By Kristine Hughes Patrone

The next stately home on our Familiarization Trip hosted by Visit Britain was Penshurst Place, a 14th century manor house owned by Lord and Lady De L’Isle. Penshurst Place has been owned by the Sidney family since 1552; after passing through the hands of two of Henry IV’s sons, followed by Henry VIII who used it as a hunting lodge. Given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII, it was then briefly in the hands of Sir Ralph Fane and was finally gifted by Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI, to his loyal steward and tutor, Sir William Sidney. The Sidney family have been in continuous occupation for more than 460 years since.



Once inside, visitors find themselves in the Baron’s Hall, used as a set in the film The Princess Bride. Described by the writer John Julius Norwich as ‘one of the grandest rooms in the world’, Baron’s Hall belongs to the original part of the house and was completed in 1341 and features a magnificent chestnut roof, arcaded windows, a 16th century Minstrel’s Gallery and unique octagonal hearth.

What we saw of the house was terribly medieval and thrilling, with the highlight of our visit being the tea and cakes, made by and served to us by Lady De L’Isle. I remember the open fire, which was welcome on a cold day, and the hot tea, equally welcome, but truthfully little else stays in my memory, as we saw three homes/castles/manors all in a single day. I suppose I could fudge things and pull photos and narratives off of the internet, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Or very honest.

We did have time for a quick tour through the grounds, some of which are Grade I listed. You’ll find an interactive map of the gardens on the Penshurst Place website.


Recurring Phrases in the English Ballad

by Louisa Cornell

My study of the music of the Regency Era has covered a broad range of musical forms. One of the most typically English forms is that of the traditional ballad. It is a difficult field of study in one aspect as many of these songs have been passed down in varying forms long before they were written down. Their authors were often unknown and their words were interchangeable depending on the singer and the venue in which they were performed. In addition to word of mouth, during the Regency many of these songs came from the music hall in the form of parlour ballads, music hall comic operas and eventually in the form of commercial print literature and broadsheet publications.



A few of the commonalities they shared were formulaic diction, stock phrases and narrative motifs. One of the most fascinating of these is the stock phrase. Each of these phrases had a message or meaning the listener knew at once because it was such a standard in so many ballads. The best examples of these can be found in what was known as the “Child’s ballads” – songs of love, betrayal, murder, and mystery collected and published in the nineteenth century by Francis James Child in his The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Here are a few of those stock phrases, some quite chilling when one learns their meaning!




Lily-white hand    serves as a warning something dramatic is about to happen. When written as a man taking a lady’s hand it can denote either rape or seduction. And whilst the rape connotation always ends tragically (such as in Prince Heathen) the seduction connotation can go either way (in Katherine Jafray she is seduced and later rescued by her lover.) In addition to her lovely skin tone the phrase may also denote the lady’s virtue as well.


Playing at the ball – serves a rather eerie purpose as it usually forewarns a love affair, adultery or violent death (sometimes all three.) A group of ladies or boys are seen playing at a ball and one is singled out as the ‘fairest flower’ of them all. The word play can be used to mean a literal game, a symbol of fate or to signify manipulation and pursuit. In some ballads the game is followed by the immediate death of the game’s spectator.


Where will I get a bonny boy – This plea is generally met with a willing response from a boy to either carry a message or run an errand. His efforts can end well or ill. In Lord Lovel the lover receives a message from his lady, but when he returns it is too late, she has died of longing for his return. However, in Geordie the condemned husband is saved. The term bonny is used to denote health, strength, vigor, and physical beauty.


She dressed herself in silks so fine / rich attire / scarlet red – a ballad character who dresses in her finest is often about to embark on a journey. Some of its other uses include outfitting oneself for war. Most often this journey is to confront a lover who is about to marry another. As you can imagine, many of these ballads do not end well for any of the parties concerned. Sometimes the heroine is dressing to go to her execution. One does want to look nice for such an occasion.


O mother, mother make my bed – This one, unfortunately, never bodes well. It always signals the imminent death of the speaker. It usually refers to the grave. The best example can be found in Bonny Barbara Allen.



As many of the early singers of these ballads could not read or write and learned the words and melodies by heart, these phrases enabled them to compose their own songs or to add their own or local twists to a song familiar to their listeners. In later years it served to give a ‘traditional’ flavor to the songs used in the music halls and the broadsheet ballads. These phrases were familiar to the man on the street and to even the most discerning music listener of the era.

And interestingly enough, the use of phrases like this is nothing new. They can be found in the works of Homer and in the verses of many of the epic poems even before the middle ages.

A particularly maudlin form of the English ballad is the murder ballad. But that is a story for another post.




Happy Birthday, Your Majesty !!

Whilst her birthday is officially celebrated on the second Saturday in June, Queen Elizabeth II’s actual birthday is April 21, 1926 !!

Happy 91st Birthday, Your Majesty !!

And many happy returns of the day !!

Frankly, those of us at Number One London hope you have as many birthdays as you please, and at least one more after that, because we simply cannot imagine a world without you on the throne.

God Save the Queen !!

Long may she continue to reign!!

Royal Historian Catherine Curzon Brings Us Kings of Georgian Britain

A Delicate Scandal


The soubriquet ‘Queen of Hearts’ is an expression that might have been intended for Caroline of Brunswick. This wife of George IV was also his greatest enemy and from the day of their marriage to the day of her death, the couple were at daggers drawn.


(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


Married in 1795, Caroline gave birth to the couple’s only child in 1796 and in 1797, the marriage was effectively over. Caroline moved to Blackheath and threw herself into the single life. Gossips were soon whispering about the procession of men who visited her home; it was all too deliciously outrageous to be ignored.

Charlotte also had a passion for adopting poor children and in 1802, her household was joined by an infant named  William Austin. This was the evidence that George needed and when he heard a juicy bit of gossip from Caroline’s former friend, Lady Douglas, he swung into action.



Having fallen out with Caroline over their shared affections for a dashing naval captain, Lady Douglas made a groundless claim that William was no orphan at all, but Caroline’s own illegitimate child. The Prince of Wales seized upon the moment to play the victim and demanded a full inquiry into this serious if baseless accusation. The Delicate Investigation was convened to find out the truth of the matter and began on 1st June 1806 under the stewardship of the Prime Minister, William Grenville. The stakes were high, as noted in The Morning Post on 24 June 1806:

“The acts charged would, if proved, amount to no less than high treason in the illustrious personage: […] The nature of the accusation, amounting to what might eventually affect the succession of the crown; and the great stake the accusers put to hazard.”

Lady Douglas repeated her allegation that Austin was Caroline’s son and went on to elaborate with stories of sexual intrigues that engulfed any number of famous men, describing a house where debauchery was rampant and of a woman who was never without male company. One might raise an eyebrow to learn that many of the men implicated were senior Tory figures who championed the cause of Caroline as regent should the Prince of Wales die before he assumed the throne.

A procession of witnesses were sworn in and questioned, including doctors and domestics yet Caroline had an ace up her sleeve in the shape of William’s true parents, Sophia and Samuel Austin. They told the commission that William was indeed their child and had been given over to Caroline’s care in order to assure a better life for him. Naturally, his only enhanced her reputation as a lady of selfless philanthropy, much to George’s disgust.

With this damning evidence against the case of adultery and illegitimacy, the Delicate Investigation limped to its conclusion six weeks after it had opened and declared that William was not Caroline’s child, illegitimate or otherwise. However, it stopped short of exonerating her on charges of adultery and declared that she had not been proved innocent of that portion of the case.

The victory was a slight one for George, who had hoped that William Austin was to prove his winning ticket. Instead, the consummate gambler had been left with a dud hand.


About the Book

For over a century of turmoil, upheaval and scandal, Great Britain was a Georgian land.

From the day the German-speaking George I stepped off the boat from Hanover, to the night that George IV, bloated and diseased, breathed his last at Windsor, the four kings presided over a changing nation.

Kings of Georgian Britain offers a fresh perspective on the lives of the four Georges and the events that shaped their characters and reigns. From love affairs to family feuds, political wrangling and beyond, peer behind the pomp and follow these iconic figures from cradle to grave. After all, being a king isn’t always grand parties and jaw-dropping jewels, and sometimes following in a father’s footsteps can be the hardest job around.

Take a trip back in time to meet the wives, mistresses, friends and foes of the men who shaped the nation, and find out what really went on behind closed palace doors. Whether dodging assassins, marrying for money, digging up their ancestors or sparking domestic disputes that echoed down the generations, the kings of Georgian Britain were never short on drama.


Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters 18th century at www.madamegilflurt.com. Her work has been featured on HistoryExtra.com, the official website of BBC History Magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austens Regency World. She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen  at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall, The National Maritime Museum and Dr Johnson’s House. Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

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Pen & Sword: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Kings-of-Georgian-Britain-Hardback/p/12904

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Another Ploughman’s lunch for both Diane and myself at the Three Crowns, London.
Wanting a quiet night in, Diane and I shopped for meats and wine at Fortnum and Mason, ordered a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and bread for each of us from room service and added the cheese we each had left over from our lunch. 
Glace fruits from Fortnum and Mason for dessert, along with a glass of wine. 
Diane’s editors at Harlequin treated us to a spectacular afternoon tea at the Swan at the Globe, 
with stunning views over the River and St. Paul’s.
Drinks and nibbles at Trader Vic’s on our last night in England.
A glass of port while we packed.
And beef filet and string beans for dinner on my flight home. 


After a good night’s sleep in one of Hever Castle’s guestrooms, I met up with our group for breakfast, after which we set out for a tour of the impressive Castle grounds and gardens. Click here to view a very short video I took of the front of the Castle and topiary, complete with morning birdsong.

The beautiful gardens at Hever Castle were laid out between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal and Son, turning marshland into the spectacular gardens we see today. Areas that you can stroll through include the Tudor Garden, Rhododendron Walk and Anne Boleyn’s Walk, with its collection of trees planted more than 100 years ago.

One of the most magnificent areas of the gardens is the Italian Garden, which was designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculptures. Over 1,000 men worked on the grand design, with around 800 men taking two years to dig out the 38-acre (14.2 ha) lake at the far end of the Italian Garden. Within four years the 125 acres (50 ha) of classical and natural landscapes were constructed and planted. The garden is only now reaching its full maturity and includes the colourful walled Rose Garden which contains over 4,000 bushes.

There are many water features around the gardens, including Half Moon Pond, the Cascade, the cool and shady grottoes, the formal Loggia fountain inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome, and the less formal Two Sisters’ Pond.

Located just 30 miles from London, a visit to Hever Castle makes for a wonderful day out. Visit the Castle’s website here.



Dinner at the Devonshire Arms, Baslow.
Lamb burger for Diane Gaston (Perkins), prime rib, chips and onion rings for me.
Fabulous Ploughman’s lunches above for both of us at
The Cavendish Restaurant, Chatsworth House.
Dinner at La Petite Maison in Brighton; duck for Diane and the pork special for me.
Tea, below, at the Hotel du Vin, Brighton.
Dinner at the Hotel du Vin, below
Beef for Diane
and a large pot of mussels, moules, for me. Sorry, Victoria!


 Sue Ellen and Kristine at a working slate mine in the Lake District
My special guest today is USA Today bestselling author Sue Ellen Welfonder, who writes historical romances set in medieval Scotland under own name, as well as Scottish-set paranormal romances as Allie Mackay. On a personal level, Sue Ellen and I have been sister/friends for close to thirty years. Yup. Thirty.

Sue Ellen’s heart has always belonged to Scotland – she’s traveled there extensively and has an in-depth knowledge of it’s history. So who else would I have called upon to head up the Scottish Tours division of Number One London Tours? My initial phone call to Sue Ellen went something like this:

SEW: Hello?
KHP: Hey, Bozzy, it’s me.
SEW: Gorgeous!

(Note: I have called Sue Ellen “Bozzy,” after diarist James Boswell, since our first trip to England together. Like Boswell, Sue Ellen documents everything with copious diary entries. She calls me “Gorgeous” because she’s nuts).

KHP: Can you put together a Scottish itinerary for Number One London? Oh, and by the way, you are now Vice President in charge of the Scottish Division.
SEW:What? I am? What does that even mean?
KHP: It means you’ll be coming up with the itineraries for all of our Scotland tours. Oh, and you’ll be coming along on the Scottish tours as the tour guide.
SEW: I will?
KHP: You’ll have to, Bozzy. I don’t know anything about Scotland. Think of a theme for the tour and then build an itinerary around that. Easy peasy.

Naturally, Sue Ellen came up with a pip of a tour theme – Scottish Castles. The 10 day tour includes six castles, plus visits to Edinburgh, a Loch Lomond cruise and a Highland Safari. Full Tour details can be found here.

Of course, we couldn’t possibly plan a tour to Scotland without actually going over there. Just to be certain we’d gotten everything right, you understand. Our visit also included the Lake District, as above at Newby Bridge, Lake Windermere.

 And we did some mudlarking on the River while we were in London.
Eventually, we made our way to the George Hotel in Prince’s Street, Edinburgh, above. In addition to visiting sites we’ll be including on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour, I was able to revisit this sweet cottage in the Prince’s Gardens.

And then we set out for some of the sights included in the upcoming September tour to Scotland, including a cruise on Loch Lomond, below.

Scotland must be the land of rainbows because we saw them on Loch Lomond, above, and at Inveraray, below.

And then it was on to Inveraray Castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of the Clan Campbell, below.

The Castle is a magical place, easily walkable from the Loch Fyne Hotel and what an approach! 
The interiors, as you may imagine, are incredible, with hundreds of years of history oozing from every wall.


There’s much to see at the Castle, as the photos show, everything from medieval arms to Georgian furnishings and costume displays.

There’s also a Wellington connection – Henry Paget (Lord Uxbridge, later Marquess of Angelsey, who fought under Wellington at Waterloo) ran off with Wellington’s sister-in-law, Charlotte, wife of his brother Henry. The wife Paget left in order to do so was Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, daughter of the 4th Earl and Countess of Jersey.  By that time, they had eight children together. But it all ended well for Lady Caroline, as she went on to remarry – the Duke of Argyll.

Leaving Inveraray, Sue Ellen and I did a drive by of Loch Ness and the iconic Urquhart Castle, below. No, we didn’t see Nessy, more’s the pity.
From there it was on to Blair Atholl and our atmospheric hotel, the Atholl Arms, located just over the road from Blair Castle.
The Hotel is chock full of Scottish atmosphere, with an abundance of tartan, open fires and grand rooms. Truly the perfect place to stay in the Highlands.
Here’s Sue Ellen at the dinner table at the Atholl Arms, getting warm by the coal fire.
Next day, we visit the House of Bruar, known as “the Harrods of the North”, where fine cashmere and tweeds are on offer for both ladies and gentlemen, in addition to a wide array of leather, hats, food and accessories.
Yes – we’ve included it on the itinerary for our Scottish Castles Tour!
Also on the itinerary is a stop at Pitlochry, below, one of the most charming period towns to be found in the Highlands.
A true highlight of our time in the Highlands was our visit to Blair Castle. Again, we walked there from our hotel and the grounds are simply spectacular.
The Blair Estate is huge, with thousands of acres under their control, as well as a whole host of livestock – cattle, sheep, horses, deer and rivers full of salmon.
The absolute highlight of our visit to Blair – or anywhere in Scotland – was the Land Rover Highland Safari Sue Ellen and I were given by our guide, Izzy, one of the Rangers on the estate.
There’s truly something magical about being the only people out for miles around. Izzy took us through streams, up craggy hillsides and into glens where we easily spotted herds of deer.
Truly, our Safari was a once in a lifetime experience, a chance to get down and dirty in the Highlands.
As evidenced by Sue Ellen’s shoes, below.


Majestic sights met us round every bend and Sue Ellen and I were blessed to have experienced the adventure together. Yes, we’ve included the same adventure on the Scottish Castles Tour in September.
Our guide, Izzy, below. She will be one of the Rangers who will take our group on the same adventure in September.
Below, ghilly Stewart, who we ran into on our return journey. He and the pony had just taken a stag off the mountain as it was culling season. Sue Ellen and I are convinced that Izzy called Central Casting and ordered a true Scotsman to show up at the most picturesque spot.
Truly, it doesn’t get much more “Highlands” than this!

We hope you’ll consider joining us for a true Scottish adventure including town, castles and the Highlands on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour in September 2017. Full itinerary and details can be found here.


Above – A cheese plate to share with Diane Gaston (Perkins) at Boulestin in St. James’s Street
Prime rib and chips at the St. James’s Court Hotel
A yogurt and berry parfait for Diane and what was listed as an
“egg crepe” for me at Cote Brasserie, Sloane Square.
Lunch at the Duke of Wellington, Strand, with Jo Manning: fish and chips for Jo,
bangers and mash for me and a beef and kidney pie for Diane.
Jo Manning digs in!
Tea and scones for Diane and I at Edensor. It was a glorious day.
Too bad the view was so terrible. . . . . .


by Kristine Hughes Patrone

The day after the recent attacks on Westminster Bridge in London, I was contacted by a journalist from the Travel Market Report for my views on how the events would impact travel to the UK. In short, my considered opinion as a UK Tour Operator was “not at all.”

Random acts of violence will not keep Londoners and Anglophiles from enjoying one of the greatest cities on earth. We are made of sterner stuff. Unfortunately, in the present world climate, tourists must be aware of their surroundings, wherever they may travel.

In the great scheme of things, random acts of senseless violence will no doubt continue to periodically occur. We cannot allow them, or the people behind them, to change our lives, our daily activities or to limit our enjoyment of the things we love and that bring us joy, wherever they may be. The Duke of Wellington did not allow terrorists to change his way of life, nor did Queen Victoria or the Queen Mum, or Princess Anne or Queen Elizabeth. It did not stop Winston Churchill, whom I quoted in the above referenced piece for Travel Market Report, from urging the British public to “Keep calm and carry on.” You can read the full article here.

Should you feel the need to visit Britain any time soon, we hope you’ll consider joining Number One London on one of our upcoming tours.