Talking Walls – Interesting Stories From Royal Palaces

buckingham-palace

Buckingham Palace

First off, we’ve got Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s humble abode. With 775 rooms, 78 bathrooms, 760 windows (that poor window cleaner) and a post office, cash machine and a cinema on site – it’s easy to see why a lowly peasant might want to get a sneak peek.

That’s where Edward Jones comes in.

His break-ins occurred during Queen Victoria’s reign, where he was caught making a snack in the royal kitchen and sitting on the throne twice. And if that wasn’t treasonous enough, he even tried to make off with the Queen’s knickers – stuffing them down his trousers.

Safe to say when word of his exploits reached Victoria, she was less than amused.

The Tower of London

Despite Jones not quite making it to the tower it has throughout history been home to many traitors. However, it wasn’t just traitors who were held captive in the tower…

From the reign of King John in the early 1200s many exotic animals lived at the Tower for over 600 years. The first beasts to arrive at London’s oldest zoo were lions, a polar bear and an elephant. The polar bear was one of the luckiest animals at the Tower, being given a long leash so it could swim in the Thames and catch fish.

Another famous tale of the Royal Menagerie is that of the zebra who was ‘particularly fond’ of ale and would saunter off to the soldiers’ canteen for a pint or two.

However, it wasn’t all fun and games at the Tower. Given its violent history it’s unsurprising that there are now many ‘grizzly’ tales of ghostly sightings. That’s right, the Tower is haunted by the ghost of a bear! Legend has it that many years ago a huge ghost of a bear appeared by the Martin Tower and scared a guard so badly that he died of shock on the spot.

Hampton Court Palace

And if that doesn’t convince you that ghosts exist, then how about two female visitors fainting on exactly the same spot in the Haunted Gallery only half an hour apart.

Spooky right?

Well, it’s because this particular area is thought to be haunted by the ghost of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. She was under house arrest at the palace after being accused of adultery but managed to escape her guards to run down the gallery to find the King and plead for her life. But as we all know from primary school, Henry the VIII wasn’t one to show much mercy.

Hampton Court Palace isn’t only the home to the beheaded ghosts of Henry the VIII’s wives but also the only surviving royal Chocolate Kitchens in Britain. Now I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to put up with a few ghosts if it meant I had my own personal chocolateer.

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The palace also holds another impressive title – it has the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze which was commissioned around 1700. Apparently, this is quite a tricky maze as mazes go, so if you want to spend a day getting lost, chased by ghosts or indulging on chocolate then Hampton Court is the place for you.

Banqueting House

Now this is my kind of palace. Any palace named after eating and I’m there.

The Banqueting House was also a firm favorite of James I. It was predominantly used to hold grand ambassadorial receptions and extravagant parties known as ‘Masques’. My favorite room in the palace is The Under croft, designed as a drinking den for James and his friends. We can only imagine all the debauchery the party goers got up to there.

James’ son, Charles I, didn’t get the same party experience as he was executed there after the English Civil War. His head was chopped off, held up for everyone to view, sewn back on to his body and then he was embalmed. Lovely.

Kensington Palace

Even though our Queenie has smashed the record, Queen Victoria had a decent run herself.

Most of it was spent at Kensington Palace which is synonymous with Victoria. Many important events in her life occurred within its walls. She was not only born there, but was also first introduced to Bertie and given news of her accession in 1837.

Kensington Palace has also been home to a celebrity of a different kind. A young boy known as ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ who was found by George I living feral in some German woods. He walked on all fours and was completely silent. When he was brought back to Britain he became somewhat of a sensation and a wax figure of him was even exhibited in the Strand. Bit of a change of scenery for Peter!

As we’ve seen the royals love their parties and extravagance. The more recent royals are no different.

Princess Margaret and her ex-husband, Lord Snowden, would throw excessive parties at Kensington, which were, of course, attended by plenty of celebrities. The Beatles were frequent guests and would actually perform sing-alongs around the piano.

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So, those are the more obscure stories around some of the UK’s historic Royal Palaces. It isn’t all architecture, jewels and guards in funny hats. It’s also parties, break-ins and apparently polar bears on leashes. So, although the history books may tell you different, these are the real reasons to visit them.

Stephen Leo

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