The Queen. An unlikely birthplace!

The Queen. An unlikely birthplace!

By in London's history

April 21st was the Queens birthday. She is actually very lucky because she has two birthdays. Her actual birthday is on the 21st April but her official birthday is on a Saturday in June. For the reason, you have to go back to the reign  of  Edward VII (1901-1910). It had been the tradition since 1748 that the Monarch’s birthday had been celebrated by a ceremony called Trooping of the Colour, which takes place in Horse Guards Parade, not far from the Palace. However Edward VII was born on 9th November and it was thought that the weather could be too inclement to hold the ceremony then, so the ceremony for the monarchs birthday was moved to the second or third week in June, when it was thought that even the unreliable British weather would be better! But did you know that Elizabeth  was born in a relatively normal street in Mayfair and not in a palace like many of her predecessors?This was because her father (who became George VI) was not originally heir to the crown. That honour was reserved for his elder brother Edward VIII who of course abdicated in 1936 after his relationship with divorcee American Wallis Simpson forced him to give up the throne. So outside the unlikely address of 17 Bruton St  (now an expensive restaurant/night club) our future Queen  was born by ceserean section at 2.40am, 21st April 1926. Check it out on our Secret London...

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The Knowledge

The Knowledge

By in A day in the life of a London cabbie

  Even in these days of satellite navigation, to obtain a license to drive one of London’s famous black taxis, you have to complete the world’s most demanding training course for taxi drivers, known simply as ‘the Knowledge.’ This in-depth study of London takes on average a grueling three years to complete, which is just about how long it took me. ‘The Knowledge’ was initiated way back in 1865, and in many ways has changed little since. Though an incredibly tough exam to get through (on average, only a quarter of total applicants do), it does ensure that London taxi drivers have an intimate and unparalleled knowledge of their city. In all, some 25,000 streets in central London are covered and in addition to learning the street names, you have to learn thousands of ‘points’ such as public buildings, hotels, theatres, embassies, restaurants, historic buildings, hospitals, etc. And if that’s not enough of a challenge, you have to be able to recite from memory 320 routes or ‘runs’ made up of several or more roads. These are called the ‘Blue Book Runs’ and form the basis of most taxi journeys through London. After passing an initial written exam, you are then continually tested in one-to-one interviews called ‘appearances’ with very strict examiners. And boy, are they strict. You are only allowed to attend the appearances if you were wearing a suit and arrived well groomed! When you have passed all your appearances, you are awarded the coveted green badge. Phew. Would-be cabbies, known as Knowledge boys – or increasingly girls these days – usually follow the routes around London on a motor scooter and can often be identified by a clipboard fixed to the handlebars showing the roads and the ‘points’ to be learned that day. I always did my Knowledge very early in the morning, when the streets were still quiet, sometimes on a bike and sometimes in a car accompanied by my mother, who also loved learning about all of London nooks and crannies! After years of study, you begin to think it’s never all going to sink in, but I had been told there was a Eureka moment when it all comes together and finally it...

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St George and the Dragon

St George and the Dragon

By in London's history

Everyone knows that St George is the patron saint of England and that he slew the dragon, but why? What did he have against that dragon? And while we’re on the subject, why is he the patron saint of England? Well you have to go way back to the days of King Richard I or Richard the Lionheart as he’s often called. It was the 12th century and the time of the crusades. English Knights were queuing up for the glory of going to the Holy Land to fight. There was none more keen than the King of England, Richard I. He was a real gung ho kind of King. Nothing he liked better than a good foreign scrap. It was during his time out there that he first heard the legend of  St George. And it went  something like this. St George was a Roman soldier who was travelling through Libya (obviously having a bit of time off). He came across a kingdom where he noticed there were no young women. After enquiring why, he was told there was a terrible dragon in the area, who only spared the people if he was given a young maiden as a sacrifice. Now the people of the kingdom were in a terrible state because all the young women had now been sacrificed and the only girl left, was the Kings daughter, the beautiful Princess, and she was to be sacrificed that very  day. St George decided that he had to save the Princess and galloped off on his trusty steed. Finding her about to taken into the dragons lair he rode in and positioned himself between the dragon and the princess. He attacked  with his spear but the hard scales of the creature broke the spear into thousands of pieces. Our hero was flung from his horse. He only saved himself by hiding under a enchanted orange tree. Handy. He then took his sword and braving the Dragons fiery breath, he killed the beast by finding a place under the wing where the scales did not protect it. Well you can imagine The King and his people  were overjoyed at St Georges bravery. Apparently our own excitable King Richard was so impressed by...

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