with perhaps two to three handbags each year from the 1960s onwards and have been tight-lipped about what made them so appealing.

Recently, Creative Director Gerald Bodmer said: “Her Majesty does have some adjustments. We might make the handles longer, or we might take out a suede lining and replace it with a silk lining. She carries her bag, like a lot of women, as part of her clothing. The latest bag has a frame, so it can be held under the arm. The Queen wants ease of opening from her bag: no shoulder bag or zips.”

Other famous fans of Launer include the Queen Consort, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher loved them too and sales jumped by 53% when she died.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died in Scotland but returned to the UK capital on September 13, 2022. Londoners provided a heartfelt welcome as they lined the streets to catch a final glimpse of Her Majesty and pay their respects. The lying in State at Westminster Hall attracted over a million people who patiently queued to file through this 800-year-old building which when built in 1097 was the largest hall in Europe.

On Monday, September 19, the meticulously choreographed funeral was held as the world watched on. Some two million people flooded into London and over 500 Kings, Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers were amongst those invited to Westminster Abbey.

The Late Queen broke with the tradition of having the funeral at Windsor because it was felt that St George’s Chapel would simply not be large enough to accommodate so many dignitaries and guests. Over 4,000 military personnel took part in the ceremony and more than 10,000 police officers were on duty. It really was a send off fit for a Queen. Our Queen. Rest in Peace, Ma’am.

By Richard Lamberth

Richard leads parallel lives with homes and business interests in London and Portugal. He provides consultancy services to leading businesses in insurance and financial services, property and media sectors. He has four sons, two dogs and enjoys a busy family life. He likes swimming, keeping fit and an outdoor life.
LondonCalling@algarveresident.com