A Couple In England – The End

And so Hubby and I arrived at the end of our journey. We decided to have our last English meal at the Three Tuns, another of the historic pubs of Windsor that happens to be located directly behind the Guildhall. I wanted my last meal of bangers of mash. And enough rum to drown my sorrows.

“Are you sad about going home tomorrow?” Hubby asked once we were seated.

“I’m home now. I’m sad about going back to Florida.”

“Most people in England would love to trade places with you,” Hubby commented.

“Mad dogs and Englishmen,” I replied.


“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,” I said, referring to our sub tropic Florida weather. Humid doesn’t begin to cover it. I expect that Gunga Din and Wellington felt the same about India.

“The grass is always greener,” Hubby went on.

“How droll. Actually, the grass does happen to be greener in England, where it isn’t scorched by the blazing midday sun on a constant basis.”


I gave Hubby a scathing look and he dropped it. “What time do we leave tomorrow?” he asked instead.

Oh boy. Here we go. “About tomorrow . . . . “

Now it was Hubby’s turn to glare. “C’mon, out with it.”

I ordered another round from a passing waiter and forged ahead. “After we fly into Newark, we have a four hour layover before our three hour flight to Florida.”


“Ssshhhh! Don’t get excited.”

Excited? Is that what you think I am? Excited? Because I’m telling you right now, excited I’m not. Why would you do that to me?”

“It was either that or wait till the next day to fly home.”

“For Christ’s sake, why didn’t you wait till the next day?”

“I didn’t know which option to choose and then I decided that you’d have blown a fuse no matter which way I went, so I opted for the layover. But it’s okay because Brooke is going to come to the airport to pick us up. We’ll all go out to eat, then we’ll go back to her house for a while and then she’ll bring us back to the airport. So we won’t be stuck at the terminal for four hours.”

This mollified him a bit. A very little bit.

“Listen, the next time you plan a trip to England for us, do it in the summer, will ya? And don’t include London on the itinerary. London is too crazy for me. I liked Bath and I like Windsor. Think small. And when you come over here to look for houses, you’re coming by yourself. I’m not traipsing all over England looking at houses. Understand?”

I kept my counsel, wisely deciding that now was not the time to tell Hubby that when a man was tired of London, he was tired of life.

“Alright, then, I’ll just bring Vicky with me.”

“And that’s another thing,” Hubby went on. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that Ed and I don’t figure in the plans that you and Vicky have for living in England. I’m just hoping you two plan on letting us die natural deaths first.”

“Ideally you and Ed would be dead, granted, but I’ve got everything planned out in case you’re still alive when I move here.”

“Oh, brother. Go on. I can’t wait to hear this.”

“When we move to England, you’re going to raise chickens.”


“I’ll take care of the sheep and you’ll raise chickens.”

“Are you nuts? Why would I raise chickens?”

“So that you can barter the eggs, of course. Just think about it, you’ll put on your tweed coat and make your way out every day to collect the eggs. Then you’ll take your basket and you’ll toddle your way down to the pub and trade your eggs for pints of beer. `Here are six fresh eggs in exchange for a pint of your best, my good man.’ I can hear you now.”

“It’s the twenty-first century. No one barters any more.”

“They do in England.”

“You’re nuts. You do realize that, don’t you? Explain to me why I wouldn’t just get in the car, drive to the pub and pay money for a pint of beer. You know, the way normal people do.”

“See, this is why you don’t figure into my plans for living in England. If I asked Vicky to collect the eggs and trade them in at the pub, she’d do it without an argument.”

“Because she’s as nuts as you are, that’s why. You’ll be known as the two crazy American women.”



“We’ll be known as the two crazy American widows.”

“Listen, all joking aside, dead or alive, I am not raising chickens. Got it?”

Our dinners arrived and we ate silently for a while. Then I asked, “Did you enjoy anything at all about the trip?”

Hubby looked at me. “Sure. Sure I did, Hon. I enjoyed all the parts that weren’t London, that didn’t involve walking, or rain or being sick.”

As near as I could figure, that left the plane ride over. And Burger and Lobster. And Café Nero.

“I wish you loved England as much as I do.”

“I don’t have to love England. I love you and that’s all that matters.”

I smiled at him as we joined hands across the table. “Next time, I promise we’ll go somewhere warm.”

“It doesn’t matter, as long as we’re together.”

“You mean that?”

“I do, my good man. Now tell me what in the Hell you think you know about raising sheep.”


A Couple In England – Day 10 – Part Two

After leaving the Guildhall, Hester and I took a leisurely stroll down to the Thames and stood on the bridge.

“One day I’m going to come back and take the boat ride,” I sighed.

“You’ve never done the boat?” Hester asked.

“No. I never have the time. There’s always somewhere to rush off to see.”

“Speaking of which,” Hester said, looking at her watch, “we’d better get ourselves some lunch before it’s time for the kitchen tour at the Castle.”

So off we went and found ourselves a nearby restaurant, where we ordered tomato basil soup accompanied by warm bread with lashings of butter and two lattes. I can’t recall exactly what Hester and I discussed over the meal, though it had something to do with conducting research at the Royal Archives, the families (ours, rather than Royal) and other odds and ends. Afterwards, we made our way to the Castle.

“Tell me the truth,” I said to Hester as we made our way to the entrance, “are you heartily sick of my dragging you to the Castle? It seems like I make you do it every time I visit.”

“But I’ve never seen the kitchens,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

We arrived early enough for us to visit the gift shop.

I was on the hunt for a Golden Jubilee item to add to my collection and there wasn’t a shortage of items on offer. Which should I choose?  Hhhmmmm. Before I could decide, it was time for the Kitchen Tour, so Hester and I made our way over to the meeting point.

Above is a rendering of the vast Windsor Castle kitchen in late Georgian days. The present day kitchen tour “takes you behind the scenes to the oldest working kitchen in the country, in constant use for nearly 750 years. Today, staff of the Royal Household use the Great Kitchen to prepare food for both grand ceremonial occasions, such as State Banquets, and more informal events in the royal diary. Your guide will tell you about the devastating fire of 1992 and how restoration work uncovered the Great Kitchen’s original medieval structure. You will hear about royal dining, past and present, and have a fascinating insight into Windsor Castle as a working royal palace.” In addition, the tour includes the State Entrance and the medieval Undercroft, areas not normally open to the public.

 The copper cookware you see in the photo above all bear the cypher of King George IV and the cast iron stoves installed by Prince Albert are still in place, though now rarely used. The kitchens were deserted when we tour them, the photo below being one I swiped off the internet, as photography was not allowed.
As stated above, the tour also included halls and passages that are rarely on show, so that we found ourselves walking through stone corridors that appeared untouched since at least the Georgian era. It was a rare insight into this magnificent building.   

After the tour, we returned to the gift shop, where I finally made up my mind and purchased the Jubilee beaker above. It now holds pride of place on my living room mantle.

The Final Installment In This Series Coming Soon!

A Couple In England – Day 10

After Hampton Court Palace, Hubby and I went back to the Castle Hotel and rested for a while before venturing out again for dinner. This time, we ventured a whole two blocks away, just down the High Street to the Duchess of Cambridge pub.

Soon after we’d sat down, I realized that the three blokes at the next table were ardently discussing Downton Abbey. I tried to eavesdrop, naturally, but it was hard to decipher every word and, besides, I was distracted by the Duchess of Cambridge. The Duchess of Cambridge who? I wracked my brain for an historical Duchess of Cambridge who’d rank pub name status. In Windsor, no less. Which Duchess of Cambridge had ties to Windsor? Princess Augusta, who’d married Prinny’s brother, the Duke of Cambridge? Hadn’t they spent a good portion of their time in Hanover, rather than England? And his son, George, had married an actress, whose existence was ignored by the entire Royal Family and she’d been denied the title HRH, anyway. And upon George’s death, the title became extinct until it was bestowed upon the present Prince William. Hhhmmmm . . . .



“You were off in a cloud. What are you thinking about?” Hubby asked.

I opened my mouth to answer, realized what I’d been thinking about, and said instead, “Nothing.”

Our waiter approached to take our orders. “Can you tell me which Duchess of Cambridge the pub is named for?” I asked.

“Er, Kate Middleton?” he answered.

This brought me up short. “But the pub’s been here for years. I’ve been here before, long before Kate was the Duchess of Cambridge.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s been here for centuries, but it wasn’t named the Duchess of Cambridge then. We just changed the name last year.”

Ah, now I felt better, although slightly tricked.

After dinner, we made an early night of it and the next day I met Hester at the Guildhall for a private, guided tour of the Museum – where Hester got to meet the Queen.


The present Guildhall replaced an older cornmarket and was built in the late 17th century and is often associated with Christopher Wren, although there’s no evidence of this. The Museum itself is housed in a 19th century extension and serves to display items of local history.

Upstairs, royal portraits adorn the walls, including one of himself given by Prinny which was so large the council had to take a window out to fit it in. Also upstairs is the room where Prince Charles married Camilla – dubbed by myself as “the scene of the crime.” The room contains several stained glass windows and more portraits, including a grim one of Queen Victoria and a rather nice one of the present Queen when young.


Here’s Hester standing in the very room where, by the way, Elton John was also married. To the left in the picture above can be seen one of the new Diamond Jubilee windows, showing Balmoral Castle.
Here’s the story of the dock, or pulpit, Hester is standing upon in Hester’s own words: “In 1882 a Scotsman, Roderick McLean, attempted to shoot Queen Victoria at the railway station. He missed, but was arrested and was to be brought before the magistrates in the Guildhall next day, for formal proceedings to send him for full trial in Reading (county town). But there wasn’t a dock. So overnight a carpenter knocked up the piece of furniture you see. McLean was duly arraigned and despatched for a full trial at Reading. There he was found ‘Not guilty but insane.’ The Queen was furious, there was a big fuss and the result was that today in such cases the verdict is recorded ‘Guilty but insane.’ McLean spent the rest of his life in a mental asylum. Why did he want to shoot the Queen? He had sent her some poetry he’d written, and she hadn’t said thank you! (I always draw the moral when children are present.) Nowadays this dock is used by witnesses giving evidence at Coroners’ Courts.”

Part Two Coming Soon!

A Couple In England: Day 9 – Part Two

Upon leaving Oatlands, Hester, Hubby and myself set off for Hampton Court Palace. I had never been before and therefore felt that I should rectify that. Now I’ll come clean and tell you that I have relatively no interest in British history prior to roughly 1750. Henry VIII interests me not at all and anything earlier than that is off my historical radar. I have two great friends who write Scottish medieval romances – Sue Ellen Welfonder and the late Arnette Lamb. I’ve posed the same question to them both – why? What is remotely romantic about unwashed men with unkempt beards who wear skirts and sport dirt under their fingernails? Neither have ever given me a reason that satisfied.

Now don’t get me wrong, in the typical course of things I’m up for visiting medieval, Tudor and Restoration sites, but I’m more interested in their history and occupants during the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras. So when I went to Hampton Court Palace, my mission was to find Grace and Favour Apartment No. 9, where the Duke of Wellington’s sister, Lady Anne, once lived. I mentioned this to Hester and Hubby when we arrived at the Palace.

Hester said: “Well, we’ll do our best to track it down. There must be someone here who knows where it is.”

Hubby said: “Why?”

An ice skating rink had been set up near the entrance, so we stopped for a few minutes to watch the skaters.

And then we passed over the moat on our way through the entrance.

And found ourselves in a courtyard, where we couldn’t help but notice the painted wooden figures scattered about. The one below seems to be napping.


While this one looks to be hiding

And the figure above made room for Hester and Hubby to sit beside him. Too bad there wasn’t actually anything to drink in the jug he was holding. If you know the story behind these figures, do let me know. A Google search has turned up nothing so far.

After taking note of the interesting chimney pots above, we crossed over the courtyard and into the visitor’s centre, where we paid our entry fee and Hester asked the nice lady on duty if she knew the location of Apartment 9. She said she didn’t, but that we should ask one of the Warders inside.

We traversed many a hallway and staircase and peeked out many a window before finding our first Warder. Upon Hester’s asking him about Apartment 9, once home to the sister of the Duke of Wellington, this Warder said, “Ah, you’ll be wanting Ian. He’ll know. That’s his time period. I believe he’s in the Georgian Rooms.”

We thanked him and moved on – before realizing that we hadn’t asked where the Georgian Rooms are. So we traversed more halls and large, empty rooms.

By this time, Hubby was decidedly fading.

“Oh, dear,” said Hester, after getting a good look at his pale and clammy face. “Maybe you should sit down,” she suggested.

“If there was a chair in sight, I’d take you up on that,” Hubby replied. .

Finally, we found another Warder.

“Ian?” we all asked in hopeful unison.

“No, sorry. Ian’s in the Georgian Rooms.”

“You wouldn’t know where Apartment 9 is, by any chance?”

“Apartment 9?”

“Yes, the grace and favour apartment where the Duke of Wellington’s sister lived.”

“Sorry. Ian’s your man. He’ll know. That’s his time period.”

We climbed up another set of stone stairs, with Hubby flagging behind us. Finally we arrived a room that actually had furniture in it. And a bed. I had to physically restrain Hubby from lying down upon it. And there was another Warder.

“Ian?” This one shook his head and pointed down a long and empty corridor. Sigh.

Down the hallway we all trudged until it opened into a panelled and painting lined room. In it stood another Warder.



Hester and I could have kissed him. Hubby collapsed onto a wide window ledge.

We told Ian all about our search for him and how we’d traipsed high and low searching for him, as we’d been told that he’d know all about the Duke of Wellington, Lady Anne and Apartment 9.

“Apartment 9? That’s a new one on me. Lady Anne, you say?”

“Wellington’s sister.”

“I could look it up in the archives, of course, but that wouldn’t do you much good today.”

We exchanged email addresses and Ian, Hester and I began discussing the Regency and early Victorian history of Hampton Court. Turns out that Ian was, indeed, a font of knowledge. I can’t tell you off hand all we discussed, but the conversation didn’t flag for a moment and it went on for ages. After a while, I thought to check on Hubby.

Oh, dear. There he was, poor man, looking for all the world like something out the Night of the Living Dead and sitting patiently by whilst Hester and I jawed with Ian. As we turned to go, Ian said, “I’ll email you about Apartment 9. But in the meantime perhaps you’d like to see where Wellington’s mother lived?”

“Wellington’s mother? Lady Mornington?”

“Yes,” Ian nodded.

“Lived here, at Hampton Court?”

“Yes,” Ian nodded. “Didn’t you know?”

Apparently not.

So off we went, following a map that Ian was kind enough to draw for us.

We walked the gravel paths and marveled at the sculpted trees until, miracle or miracles, we found the entrance to the apartment where Lady Mornington once lived, pictured below, exactly as described to us by Ian. Apparently, Lady Mornington kept a garden of some note behind these green gates. I contented myself with the fact that we’d at least found the spot and took pity upon Hubby by suggesting that we head back to Windsor, and our hotel room.

As we turned to go, I said to Hester, “Thank you for bringing us to see Hampton Court. And don’t forget we’ve got the tour of the kitchens at Windsor Castle tomorrow.”

“Oooh, I’m looking forward to that,” she replied.

“Kitchens? A tour of kitchens? I don’t have to go, do I?” asked Hubby.

“Well, I’ve got you a ticket.”

“Hon, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m dying here.”

“And you’ve been such a good sport today,” Hester encouraged him. Looking at me sideways, she continued, “Perhaps he’d be better off in bed.”

“Well, of course you could stay in bed, but it’s the royal kitchens. They aren’t open all the time, you know, it’s a special tour.”

“I’ll make the sacrifice.”

A Couple In England – Day 9

Next day, we met Hester in the car park. When I introduced her to Hubby, all she said was, “Oh dear.”

I opened the rear door of Hester’s car and Hubby dropped onto the back seat. We pulled out of the car park and were soon on our way to Oatlands Park, home of Frederica, Duchess of York, or Freddy, as she’s affectionately known by my circle of friends.

I’ve been wanting to see Oatlands Park, Freddy’s home, for ages and so I was thrilled when Hester agreed to accompany there. Today, Oatlands is a hotel that stands on the footprint of a large mansion which burned down in the late 1700s, but had dated back to the 15th Century. A Parliamentary Survey of the period mentions a house which sat in the grounds of a great royal palace, on the Oatlands Estate. Henry VIII erected the palace for his new Queen, Anne of Cleves. Although a worthy rival to his other riverside house at Hampton Court, the imposing red brick building with its gateways, octagonal towers and open courts, Oatlands was only visited occasionally by the King. And the intended resident, Anne, probably never lived there during the short time she was his wife, but it is thought Henry secretly married his next Queen, Anne’s young Lady-in-Waiting, Catherine Howard, in the Palace chapel.

Over the next 150 years, the house and grounds were remodelled by a string of wealthy tenants. You can still see the coat of arms of one, the Duke of Newcastle, on the main gates at the entrance to the Hotel.

Upon entering the building, we found ourselves in a bright and airy lounge and settled ourselves upon the sofas, where we ordered coffees.

“Well, Kristine, you’re finally at Oatlands,” said Hester.

“And soon we’ll be at the famous cemetery,” I said.

“There’s a cemetery here?” asked Hubby.

“A pet cemetery. Freddy loved pets of every description and created a cemetery where she buried them all. She was eccentric, but popular with the Regency set.”

“Didn’t Princess Charlotte honeymoon here,” asked Hester.

“Yes, and Prince Leopold stayed here after Charlotte’s death. And of course Brummell was a frequent visitor.”

“Ah, Brummell and the decoupage screen that was never finished,” sighed Hester.

“So sad,” I agreed.

“The what screen?” asked Hubby.

“Decoupage,” Hester and I replied in unison. Hubby declined to pursue the matter further.

The diarist Charles Greville has left us a picture of his visits to Oatlands in his Memoirs. Here is an extract:

“The week end parties were often large, and one of the principal amusements of the guests was to sit up playing whist till four o’clock in the morning. On Sundays,” he continues, ” we amused ourselves with eating fruit in the garden, and shooting at a mark with pistols, and playing with the monkeys. I bathed in the cold bath in the grotto, which is as clear as crystal and as cold as ice. Oatlands is the worst managed establishment in England: there are a great many servants, and nobody waits on you; a vast number of horses, and none to ride or drive.”

“The Duchess seldom goes to bed, or, if she does, only for an hour or two; she sleeps dressed upon a couch, sometimes in one room, sometimes in another. She frequently walks out very late at nights, or rather early in the morning, and she always sleeps with open windows. She dresses and breakfasts at three o’clock, afterwards walks out with all her dogs, and seldom appears before dinner-time. At night, when she cannot sleep, she has women to read to her. The Duchess of York is clever and well informed; she likes society, and dislikes all form and ceremony; but in the midst of the most familiar intercourse she always preserves a certain dignity of manner. Those who are in the habit of going to Oatlands are perfectly at their ease with her, and talk with as much freedom as they would to any other woman, but always with great respect. Her mind is not perhaps the most delicate; she shows no dislike to coarseness of sentiment or language, and I have often seen her very much amused with jokes, stories, and allusions which would shock a very nice person. But her own conversation is never polluted with anything the least indelicate or unbecoming. She is very sensible to little attentions, and is annoyed if anybody appears to keep aloof from her or to shun conversing with her. Her dogs are her greatest interest and amusement, and she has at least forty of various kinds. She is delighted when anybody gives her a dog, or a monkey, or a parrot, of all of which she has vast numbers; it is impossible to offend or annoy her more than by ill using any of her dogs, and if she were to see anybody beat or kick any one of them she would never forgive it.”

The room in which the three of us sat sipping our coffee would be unrecognizable to Freddy. After the house burnt down in 1794, it was rebuilt in the Gothic style by her husband, the Duke of York, who went on to acquire the Estate Freehold. Freddy died in 1820 and when the Duke died in 1827, the property was sold to a young Regency dandy and gambler called Edward Hughes Ball Hughes, who was popularly known as ‘The Golden Ball.’ He spent his honeymoon at Oatlands, before pulling down large parts of the existing building and making many alterations to what was left.

“Ready to find the cemetery?” Hester asked.

“Yes. I can’t wait to read the little head stones. Freddy had their names put on the stones and dates and often noted what sort of animal they were.”

Originally, the cemetery was located near the old Grotto, where Greville bathed and where George IV held a dinner in celebration of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo. The stones were moved closer to the house at some point and so were relatively easy to find as they are located right beside a gravel path.

I was a bit taken aback at first glance, as I had thought that the grave markers would look more like traditional head stones. Hester and I drew closer until we were standing over the stones.

“Oh dear,” Hester said. Age and weather had worked ill upon the stones, which were now all completely smooth – whatever had once been written upon them had been forever erased.

“I wanted to read them,” I lamented.

“I know. Me, too,” said Hester, whose face showed sympath
y for my disappointment. “But look, we can still walk where Freddy and Brummell walked. That’s something, what?”

I smiled at her. “It’s something, indeed,” I said. “And  something wonderful at that.”

So off the three of us strolled, down the gravel paths and over to the ornamental lake.

Surprise! Finally, a picture of me and Hubby!

On our way back to the Hotel, Hester pointed out the cedar trees on the property. “Edward Lear used these trees as models for his painting The Cedars of Lebanon.”

In her biography of Lear called The Life of a Wanderer, Vivien Noakes wrote “He needed some cedar trees that were within easy reach of London, and he found them at the Oatlands Park Hotel at Walton-on-Thames. Whilst he was working on his nine foot long picture of the ‘Cedars of the Lebanon’, he penned letters to his friends including Emily Tennyson, Sir George Grove and Chichester Fortescue, to whom he wrote in 1860 saying “The Hotel then is a large and sumptuously commodious place… I have a large light bedroom and wanting for naught.”

Edward Lear’s The Cedars of Lebanon

Taking a long, last look at Oatlands, we made for the car park and set off on the second part of today’s journey – Hampton Court Palace.

Part Two Coming Soon!