During our upcoming sojourn in England, one of the neighborhoods Victoria and I will be staying near is Sloane Square, in Kensington. It’s not an area I’ve stayed in before, so I’m looking forward to exploring the area more fully this time over. While I’ll be arriving in London at 6 a.m., Victoria won’t be landing at Heathrow until 6 p.m., so I’ll be on my own for the better part of the day. 
I think I’ll first stroll down the King’s Road and browse the shops on my way to Caffe Nero for that cup of coffee I’ve been anticipating for so long. Perhaps I’ll stop into the nearby Waterstone’s Books for a browse before retracing my steps to Royal Avenue, with it’s 19th century terraced houses, one of which was home to Bond, James Bond. This Avenue will bring me directly into Burton Court, a 14 acre green space that holds ancient trees and the Brigade of Guards cricket ground and backs directly onto Chelsea’s Royal Hospital. 
The Royal Hospital is yet another of those places I’ve always meant to visit, but have never gotten around to seeing. And it’s yet another place with connections to the Duke of Wellington – will Victoria and I ever run out of people, places and things connected to the Duke of Wellington? More on that soon . . . . but for now we begin the Wellington connections to the Royal Hospital with his commission of that famous painting, The Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch, by artist David Wilke. You can read a prior post about the painting here

A second Wellington connection is the Hospital’s Great Hall, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, where Wellington’s body lay in State in 1852. In addition, there’s a Museum that features military artifacts, including items associated with the Duke, as well as other uniforms, weapons, models, etc. 
After the Royal Hospital Museum, I may just mosey down to nearby Ranelagh Gardens, another site I’ve been meaning to visit. It’s the site of the present day Chelsea Garden Shows and has been incorporated onto the Hospital’s estate. 

Of course, the Ranelagh Gardens of the 18th and 19th century is long gone and the Rotunda, Chinese Pavillion and lantern lit lanes are no more, but how glorious would it be to tread on the same ground where dandies, powdered ladies and the haute ton once paraded on summer evenings? 
Remember, by this time of day I’ll still have about six hours to fill before Victoria arrives at our hotel, so I may just head up to Piccadilly and take a London Walk. The Old Palace Quarter walk sounds like fun. Strange, is it not, that someone who leads tours and walks themselves should want to take someone else’s tour? I suppose we all like to be led round London and entertained with historic tales.
Afterwards, I plan to visit Hatchard’s bookshop. I reckon it will be about 4 p.m. by now and I’ll have a couple of hours to browse the books before returning to our hotel in order to meet Victoria. A quick wash and brush up for her before we toddle out for out first of many dinners together in England. And where, you ask, will we be dining? At the Duke of Wellington pub, of course. Or, as it’s more cheekily referred to – The Duke of Boots.


Every year the swans on the Thames River are caught, examined, and tagged in an annual census conducted by the Royal Swan Keepers and the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Livery Companies.  The process will begin on Monday, July 14, in Sunbury and end on Friday July 18 at Abingdon, Oxon.

David Barber, The Queen’s Swan Marker, hopes to find an increase in the number of cygnets:
“There have been reports of many successful breeding pairs with larger broods than normal, which is extremely positive news after several years of decreasing cygnet numbers…All cygnets and parent birds are checked for injuries during Swan Upping week and treated accordingly.”

Since the 12th century, the Crown owns all mute swans in the Realm, though the Queen only asserts this right on parts of the Thames. Long ago, swans were a delicacy on the dining table, but they are no longer eaten.

 In 2009, for the first time in centuries, the monarch observed Swan Upping.

Here is the official announcement for 2014.

Download a copy of the Swan Upping educational booklet here

The History of Swan Upping and a video explaining the annual ceremonies is here

More  history of Swan Upping is here.

Victoria here, bringing you some pictures of royal mute swans.  I took these a while ago.

Playing tag with the ducks?
Way too rude to be royal!
The swans in the picture above were gathered at the dock of the Thames Cruise Boats, hoping for a handout.  This Thames Cruise, perhaps complete with swan swarms, will be one of our final activities on the Duke of Wellington Tour, September 4-14, 2014.  Limited space remains and the final day for sign-up will be July 31.  But don’t wait.