Through a thousand years of history, the British monarchy has moved from center of power to ceremonial periphery, a movement vividly illustrated by the style and geographical placement of the remaining royal palaces and the parks that surround them. While these parks remain opulent reminders of the power and sway of the monarchy, they largely remain as historical and ceremonial reminders of how Britain has evolved from absolute monarchy to a democracy. In the company of a local historian, this London Parks and Palaces Tour visits some of the most important parks and palaces in the city, including Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, and Hyde Park, elucidating their importance and exploring their grandeur.
London Parks and Palaces Tour
Starting at Westminster Hall, we will consider how the modern, ceremonial version of constitutional monarchy evolved over time and how that is reflected in the increasing democratization of space, best seen in the parks themselves, but also in the architecture and positioning of the palaces and their increasing accessibility and commercialization.
We'll walk through St. James’s Park, once Henry VIII’s deer park, taking in St. James’s Palace and Clarence House, today home to Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall.
At Buckingham Palace
Upon reaching Buckingham Palace we'll discuss Victoria's choice of the palace, and the establishment with Albert of the modern idea of “The Royal Family” as a kind of domestic ideal. We'll explore the embodiment of this, and other aspects of her rule, in the Monument. From here, we can also examine the ups and downs of the Monarchy in public opinion, as well as the Royal Family today and their place in British society and culture. Those interested in further exploring the monarchy may be interested in our London Royal Tour
From Hyde Park to Kensington Palace
We'll continue along Green Park and Hyde Park, ending at Queen Victoria's birth place: Kensington Palace. The Palace chosen by William III, supposedly to benefit his health, but also for its symbolism: away from the seat of government, in the country, in a low-key, gentlemanly style. We'll compare Spencer and Clarence House as well as Lancaster House with Versailles, the White House, and the Escorial, demonstrating that while it may be grand, it is an out of the way—even suburban—house.
We'll talk of more recent residents of the palace: Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, and William and Kate, and consider the present and the future for the British monarchy.
At the end of the walk we will have had the opportunity not only to marvel at some of London’s grandest and most beautiful landscapes, but we will have also developed an overview of how Britain’s constitutional monarchy has evolved and why, seen how that evolution is reflected physically in the deployment of buildings and parks, and begun to understand the place that London’s great parks play in the present life and past history of the city.
This walk can be tailored to appeal to everyone from the young, with its stories and fairy-tale glamor, to the more sophisticated trying to understand how the English constitution has become what it is today.
As this walk covers about 3.5 km, clients should wear comfortable shoes.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins in the Westminster neighborhood and ends at Kensington Palace. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map, and emergency phone number.
Do we go inside the venues or just see them from the outside?
We will view these venues from the outside. The walk ends at Kensington Palace, where you are welcome to go inside after the tour.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your expert will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 3 miles overall.