Classical Coffee Morning and Kensington Palace

I had coffee this morning with Carlos Bonell, an amazing classical guitarist!  It was something that I decided to do on a whim and I am so glad that I did!!  First of all, it was a lovely day to get out for a walk.  The day was sunny and walking to the Royal Albert Hall around 10:0, it felt more like a spring day, than a autumn day in November.  The air was crisp, the birds were chirping and the sky was a brilliant, clear blue.

The performance was in the Elgar room, a smaller, more intimate setting.  It was a sold out performance of about 120 people in all.  As you can see by my picture, I had a front row seat.  That had its pros and cons. It was great to be that close to the Mr Bonell; however, I was unable to see his right hand strumming the guitar.

Carlos Bonell was born in London in 1949 to Spanish parents.  His father was an amateur guitarist who passed on his love of music to his son. Carlos began playing when he was five years old.  He studied at the Royal College of Music with John Williams, the American composer.  At the age of 22, Carlos was appointed a professor at the college, the youngest ever.

Recently, he has worked with Sir Paul McCartney who is composing a concerto for the guitar and orchestra.  It was this association that inspired him to arrange the music of the Beatles for classical guitar.  He has been playing these arrangements in his Magical Mystery Guitar Tour and on a CD, which topped the United Kingdom’s classical iTunes charts!

His concert today included several Beatle’s songs….Yesterday, Lucy in the Sky, Here Comes the Sun and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, which was just a whimsical sounding song that made you smile when he was playing it.  He also played some classics….Vivaldi’s Spring…which was joyful sounding and fitting for the feeling of the day in general.  He played Cavatina by Stanley Myers. I wasn’t familiar with the song. As he played this hauntingly beautiful song, I thought that it would make a nice soundtrack for a movie.  After finishing it, Mr Bonell said that it was the soundtrack for The Deer Hunter.   The first three chords to Theme from the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo immediately conjures up images of Spain…getting me in the mood for upcoming trip to Barcelona!!  It is a song that many are familiar with but don’t know the name, as was the case for me, but when I heard the opening chords, I immediately knew the song.   He, also, played two songs by Queen!  One was “Who Wants to Live Forever” and the other was “Love of My Life”.  The program ended with Classical Gas by Mason Williams. Hearing him play this took me back to the eight grade, listening to my transistor radio to that song and constantly calling the local radio station to request Classical Gas or Love Is Blue!!!  He played three encores and one of the songs he played, Romanza, is my absolute favorite classical guitar piece.  It brings me to tears whenever I hear it, the music moves me so much.  The picture I have shared with you of Mr Bonell, he is playing Romanza. If you aren’t familiar with the song, I strongly recommend that you look it up on YouTube and listen to it.  It is beautiful!

Mr Bonell is definitely very, very talented.  He played each song so effortlessly.  His fingers flew over the strings.  I was so impressed how easy he played bar chords….my nemesis when I was taking guitar lessons!  It was a great Sunday morning!

From the Royal Albert Hall, I walked through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace and toured the rooms that are now open to the public.  I must say there is so much history to be learned here in England.  I asked a couple of questions to the “explainers” who were stationed throughout the palace and they knew their history.  I don’t know how they are able to remember all the members of the families and the names of all the children….sometimes there were 8 or 9 offsprings!

The tour is divided into three sections.  Victoria Revealed – the apartment of Queen Victoria, her husband, Prince Albert and their 9 children; The Queen’s State Apartment – the apartment for Queen Mary and King William and The King’s State Apartments – the apartment for King George I and II.

Room from Queen Victoria’s apartment

I spent most of my time in Queen Victoria’s apartments, as I have been curious to learn more about her.  I was aware that she dearly loved Prince Albert and went into deep mourning when he died at a young age.  There influence seems to be throughout London….the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, the monument to Prince Albert in Hyde Park, across from the RAH.  There was much information to absorb throughout the palace tour.

Queen Victoria had a very unhappy childhood.  Her father died suddenly when she wasn’t quite a year old.  Her mother was very protective of her and kept her very secluded at Kensington.  She was privately tutored and had no friends her age.  She spent much of her time playing with her pet dog, Dash, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

She became queen, on June 20, 1837, at the young age of 18 when her uncle William IV died.  This is the dress that she wore to the First Council the day she learned of her uncle’s death and that she was queen.  Originally, it was black but over the years, the dye has faded to this brown color.  It was during this meeting with her councilors that she took her oath to be queen. You can’t really tell from this picture but she had a very small stature.

October, 1839, she proposed to her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg.  They were married February 10, 1840 and were very much in love.  They had 9 children – 5 girls and 4 boys.  Victoria wasn’t particularly fond of children.  She saw them twice a day and it was more Albert who took on more of the parental role.  Part of this was due to the fact that Victoria was a “working woman” running the country of England.  Albert had more time to devote to the children.  One thing that Victoria did believe is that her children should marry for love.  Granted, they had to marry within their class and not a commoner.

I sat in on a talk about the daughters of Victoria and Albert.  I learned some interesting facts about them. Vicki, their oldest daughter, was the “apple of her father’s eye”.  She met and fell in love with her husband, the Prince of Prussia, when she was only 14 years old.  However, she had to wait until she was 17 to marry him.  The second daughter was Alice,  was married to a German prince.  She was very involved with education and nursing.  She was friends with Florence Nightingale.  When her grandmother, Queen Victoria’s mother, became ill, Alice was the one who nursed her.  Alice and her mother did not have the warmest of relationships.  Alice annoyed the Queen by breastfeeding her children and her strong opinions.  Tragically, Alice died of diphtheria at the young age of 35.  Helena was very much the “tom boy” of the girls and interested in technology and math.  She married a German prince who had no land and they lived with the queen in England.  Helena, along with another younger sister, Beatrice, acted as secretaries for their mother after their father’s death.

Louise was the most beautiful and very artistic.  She attended the National Art Training school, now known as the Royal Academy of Art, a first for royalty.  She married into British aristocracy and traveled throughout Canada with her husband who was appointed as Canada’s Governor General.  Lake Louise, in the Banff area of province of Alberta, is named after her.  Louise’s marriage was not a very happy one and she spent much time in England at the palace with her mother.

Finally, there was the youngest daughter, Beatrice who was 4 years old when her father died and her mother went into deep, deep mourning.  Being the baby, Beatrice was very much spoiled. She was a very shy girl and very withdrawn.  Her mother discouraged Beatrice from ever getting married and didn’t allow any kind of discussion of marriage or weddings around Beatrice.  However, Beatrice met her German husband, Prince Henry of Battenberg, at a wedding and they were married when she was 27.  The queen only agreed to it providing they lived with her so Beatrice could continue as the Queen’s unofficial secretary.  They were married for 10 years when Prince Henry died of malaria while fighting in the Anglo-Ashanti war in West Africa.  There are rumors that Louise made advances to Henry while she was living in the palace.

One of Prince Albert’s duties was organizing the Great Exhibition in 1851.  It was in Hyde Park in the Crystal Palace designed by Joseph Paxton.  The purpose of the exhibition was to promote Great Britain as the world leader in design and also, to include technology, art and designs from around the world.  It was a great success having more than 6 million people visit it.

As stated above, Albert died from typhoid fever on December 14, 1861 at the age of 42.  Queen Victoria went into a life of mourning wearing black for the rest of her life.  She avoided public appearances causing her popularity with the public to wane.  By the time of her Golden Jubilee (50th) in 1887, she had gained favor with the populace again.   She celebrated her Diamond Jubilee (60th) in 1897.  At the age of 81, Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901.  She is the great-great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth, the queen of England today.

The next rooms I visited were the apartment of Queen Mary II and King William.  They came to power after the Glorious Revolution.  Mary’s father King James II was trying to impose many Catholic beliefs on a protestant country.  Seven members of Parliament, dubbed the Immortal Seven,  the  traveled to the Netherlands to ask Princess Mary II, a devote protestant, if she would return to take over as head of the country.  The only way she would agree is if her husband, Prince William, a Dutch princess would be king.  They agreed and returned to take over the country in what turned out to be a “bloodless revolution”.

Queen Mary II and King William III were childless and had no heir to the throne.  Their nephew, William, Duke of Gloucester, the son of Mary’s sister, Anne was to be the next King when William and Mary died.  Anne had lost 17 children through miscarriages, stillborns or early deaths.  William was the only one to survive, although he was extremely fragile.  On his 11th birthday, it is said that he danced and became overheated.  Soon, he was suffering from chills and a sore throat.  The doctors could not agree on a diagnosis and treatment.  Sadly, William died on July 30, 1700 at the age of 11.

This display in one of the rooms in Queen Mary’s and King William’s apartment represents Princess Anne’s devastating loss of children.  The sign reads something like “Princess Anne’s Eighteen Hopes”.  Each chair represents a child that had died.  In the back is the largest chair in black….it represents young William.

Queen Mary II died of small pox on December 28, 1694 at the age of 32.  King William III continued to rule England but with a heavy heart. He had come to rely greatly on Mary and when she died, he lost the desire to continue as a leader.  When William died in 1702, Princess Anne, Mary’s sister became queen.

My last apartment to visit belonged to King George I and his son, George II.  After the death of Queen Anne, George I who was of German descent ascended the throne at the age of 54.  There were several relatives of Catholic faith who were closer in relation than George II, however Parliament had passed the Act of Settlement 1701 that said the ruler of Great Britain must be protestant.

Moving to England and becoming their king was a difficult adjustment for George I.  He brought his mistress and German cook to help him through the transition.  His son George II and wife, Caroline came with him and embraced the lifestyle quite easily.  George I and George II had a falling out.  George II and Caroline were thrown out of Kensington.  The left quite quickly and without their three children, who remained with their grandfather in the palace.  The youngest, a baby boy, Prince George William eventually died.  It took several years but the disagreement was half-heartedly settled and they reconciled…..more for the sake of the country.

In June, 1727; while on a trip to Hanover, Germany, King George I died.  George II succeeded him as king at the age of 43.

So, that was my Sunday….I hope that yours was just as enjoyable and special.  I need to put out the garbage and head to bed to get some desperately needed “beauty sleep”!!!!

The Ball Room

King George I Throne 

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