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Charles Rex

Guidebook: Royal Gardens & KnightsBridge Barracks

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Privy Garden

 

The Privy Garden at Whitehall is laid out in ordered blocks with statues in the center of each square, the classical creatures easily draw the eyes of lovers of art. The different statues depict the nine Muses (Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania) and the three Graces (Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia), each holding or surrounded by that which is most associated with her, such as a lyre or scroll. As one wanders, it is often noted that the red roses remain on one side of the garden while the white ones remain on the opposite side, thus creating a pleasant contrast throughout. About the garden are scattered several benches, but none are secluded.

 

Entry point to:

  • Fountain
    • In the middle of the Privy Garden there was a fountain. It was a simple thing... a wide round of water with a single statue in the middle, sprouting water. Unlike last year both the garden and the fountain had been well tended to, and as a result the fountain itself almost sparkled. Around it sit benches, nearly hidden by rose bushes, both red and white

    [*]Sundial

    • Charles II was a well-known supporter of the sciences. Such was his fascination with astronomy and natural science that he commissioned Francis Hall (alias Line) to build this complicated device complete with crystals and turning elements. Often called the Pyramidical Sundial, it was made of stone, iron, brass, wood and glass with about 270 individual component dials, including a number of spherical glass dials and painted plane glass dials.
       
      The crystals contained pictures of the royal family including Catherine of Braganza, the Duke of York, the Duchess of Portsmouth, Nell Gwyn, and all 14 children that the King had lovingly recognized even though they were bastards. The only conspicuously absent face was the Lady Castlemain, Duchess of Cleveland. The device was a sundial that only operated on sunny days, but when it did the whole mechanism started moving and was surprisingly accurate in not only telling the time but the exact date.
       
      At all times one of the King’s Life Guard stood watch near the priceless object, which was located in a courtyard of the Privy Garden that connected the palace to St. James's Park. The King passed it everyday with a smile on his face.
       
      During the September Season, the sundial was the source a particular scandal in which the Earl of Rochester urinated on the prized artifact. This ultimately led to his banishment from Court during the Christmas Season.

    [*]Labyrinth

    • Made of man high evergreen bushes, the Labyrinth was an elaborate design with several exits. The entrance could be found just outside the Privy Garden.
       
      Its shape was geometrical which of course was fashionable. The center contained a wonderful fountain that spouted water high up into the air with a delightful little spray. Several seats were arranged around the fountain. It was considered the height of romance to spend a moment together in the center of the Labyrinth because of the privacy it offered. Often lords could be seen chasing ladies, with squeals of delight.

 

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Walled Garden

 

The walls are covered with climbing roses and ivy, while also containing many other rare plants, including a weeping willow. The enclosed walls give the impression of being separated from court, almost in another world. Not surprisingly, the Queen used to favour this garden by day, often drawing comfort from its surroundings and the familiar scent of orange blossoms from the citrus trees scattered throughout.

 

By night, though, it is a different story. Due to its secretive nature, it is said to be frequented by less savoury characters.

 

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  • Grotto
    • Inside the complete walled over garden, one could find a place of even greater closure. It was a grotto, completely unnatural, created by mans hands. The walls were covered with seashells in a certain pattern, and the rest of it was filled with mosaic, blue most of all, that shone brilliantly and beckoned all passers by to come closer.

 

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Volary Garden

 

Between the Privy Stairs and the location of the old Privy Gallery lay the Volary Garden, the aviary of King Charles II. On the other side it opened to the Kings Apartment, most particularly to the Kings Closet, also known as his Laboratory.

 

Four large statues representing ancient Greek goddesses graced the corners of the garden, which was filled with all matter of cages, filled with fowl. Pheasants, singing birds, peacocks, the most interesting amount of exotic birds, including parrots. Previously it was the site of the Kings Little Garden, which was the retreat of Charles I and forbidden to other nobles. Now however all were invited to share in the joy of the exotic, most especially the Maids of Honour, many of whom had their rooms open up to this private garden.

 

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Knightsbridge Barracks

 

The Household Cavalry consisted of The Life Guards and The Horse Guards. The Knightsbridge barracks was the compound where the Household Cavalry was quartered while in London, just bordering on St. James' Park. The 4th Company of the Life Guards did not have barrack space allotted to them in the Knightsbridge Barracks, as they were posted in Edinburgh, guarding the Royal Residence there.

 

The complex consisted of long, two-storied buildings, one for each troop, a common fencing hall, a small house for each of the regimental commanders to live and have offices in, stables with a closed dressage arena attached, two outdoor shooting ranges (one for pistols and one for muskets), and a wooded area surrounding all the buildings. The buildings are grey stone and slate ceiling, without exterior adornments but of solid construction.

 

Entry Point to:

  • Troop Buildings (including offices)
    • This was the main area of Knightsbridge Barracks. All buildings were built exactly the same, to minimize rivalries between the different troops. The ground floor featured a small office for the officer of the guard, the storerooms, the kitchen, and the mess halls. The first floor contained the troop commander’s private suite, the junior officers’ private rooms, one medium-sized bedroom shared by all non-commissioned officers, and a large sleeping room for the troopers.
       
      Commanders' Offices and Quarters
       
      The house was a two-storied building with a clerk's office at the entrance, and offices for the Commander and Second in Command to the Life Guard on the ground floor. On the first floor, with walls covered in English walnut, the suite of the regimental commander could be reached by going up a flight of stairs.
       
      Office of the Colonel of the Life Guard
       
      The office of Colonel Ablemarle of the Life Guard could be found in the Knightsbridge Barracks, part of Whitehall. The office was stern yet well appointed, with a clerk directing all traffic either to one of the staff officers or to the Colonel himself. Several large oil paintings depicting large battles and even a sea battle decorated the walls. A small cabinet with liquor was provided for certain occasions.
       
      Office of the Major of the 2nd troop of the Life Guard
       
      This was but a side room to the Office of the Commander of the Life Guard, which could be found in the Knightsbridge Barracks, part of Whitehall, and often people were send there that were not supposed to gain access to the Commander, too busy at his task. It was a small meager office, with only a desk and two chairs and a nondescript painting on the wall.
       
      Office of the Captain of the 3rd troop of the Life Guard
       
      This was but a side room to the Office of the Commander of the Life Guard, which could be found in the Knightsbridge Barracks, part of Whitehall, and often people were send there that were not supposed to gain access to the Commander, too busy at his task. It was a small meager office, with only a desk and two chairs and a non-descript painting on the wall.

    [*]Shooting Range

    • Part of the Knightsbridge Barracks, spilling into St. James' Park, were the shooting ranges. These well-kept outdoor grass areas were used for target practice. The smallest, some fifty paces in length, was used for pistol practice, whereas the larger of the two, two hundred and fifty paces in length, was uses for musket fire. Weapons could not hit a target at such ranges, but a safety area was left in the back, to minimize accidents.

    [*]Fencing Hall

    • The enclosed area had windows in three of the four sides, which let ample light in. It seemed to be divided into two sections of roughly the same size by a number of black walnut bookcases containing titles by authors like Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza and Don Luis Pacheco de Narváez from the “Verdadera Destreza” (True Skill) Spanish school of swordsmanship, as well as books by Achille Marozzo, Giacomo di Grassi, Salvator Fabris, Rodolfo Capo Ferro, and Francesco Antonio Marcelli from the Italian School.
       
      In the first section, three circles of different sizes had been drawn in the floor, with all kinds of straight lines, and small circles drawn inside and around them. They were used for teaching what was known as the Spanish style, a system of combat tied to intellectual, philosophical, and moral ideals, a conservative system of swordplay using both thrusts and cuts.
       
      In the second section, the elements of the Italian style were taught and practiced: the preference for certain guards, the preoccupation with tempo, the emphasis on thrusts, and many of the defensive actions particular to this style of swordsmanship which, besides rapier, also taught attacks and defenses with daggers, pikes, halberds, and bucklers, as well as the use of two of those at the same time.
       
      Several artful displays of armor and weapons called attention to the walls. Six dummies were set up in each section for those who wanted to practice their stabbing and cutting techniques. Yet, more often than not the men gathered here to train with each other, or to observe others.
       
      Here not just the courtiers practiced, but the troops of the Lifeguard and the rest of the Household Cavalry as well, since most of them were born into the gentry, those younger sons and brothers of the lords that vied for attention at the palace.

 

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Kings Mews

Nobility staying at Saint Marks Hall at Whitehall might keep their horses at the Royal stables during their stay. It is a large building on the border of Saint James park where it nears Charing Cross, next to the Knightsbridge Barracks - a convenient and short walk from the Palace proper.

To the east end of the building is the Stable master's office, Mr Tyndale a man in his 50's, man who takes vanity in two things: the efficiency of his service to the King, and his still vigorous dark crop of hair.

Within, it's industry fluctuates, where sometimes a veritable hive of business, upon other times it appears near deserted - yet always present is the tickly dry fragrance of hay and that warm and sweet equestrian smell. Here enough stabling was provided for the horses of the officers and troopers of the regiments, as well as horses in training and those of any visiting dignitaries and nobles that needed special care. The well covered buildings were also used to provide shelter for coaches, wagons, and the draft animals that pulled them.

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Enclosed Tennis Court

 

A vast and echoing space, the enclosed tennis court is something of a status symbol, indicative of the wealth and opulent lifestyle of its owners. Long and wide, with a high, sloping, glass ceiling, the plastered, white painted walls are littered with seemingly arbitrary obstacles, ranging from ledges to buttresses in actuality carefully constructed according to tennis court rules to add interest to the game.

 

A woven net is drawn between two wooden posts, positioned at either end of the central line, drawn in white paint on a floor of ruddily painted stone. The symmetrical outline of the spacious court, which has its very own dedicated entrance, a wooden door painted white and hidden away at one end, can be clearly seen from the viewing gallery, slightly raised and with its own entrance, which is positioned along one of the court's longer sides. Here, wooden benches on cast-iron stands, made comfortable with long, custom-made cushions of an opulent striped cotton in burgundy and cream, adorned with tremulous hints of gold thread, stand, ranged on three tiered stone platforms.

 

Temperate in summer, the court has a tendency to be chilly in the colder seasons, but these are difficulties easily overcome as the enclosed nature of the court means that royal tennis can be one of the very few sports easily playable all year round, even at night, when braziers, their fumes specially catered for by ventilation holes placed at regular intervals high-up along the walls, can be positioned at strategic intervals around the court, and the gallery can be similarly illuminated with a plethora of standing candelabra.

 

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The Orangery

 

The great glass windows supported in their metal frames let in the weak winter sun whilst keeping out the brisk breezes, lending a luxurious warmth to the outdoor-indoor space that was the orangery. The air was moist as well as warm, the great orange trees in their large pots carefully tended so that they would produce their treasure-trove of exotic fruit in the summer, unhindered by lack of water or blight of frost. A few orange flowers lent an exotic citrus scent to the air.

 

Between the great pots, stone benches were set so that courtiers might come and enjoy the sunshine without the need to brave the outdoors, and in the centre was a statue of a nymph and two sets of wrought iron tables, painted white, with matching chairs, that one might sit and take tea and enjoy the ambiance of the orangery.

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