Top Historical Tips for London

Photo by Moniek Bloks

When planning a trip to London, there is plenty of historical things to see. But which places are specifically related to royal women?

1. Buckingham Palace

You simply can’t go to London without visiting Buckingham Palace. It is open to the public during the summer months.

Buckingham Palace is perhaps one of the most recognizable landmarks. The building dates from 1703 when it was named Buckingham House. It was owned by the Duke of Buckingham until King George III purchased it for his growing family with Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Most of their children were born there, including Augusta Sophia of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, Sophia of the United Kingdom and Charlotte, Princess Royal.

It became the London residence of the British monarch upon the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Several of her children, including Victoria, Princess Royal,  Alice of the United Kingdom, Helena of the United Kingdom, Louise of the United Kingdom and Beatrice of the United Kingdom. It was hit by a bomb in the Second World War, which destroyed the chapel. Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen mother) famously said, “I’m glad we’ve been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face”.

2. Tower of London

Several royal women are associated with the Tower, the most famous being Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn became the second wife of Henry VIII after he broke with Rome to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. A pregnant Anne stayed at the Tower before her coronation and stayed in the same apartments three years later awaiting her execution.  She stayed in the Queen’s Lodgings, which are now gone.

Another one of Henry VIII’s Queens, Catherine Howard, ended up in the Tower, though she spent most of her imprisonment at Syon Abbey, before being moved to the Tower two days before her execution. She too stayed in the Queen’s lodgings. Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford was serving Catherine Howard and was an accomplice in her meetings with Thomas Culpepper. She had survived her sister-in-law and husband’s fall, but she would not survive this. Jane was interrogated for several months and “lost her wits”. She was nursed back to health in the custody of the wife of Admiral Lord Russell. She was rowed back to the Tower a day before Catherine and was also kept in the Royal Apartments, probably in the King’s or Queen’s Apartments.

Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI,  was kept at the Tower after her defeat at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. Though it is not recorded where she was imprisoned, she was kept in “comfortless captivity” and was treated “with the utmost harshness”, suggesting that it was not in the comfortable royal lodgings. She was later moved to Windsor Castle and Wallingford Castle, before being allowed to leave for France.

See for more information and a detailed map this article. 

3. Christ Church Greyfriars

This little gem is in the middle of busy London, near St. Paul’s Cathedral. Christ Church Greyfriars has its roots in the 13th century but the monastery was dissolved in 1538 and what remained of the medieval church was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. A new church was built on the site, designed by Wren. This church was severely damaged during the Second World War, and it was decided not to rebuild the church. It was designated a Grade I listed building.

The Church was built at the expense of Margaret of France, who was the second wife of Edward I. She was buried in the church, as was her daughter-in-law Isabella of France. The heart of Eleanor of Provence was interred here as well. Other royal burials include Joan of the Tower, Queen of Scots (daughter of Edward II and Isabella of France), Isabella of England, Countess of Bedford (daughter of Philippa of Hainault and Edward III), Beatrice of England (daughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence) and Margaret, Duchess of Norfolk (a granddaughter of Margaret of France).

4. Kensal Green Cemetery

Perhaps not the most fun place to visit, but this cemetery is the final resting place of Princess Sophia. She wished to be buried “on the south side of the cemetery of Kensal Green.” It was near where her brother Augustus, Duke of Sussex was buried. Her funeral was to be “as private as possible.” She was laid to rest on 6 June 1848 in the cemetery vault, for the time being. A casket tomb was designed for her and was ready a year later. She was transferred to “grave plot number 8028”.

5. Kensington Palace 

The magnificent Kensington Palace was once a two-story mansion built by Sir George Coppin in 1605. It was purchased by Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham in 1619 and it then became known as Nottingham House. Joint monarch William and Mary began to search for a new residence, and they purchased Nottingham House from the 2nd Earl of Nottingham in 1689. They ordered an expansion, and the original structure was kept intact, but a three-story pavilion was added at each of the four corners. They took up residence shortly before Christmas 1689. It remained a favourite royal residence for the next 70 years.

Queen Mary died at Kensington Palace of smallpox in 1694 and William too died there in 1702. He was succeeded by Queen Anne, and she had Christopher Wren complete the extensions. She also attributed to the gardens. Queen Anne’s husband died at Kensington Palace in 1708, and she also died there on 1 August 1714.

King George I created three new state rooms, known as the Privy Chamber, the Cupola Room and the Withdrawing Room. He housed his mistress, Melusine von der Schulenberg, Duchess of Kendal, in one of the apartments. The last reigning monarch the use Kensington Palace was King George II. His wife, Caroline of Ansbach, had the gardens redesigned in a form that is still recognisable today.

The future Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, and she had an unhappy childhood there. Other royal inhabitants included: Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont, Duchess of Albany her daughter, Princess Alice, Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret.

6. Kew Palace and Gardens

Kew Palace is perhaps one of London’s treasures, a lovely red building in the middle of a huge park with a ton of royal history.  It was originally a much larger complex, but the main building, known as the Dutch House, survives to this day. It was occupied by the royal family from 1728 until 1818 (and briefly in 1844 when Queen Victoria sent her three eldest children there for the summer).

In 1728, the Dutch House was leased by Caroline of Ansbach to house her three eldest daughters, Anne, Amelia and Caroline.

Frederick, Prince of Wales’s sister Amelia probably lived in the Dutch House throughout the 1730s and 1740s but moved out around 1751 when she was made ranger of Richmond Park, which came with a new residence. His son George became King in 1760 and married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, with whom he had 15 children. His mother, Augusta, had the Orangery and Pagoda built at Kew Gardens and she retained the Dutch House though she mainly lived elsewhere. She also extended and enlarged the exotic garden.

In 1801, Charlotte and her daughters moved into the Dutch House as they awaited news of George’s mental health. In 1805, George met his daughter-in-law Caroline of Brunswick and his granddaughter Charlotte at the Dutch House, which means they probably lived there for a short while as well. In 1809, the Dutch House was refitted to house his youngest daughter, Princess Amelia. She never moved in and died at Windsor in 1810.

7. St James’s Palace

St James’s Palace is still the official residence of the sovereign and its considered the most senior royal palace in the United Kingdom. However, it is no longer the principal residence of the monarch.

It was built by Henry VIII between 1531 and 1536 on the site of a leper hospital, which had been dedicated to Saint James the Less. St James’s Palace was considered less important that the Palace of Whitehall, but it increased in importance in the Georgian period until it was displaced by Buckingham Palace. The monarch’s private apartments were destroyed by fire in 1809. These were never replaced, and because of this a road now separates the Queen’s Chapel from the rest of the palace.

Two of Henry VIII’s children died at St James’s Palace, his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy and Queen Mary I. Elizabeth I often resided at the palace and reportedly spent the night there as the Spanish Armada approached.

In 1638 the palace was given to Marie de Medici, the mother of Charles I’s Queen Henrietta Maria. She lived there for about three years, but her presence in England was unpopular, and she soon moved to Cologne. The future Queen Mary II and Queen Anne were both born at St James’s Palace.

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert at St James’s Palace and her daughter the Princess Royal also married her husband there.

St James’s Palace is still a working palace, and it is the London residence of the Princess Royal, Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Eugenie of York and Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy. As such it is not open to the public. It often houses official receptions.

8. Westminster Abbey

By Σπάρτακος – CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Westminster Abbey is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable buildings and is the traditional place of coronation and the burial site for English and later the British monarchs. Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have taken place in the Abbey. There have also been at least 16 royal weddings in Westminster Abbey.

9. Eltham Palace

CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The original palace was given to King Edward I in 1305, and it was used as a royal residence from the 14th to the 16th century. Isabella of France gave birth to John of Eltham at the Palace. Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of Edward IV, gave birth to her daughter Catherine of York at the Palace. The Tudor monarchs often used the Palace for their Christmas celebrations. The shortlived Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, died at the Palace at the age of 3. The royal nursery that included her sister Margaret Tudor and the future Henry VIII was located at Eltham.

It fell into ruins, and the current house was built in the 1930s. There are still original elements.

Bonus: Windsor Castle

By Aurelien Guichard from London, United Kingdom – WindsorUploaded by BaldBoris, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

About 45 minutes from London, you can find Windsor Castle. The original castle was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. It has since been used by the reigning monarch and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The nearby St George’s Chapel has been the site of many royal weddings. In 1871, Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise married the future Duke of Argyll. In 1879, Queen Victoria’s son Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught married Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia.  In 1880, Princess Frederica of Hanover, a great-granddaughter of King George III, married Baron Alfons von Pawel-Rammingen. In 1882, Queen Victoria’s son Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, married Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont. In 1891, Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, married Prince Aribert of Anhalt. In 1904, Princess Alice of Albany, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, married Prince Alexander of Teck. In 1905, Princess Margaret of Connaught, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, married the future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. In 1919, Lady Helena Cambridge (born Princess Helena of Teck) married Major John Gibbs. The most recent royal wedding was that of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999.

Burials include Elizabeth Woodville, Alexandra of Denmark, Mary of York, Jane Seymour, Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom, Princess Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Princess Augusta Sophia of the United Kingdom, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Mary of Teck, Princess Margaret, Countess of SnowdonElizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, Princess Sophia of Gloucester and Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh.



About Moniek Bloks 2223 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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