THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON TOUR
I'm delighted to welcome Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw from the fabulous blog Number One London to talk about their fabulous fall tour. If you love English history, you need to definitely check out the blog. And if you love to travel, and England is your spiritual home, you could ask for no better guides than Victoria and Kristine. Kristine is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901, (one of my favorite research tools), and Victoria is the author of several regency novels.
EKM: Tell me about the Duke of Wellington Tour.
VH: The Tour begins in London on September 4th and ends in Windsor on September 14th, 2014. We’ve designed a wonderful variety of exciting experiences for readers and writers – all those who love English history and romance. For example, we’ll explore the neighborhood of St James’s, which is rich in history that runs the gamut from trollops to princesses, dustmen to dukes. After spending three full days in London, we’ll travel around southern England exploring castles, palaces, and stately homes.
KH: Being readers, writers, and history lovers ourselves, we combined all the things we love and found a perfect theme for our first Number One London tour: the 1st Duke of Wellington. He lived from 1769-1852, so his life spanned the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras and allowed us to fill the itinerary with the best bits of each period. Wellington was a great military hero. He triumphed over Napoleon at Waterloo, spoke his mind, and continued to serve his country for the rest of his life. The Duke was brave, loyal and true, but he was no boy scout. We’ll be regaling our tour companions with lots of historic tidbits along the way.
EKM: Tell me more.
KH: We have many special treats in store. We’ll have a private dinner at the Grenadier, a famous London pub once used by Wellington’s regiment, where ghosts are said to appear from time to time, ghosts I’ve seen for myself.
EKM: You have got to be kidding!
KH: Not at all, and thankfully I wasn’t alone when they appeared and so I have witnesses! The Grenadier isn’t our only opportunity for specters, as we’ll be visiting the Tower of London, said to be haunted by many famous shades, such as Ann Boleyn, who lost her head there back in the 16th century.
VH: And don’t forget the Curse of the Mummy! We have a very exciting and unique opportunity to visit Highclere Castle, where many of the treasures Lord Carnarvon brought back from Egyptian tombs are on display. Of course, most of us are more enthralled with the settings for Downton Abbey than the remnants of that encounter with King Tut’s tomb. In fact Highclere Castle has become so popular that access is limited only to tours like ours for the next several years.
EKM: Most of us cannot get enough of Downton Abbey.
VH: We can’t wait to see it ourselves. Kristine and I are very excited about visiting the Castle and its gardens. The interiors are a splendid example of the Victorian High Gothic.
KH: We’ll see several stately homes during the Tour and, best of all, discover more about the families and stories behind them. Speaking for myself, I am most eager to see the Duke’s country home, Stratfield Saye. Public access is limited and we actually planned the tour to accommodate the opening schedules of both Highclere Castle and Stratfield Saye. The two estates are not very far apart, just a dozen or so miles, and the Duke and the Lord Carnarvon of his era served together in the House of Lords.
VH: Our history will not be confined to the last several hundred years, however. We’ll go back much farther than that – to the days of 1066 and William the Conqueror when the Tower of London and Windsor Castle were begun. We’ll be visiting both.
EKM: How about the Tudors? Those sagas are very popular.
KH: The Tower of London has Tudor history in spades. Not to mention a newly restored, working drawbridge. We’ll also visit Walmer Castle, built by Henry VIII to fortify the Kentish Coast against the Spanish Armada. The Duke lived – and died – there. It was his residence as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, an appointment that dates back to the 12th century.
VH: In much more recent times, Winston Churchill was the Lord Warden, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was Lord Warden from 1978-2002. We’ll also be visiting the rose garden she planted at Walmer.
KH: Yes, we love all kinds of English history and it comes alive for us via our research. Sometimes, it feels as though the personalities we research have only just left us. When we visit Apsley House, we almost expect to see Wellington himself stroll into the drawing room.
VH: As for illustrating the entire last millennium of English history, nothing can compare with the experience of Windsor Castle. The Royals still spend a great deal of time there, but the state rooms are open to the public, beginning with the room that holds Queen Mary’s charming Dollhouse. There’s also Medieval and Tudor armor, Jacobean interiors, and the brilliant state rooms designed by John Nash for George IV, including the Waterloo Chamber where the Queen still entertains at official State functions under the larger-than-life portraits of the Allied heroes of the Battle of Waterloo.
EKM: I can feel your enthusiasm for the trip. It sounds wonderful.
VH: Thank you. We wanted to create an experience that would let tour goers, whether they be readers or writers, to get up close and personal with their favorite eras of history. And we’ve allowed for ample time at each site for everyone to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy each at their leisure. For example, we’re both looking forward to revisiting the Prince Regent’s Royal Pavilion in Brighton in order to investigate the period kitchens further.
KH: And the hallway.
EKM: The hallway?
VH: Yes! The Duke of Wellington took part in blanket races at the Pavilion. The ladies would be seated upon a blanket that was then secured to the shoulders of a gentleman. Then, the men would race each other up and down the hallways.
EKM: Anecdotes like that certainly serve to bring history to life
KH: They do, and we’ve got plenty more of them in store. For us, the most important aspect of the Tour is that we intend to have a good time as well. We’ll be traveling to our favourite spots with likeminded people – that alone guarantees that fun will be had by all! And to that end, we’ve taken the work out of travel by including all accommodations, private coach transportation, baggage handling, guides, and most meals.
VH: We hope many of your readers want to come along. The highlights of the Tour we’ve already discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll also be visiting Horse Guards, the White Cliffs of Dover, the Regency Town House and Frogmore House. And we’ll be wrapping up the Tour with a boat ride up the Thames at Windsor. And just in case we’ve forgotten anything, you can find the complete itinerary and details for The Duke of Wellington Tour on our website.
Thanks so much Kristine and Victoria for stopping by! If you have any questions or wish to make reservations, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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