London’s Burlington House

© Cheryl Bolen

Burlington House, located on London’s busy Piccadilly near the Piccadilly Circus, is now seen by thousands who view exhibits there of the Royal Academy.

But the former aristocratic home is significantly altered from what it was when Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, engaged Scottish architect Colen Campbell to redesign it in 1718 when the earl was 26. Indeed, the earl’s home significantly altered the previous home there, built in 1667 by the 1st Earl of Burlington. The 1st earl engaged William Kent to design the baroque interiors, some of which remain today.

During the 1st earl’s lifetime, Burlington House was a hub for artists, including Handel, who reportedly lived there for three years, Swift, and Pope.

The 3rd earl succeeded at age 10. (See my previous blogs on the 3rd Earl of Burlington in “Chiswick House: Quintessentially Georgian” and “The Grand Tour”

Campbell was heavily influenced by Italian Andrea Palladio—whom the earl also came to emulate when he designed his Chiswick House as a Thames-side villa.

This is a view of Burlington House from Piccadilly as it looked in the lifetime of the 3rd Earl of Burlington

This is a view of Burlington House from Piccadilly as it looked in the lifetime of the 3rd Earl of Burlington

Burlington House was one of a handful of London residences that were constructed on large plots of land with outbuildings. (I’ve previously blogged on Devonshire House and Albany, both located on Piccadilly near Burlington Houston, and both of which were on large plots set back from the street.) The main house is some distance away from the Victorian archway into the forecourt in front of the house.

Campbell’s Palladian main house remains today, but a third story was added in Victorian times. Also added in Victorian times was the building, centered by a huge open arch, which lines the sidewalk on Piccadilly. This building houses the various “learned societies” which occupy the site and is not open to the public.

The earl’s estate passed to his grandson, the Duke of Devonshire, who never resided there. In 1815, the 6th Duke of Devonshire sold Burlington House to his uncle Lord George Cavendish, and Lord George built the adjacent Burlington Arcade (see my previous blog).

In 1854, the property was sold for £140,000 to the British government, which eventually leased it to the Royal Academy for 999 years. It also was chosen to house five “learned societies.”

Burlington House today (now the Royal Academy), note the third floor added in Georgian times

Burlington House today (now the Royal Academy), note the third floor added in Victorian times

The main house’s John Medejski Fine Rooms, often open free to the public, were restored in 2004 to what they would have looked like when The Earls of Burlington lived there. I have had the good fortune of viewing these lovely rooms, which include some designed by Kent 300 years ago. For those planning a trip to London, I would suggest seeing The Royal Academy on the weekends, when more rooms are open.

Kent's ceiling today

Kent’s ceiling today

Kent's dinner room

Kent’s dinner room

Sidewalk (on Piccadilly) entrance today. This addition was completed in Victorian times.

Sidewalk (on Piccadilly) entrance today. This addition was completed in Victorian times.


London’s Burlington Arcade

© Cheryl Bolen, 2014

Almost two hundred years after it was built, the Burlington Arcade still remains one of the most prestigious shopping areas in London. The upscale shopping promenade, which features arcades, bowed store fronts, and a glazed roof, opened on Piccadilly in 1819. The “mall” was to serve as a prototype for its many imitators over the past two centuries.

Burlington Arcade is adjacent to Burlington House, which the 6th Duke of Devonshire sold to his uncle, Lord George Cavendish (1754-1834) in 1815. Lord George loved his house and adjacent garden, which was one of a handful of aristocratic London homes that were surrounded by gardens. Unfortunately, the wall around his garden was no deterrent to those who threw oyster shells, dirt, and broken bottles onto his property.

Burlington Arcade, 1837

Burlington Arcade, 1837

To keep his garden clear of litter, Lord George commissioned Samuel Ware to design the arcade to run along the western perimeter of his property, and it opened in 1819 with 72 two-story units. The arcade separated Burlington House from Albany, another magnificent home built by Lord and Lady Melbourne nearly three decades earlier. Like Burlington House, the walled property around Albany consisted of a parking court, outbuildings, and garden.

inside arcade

Inside London’s posh Burlington Arcade today

Just steps from Piccadilly Circus, Burlington Arcade’s shops offers high-quality goods ranging from fine cashmere and jewelry to leather goods. Just as it was during Lord George Cavendish’s lifetime, the arcade is still patrolled by beadles in top hats and frock coats, modeled after Lord George’s regiment, the 10th Hussars. And it still is a go-to place for top-quality goods. Next blog: Burlington House

A bit of writing news

Though I normally address English historical events rather than writing news on this blog, I’m veering over to writing news today because the delightful Regina Scott, who has published dozens of sweet Regencies, has tapped me for a blog tour with just a few special friends. Be sure to visit Regina’s blog, Nineteen Teen. And since this is my only blog, I’m posting the pertinent info here.

Here are the questions I was asked:

1. What am I working on?

I’ve had readers request sequels to Falling for Frederick (A Stately Homes Murder) and Regent Mysteries, and I’ve begun both projects. However, I have decided to build a series around my most popular book, a stand-alone originally published in 2000 and titled A Lady by Chance.

2000 edition at left, new edition on right. A Duchess by Mistake coming in late 2014.

2000 edition at left, new edition on right. A Duchess by Mistake coming in late 2014.


This book has sold so well that Amazon Crossings is currently working on a German translation that should be available by the end of the summer. The new series will be the Haverstock Chronicles, and I’m about 30 percent finished with book 2, to be titled A Duchess by Mistake. Look for it later in 2014.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My books are not built around a sexual premise as are so many of today’s Regency-set historicals. Whenever I start a book, my goal is to build a sigh-worthy romance. Sure, there are conflicts, but I seldom have my hero and heroine at dagger-points with one another. As I’ve matured, I’ve been more conscious of writing books that appeal to me, therefore there must be humor. Humor, touching romance, and perhaps a little mystery. (And like so many readers, I confess to loving marriage-of-convenience stories!)

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love the whole experience about falling in love and hope that I can convey that thrill in my books.

4. How does my writing process work?

When I start a new book I revisit some of my favorite books about plotting — Christopher Vogler (Writer’s Journey), Blake Snyder (Save the Cat), Deb Dixon (GMC) and start playing “what if?”. I try to write every day (upon returning from the gym) and typically stop at the end of a scene. I spend just as many hours editing my work as I do writing it.

Now next Monday–if not before–I’d like you to visit the blogs of my friends Ella Quinn and Joan Reeves.

Amazon and Barnes & Nobel bestselling author Ella Quinn’s studies and other jobs have always been on the serious side. Reading historical romances, especially Regencies, were her escape. Eventually her love of historical novels led her to start writing them.

She is married to her wonderful husband of twenty-nine years. They have a son and granddaughter, Great Dane and a Chartreux. After living in the South Pacific, Central America, North Africa, England and Europe, she and her husband decided to make St. Thomas, VI home.

Ella is a member of the Romance Writers of American, The Beau Monde and Hearts Through History. She is represented by Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency, and published by Kensington.

Blog http://ellaquinnauthor.wordpresscom

And now for contemporary author Joan Reeves: Joan, who writes funny, sexy romance, is a bestselling ebook author and is multi-published in print. Her popular romantic comedies are available as ebooks and audio books. Joan has published the popular blog SlingWords — Reading, Writing, & Publishing — since 2005. She offers free newsletters for writers and readers. Subscribe links can be found on her blog. Joan can be found online at: Blog:, Website:

© Cheryl Bolen, 2014


The English Noblewoman Who Married a Sheikh

Born to a distinguished English family in 1807, Jane Digby scandalized society through a widely publicized affair that resulted in a divorce from Lord Ellenborough when she was 19. Banished to the Continent, she commenced with a string of lovers—which culminated with her most scandalous act: her marriage to a Bedouin sheikh twenty years her junior when she was 47.

Throughout her life, she was ruled by flaming passions that outweighed public censure, estrangement from her family, and estrangement from the surviving children of the six she bore.

Holkham Hall's marble hall. Where Jane's mother grew up.

Holkham Hall’s marble hall. Where Jane’s mother grew up.

Jane Digby was the daughter of Admiral Digby, who served at Trafalgar, and Lady Andover—who, as the custom of the day prescribed, for the rest of her life used the title of her higher ranking deceased first husband. Moreover, Jane’s mother was born to vast wealth and privledge. She grew up in one of the great English homes—Holkham Hall. Thomas Coke, her father, possessed vast wealth and eventually succumbed to accept the title of Lord Leicester.

An unfaithful wife

At 17 Jane married Lord Ellenborough after a promising, romantic courtship that soon fizzled after the marriage. Lord Ellenborough found joy with a mistress while Jane embarked on an affair with her cousin. She never told her husband, “their” son was fathered by her cousin. When the cousin tired of her, Jane’s affections were lavished on a German prince, Felix Schwartzenberg, who professed undying love for her.

She was so passionately in love with the prince that she begged for a divorce, even knowing intimate details of her sexual rendezvous with Schwartzenberg would become fodder for every newspaper in Britain during the divorce trial. Not only would she and her family be held up to public scandal, but she would lose all connection to the son she had never been close to.

Jane Digby (the infamous Lady Ellenborough) in her twenties

Jane Digby (the infamous Lady Ellenborough) in her twenties

Indeed, her eldest brother was cut off from inheriting the wealth of his grandfather, Lord Digby, because of Jane’s sins. He did inherit the title but not the money that went with it.

In all fairness to Lord Ellenborough, he provided handsomely for Jane, who never lacked for riches during her long life, and he was never bitter, nor did he ever speak with malice toward her. He truly loved the baby boy Jane left behind, but the child soon died.

While Lord Ellenborough treated Jane kindly, her dashing prince treated her shabbily while stringing her along for a number of years—and through the birth of two more children, a daughter his family eventually raised, and a son who died days after he was born.

In Bavaria

She eventually ended up a fixture at the Court of King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was reputed to be the father of her second daughter, who turned out to be hopelessly mad. It was at this time Jane finally realized the Catholic prince she had loved so well and for so long had no intentions of marrying her. She allowed herself to be wooed in a marriage with Baron Carl Venningen, a man madly in love with her and who she knew she didn’t love him.

Together, they had son, and he claimed paternity for the daughter who was mad. During this marriage, Jane became passionately in love with a Greek, Count Spiro Theotoky , whom she eloped with, leaving both children with Venningen, who never held malice for her, never remarried, and stayed relatively close to Jane until the end of his life.

Making her home in Athens

With Count Theotoky, Jane had her sixth and final child, a son who was the only child to whom she was ever attached. Marriage to the count turned out badly. He took up with a mistress and lived off Jane’s money.

Though Jane brought much shame to her family, her parents never withheld their love or support of her. Indeed, she and her mother would be close until her mother’s death. It was while she and her mother were meeting in Italy that Jane’s little six-year-old son would die. Impetuous like his mother, he began to slide down the banister of their three-story villa, falling to his death on the marble at his mother’s feet.

After his death, his broken-hearted mother returned to Athens. While going through the lengthy divorce process from Count Theotoky, Jane fell in love with an Albanian general twenty years her senior and lived openly with him—sometimes in caves! She fancied herself in love with him and built a fabulous house for both of them and took an active, affectionate interest in his young daughter.

When she discovered him having sex with her so-called devoted lady’s maid, she fled to the Levant. She had a sexual relationship—but not romantic—with a sheikh who first showed her the country which would soon claim her heart.

Always a true horsewoman who could ride better than most men, Jane fell in love with Arabian horses, the desert, and ancient cities like Palmyra. While Shiekh Medjuel el Mazrab was escorting her to Palmyra, he apparently fell in love with Jane. At the end of their journey, he asked if she could ever consider marrying him. She was stunned.

Falling for the sheikh

After they parted she could not free her thoughts from him, and since Jane was incomplete without a passionate love affair, the idea of being a desert princess began to appeal to her. Of course she had never been intimate with Medjuel, and he’d not told her he loved her. He had two wives.

When she later returned and he spoke of love, she consented to marry him on the condition that she be his only wife. One of his wives had died, and he agreed to divorce the other. Jane kept chiding herself. She was nearly 50; he was in his late 20s. But Jane loved to be involved in passionate love affairs.

Fluent in nine languages

jd - arabic dress

Madam Jane Digby el Mezrab Watercolor by Carl Haag 1859

The British consul in Damascus attempted to dissuade her from marrying a Bedouin, but nothing could dissuade her. The 47-year-old Jane married Medjuel, and she immersed herself in assimilating into the Bedouin culture. She died her hair black, kohled her eyed, and dressed in veils and flowing gowns. She also learned Arabic fluently. It was the ninth language in which she was fluent.

She built a spectacular house in Damascus, where she spent half the year. The other half, she followed the tribe on the back of a camel, sleeping in Medjuel’s low-slung black tent. They experienced extreme temperatures. Summer heat was known to reach a reported 140 degrees Fareneheit, and winters could be bitterly cold.

While living in Damascus, she dressed as a European and entertained European visitors as the grand dame she was. To the English, she would always be referred to as Lady Ellenborough of the scandalous divorce. One of those visitors was the Prince of Wales. She was also close to Sir Richard Burton and his wife and imparted much information that would assist him in his Arabian Nights. She also spoke to him of the sexual practices in harems (where she had full access) which helped in his translation of the Kamra Sutra.

Jane’s marriage to Medjuel brought her the passion she craved, and she tormented herself with worries that Medjuel would take another wife or lose his heart to a younger woman of his own tribe. Many of her thoughts were poured out in the diaries she kept the final three decades of her life and which ended up with the Digby family.

The marriage to Medjuel was easily the happiest of her four marriages and would endure until her death at  age 74. There was one rocky patch when she discovered he had taken a young bride forty years younger than Jane, but Jane forced him to give her up.

In  death, she eschewed the Bedouin practice of burying the dead in unmarked desert graves on the day of their death. Her final resting place is in a European cemetery in Damascus where the stone proclaims she was Jane Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral Sir Henry Digby, born April 3, 1807, Died Aug. 11, 1881. Medjuel brought stone from Palmyra, where they had been so happy on their honeymoon, and on it he carved, in Arabic, Madam Digby el Mezrab. He never remarried.

Those interested in reading all the rich details of Jane’s life are encouraged to track down Mary S. Lovell’s fine 1995 biography of Jane, A Scandalous Life. –By Cheryl Bolen, whose fascination with dead English women contributes to many of the articles that can be found at or

© Cheryl Bolen, 2014



Top 15 Reasons to take Wellington Tour

image001The Duke of Wellington Tour

Presented by Number One London

September 4th to 14th, 2014

Join Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw – authors, bloggers, and Wellington aficionados – as they travel through the English countryside on a one-of-a-kind tour visiting locations connected to Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, including London, Walmer, Brighton, Hampshire, and Windsor.

Top 15 Reasons to Join The Duke of Wellington Tour:

15. Take advantage of hassle free travel to some of England’s top tourist destinations. Upon arrival at the Grosvenor Hotel, our base in London, you can leave the rest of the trip to us: private coach transportation is provided for the entire length of the tour, as are baggage handling, hotels, site entrance fees and most meals.

14. Soak up the English atmosphere.  With an unhurried itinerary that includes country homes, museums, castles and more, you’ll have plenty of time to tour each site, have a meal or a cuppa and, of course, visit the gift shops at your own pace.

13. Travel with a group who share your interests and passion for British history and enjoy a convivial dinner most nights with your travel companions as you discuss the days’ sights and events.


12. Walk the White Cliffs of Dover. Follow the windswept trail and gaze out to sea as we experience the grandeur and wild beauty of the Cliffs. Julius Caesar wrote about them in the Commentarii De Bello Gallico, Shakespeare used them as a setting in King Lear, and the Duke of Wellington himself gazed upon the Cliffs when returning home from his numerous military victories.   So romantic are the White Cliffs of Dover that they were chosen as the backdrop for the final scene in the 2009 BBC version of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” which you can watch here.


11. Participate in exclusive events arranged especially for our group, including dinner at the historic Grenadier Pub in London, lunch at the Duke of Wellington’s country home, Stratfield Saye, and a boat cruise down the River Thames in Windsor.


10. Become swept up in military pageantry by visiting Horse Guards, the Wellington Arch, the Guards Parade in Windsor and the Household Cavalry Museum.

9. Visit Castles. Three of England’s grandest castles are included on our itinerary – Walmer Castle, the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle. Between them, these sites include portions that date from the 11th to the 21st centuries, allowing you to imagine life as it was from the Norman Conquest, through the Tudor and Georgian periods, and into the present day.  We’ll be visiting the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle and the special exhibition at the Tower featuring the Duke of Wellington’s influence during his time as Constable of the Tower. In addition, we’ll be viewing the Duke’s private rooms, which have been preserved at Walmer Castle, used by Wellington during his tenure as Lord of the Cinque Ports.


8.  Join a day-long walking tour through the fabled streets of St. James’s, London, with your guides, Victoria and Kristine. Take a leisurely stroll as you listen to tales about gentlemen’s clubs and famed personalities who frequented the area. Hear tales of bawdy houses, royal chapels, and courtesans. Explore hidden alleys and tucked away streets. Discover their connections to duels, downfalls, and dandies before we quench our thirst at some of London’s most historic and atmospheric pubs. The day also includes time to stop for snacks,  lunch, and a bit of shopping.


7. Gain entrance to properties that are rarely open to the public. Stratfield Saye, the Duke’s home in Hampshire, is only open to the general public for two months of the year; Frogmore House in Windsor (above), a royal residence since 1709, is again open for just two months annually, whilst tickets to Highclere Castle cannot be secured for love or money until 2016. Fortunately, the Duke of Wellington Tour has taken advantage of a very narrow window during which these sites are open concurrently – and we’ve booked reserved tickets for all.


6. Explore Stately Homes.  Here’s your chance to get up close and personal with the interiors and grounds of stately homes from various periods of English history. We’ll be seeing furnishings, works of art and personal collections at Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s London home; Basildon Park in Hampshire (used as Netherfield Park in the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice); the Regency Town House in Hove; and what is perhaps the most fantastic and fabulous stately home of them all, George IV’s Royal Pavilion at Brighton, pictured above.


5. Enjoy a private, guided tour of Downton Abbey, also known as Highclere Castle, home to Lord and Lady Carnarvon. We’ll be given access to the State Rooms, the bedrooms, and various spaces in the Castle that comprise both Upstairs and Downstairs life, many of which have been used as sets for Downton Abbey. We’ll hear tales about the real life history of the Castle, as well as many anecdotes about the filming of DA and the fictional Grantham Family before visiting the Egyptian Exhibition, comprised of artifacts connected to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in 1922 with his archaeological colleague, Howard Carter.


  1. Immerse yourself in the rich and varied history of the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras whilst exploring the life and times of the Duke of Wellington.
  2. Visit the places and objects that have become the stuff of legends – the grave of Copenhagen, the stallion who carried Wellington over the battlefield at Waterloo – and had the temerity to take a nip at him when the Duke finally dismounted; the grounds of Frogmore House, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried; the site of Anne Boleyn’s execution; White’s Club, Lock’s Hatters, Hatchard’s, Berkeley Square, and other London landmarks; the Crooked House in Windsor; the playing fields of Eton and many more historic “must sees.”

2. Travel with your escorts Victoria Hinshaw and Kristine Hughes, writers, researchers,  Wellington aficionados and bloggers ( Number One London – one million page views!). Victoria and Kristine have both been to England numerous times and they look forward to sharing their next trip across the pond, as well as their knowledge of British history, with you. Travel through the English countryside and be regaled with tales from history and anecdotes of historic personalities. Did you know that the Duke of Wellington and his contemporaries ran blanket races down the hallways of the Brighton Pavilion?

  1. Celebrate this once in a lifetime opportunity to travel in comfort as you take advantage of a most unique itinerary in the company of friends.

Click here for complete itinerary and details of  The Duke of Wellington Tour .

Top 12 Free Things to do in London

There are so many reasons why London is my favorite city in the world, not just the city’s obvious reverence of the past. No matter how many times I visit this vast, varied, and vivacious city I keep finding fresh things to do. And many of them are free–which is good since London is an extremely expensive city in which to stay and to eat.

Most of the great free museums ask for donations and have Plexiglas receptacles for these.

I was unable to limit myself to ten, so here’s my Top 12 List of Free Things to Do in London:

1. The National Portrait Gallery. Backing up to Trafalgar Square, this is my go-to place on every visit to London. The collection of Regency portraits is outstanding. I typically visit here several times each trip just to oogle.

This portrait of the Regent dominates one of the chambers dedicated to the Regency. Note Emma Hamilton next to him.

This portrait of the Regent dominates one of the chambers dedicated to the Regency. Note Emma Hamilton next to him.

You can also see the controversial (with only a hint of her spectacular smile) portrait of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and a fabulous informal one of her handsome hubby with his devilishly cute brother. Remember, the gallery’s open late on Thursday and Friday evenings and be sure to check out the bar/restaurant at the top. The London views from there are spectacular.

2. The Wallace Collection. Yes, this is one of London’s great art museums, but what makes it a must-see for those of us who love the English Regency, it is housed in a London townhouse built in the late 1700s for the Duke of Manchester, when it was known as Manchester House. In 1797, Lord Hertford bought the lease, and the house in Manchester Square became known as Hertford House. The Regent visited here regularly since Lady Hertford was his mistress. In Victorian times, the house came into the possession of the illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890), of the bachelor 4th Marquess of Hertford. Wallace inherited his father’s extensive art collections and chose to display them in this home. His widow gave the house and its contents to the nation. Hertford House is located close to the Bond Street shopping.

One of the rooms at Hertford House

One of the rooms at Hertford House

3. Kenwood House/Hampstead Heath. Do I begin with the heath or the house? Oh, but I love Hampstead Heath! One can stand amidst natural vegetation unchanged in centuries and enjoy spectacular views of London below.

Kenwood House overlooking Hampstead Heath and London

Kenwood House overlooking Hampstead Heath and London

At the heath’s eastern edge stands the villa known as Kenwood House, which was remodeled by Robert Adam in the late 18th century. Kenwood houses another fabulous art collection bequeathed to the nation, along with the house, in 1927 by the Earl of Iveagh. Artists whose master works are here include Rembrandt, Romney, Turner, Van Dyck, and many others. The house has many attractions, including Adams’ incredibly elegant library, and an orangery–the first one I ever saw. No trip to London is complete for me without visiting the borough of Hampstead, and no trip to Hampstead is complete without a visit to one of my all-time favorite pubs, the Spaniards Inn, a 400-year-old inn adjacent to the vast heath.

4. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Even though it’s touted as the world’s greatest museum of art and design, it’s so much more–especially to those who love Georgian England. You’ll see jewels belonging to long-dead aristocrats and royals, clothing, furnishings, and you’ll even learn about some of London’s great houses that have been demolished.

One of the hundreds of displays at the V&A

One of the hundreds of displays at the V&A

Like at the British Museum, you can spend days here.

5. Primrose Hill. I read somewhere (probably in Georgette Heyer!) that duels used to be fought here during the Regency but have not been able to verify this. Now Primrose Hill is located in an extremely posh area of London near Regent’s Park and St. John’s Wood.

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill

During one visit here with my son’s London friend, I was shown the nearby house of actor Jude Law. I have since come to understand many, many British celebs live in the Primrose Hill area, including Simon Callow, Daniel Craig, Kate Moss, Alan Rickman, John Cleese, and Robert Plant. The real attraction here–day or night–is the spectacular panoramic view of London.


Mummy at the British Museum

6. The British Museum. One could spend weeks here. Even more memorable than the Rosetta Stone to me are the Egyptian mummies. And one cannot go to London and not see the Elgin Marbles.


7. London Parks. I couldn’t list just one. My personal favorite, though small, is Green Park. Begin adjacent to the Ritz on Piccadilly and head west all the way to Buckingham Palace. I never tire of the Palladian elegance of Spencer House, which backs up to the park. Hyde Park is huge, and I confess that I’ve never seen all of it, even though on two different stays my London flat was just across the street from it.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

Another great large park is Regent’s Park, which I will attest to seeing all of, and I had the sore feet to show for it! The neighborhoods around Regent’s Park are exceptionally posh. Expect to see homes belonging to sheikhs. A wonderful smaller neighborhood park is Holland Park in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (which I’ve blogged about when I wrote about Holland House–then and now). The gardens are lovely, and visitors can stroll through the old arcades left from Holland House, where the Barons Holland resided in Georgian times. Much of the house was destroyed in World War II.

8. Cheyne Walk. This is a rarity in London: a street of lovely, substantial mansions practically on the banks of the River Thames. This unforgettable street in Chelsea was home in the 19th century of many artists and authors, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Eliot, JMW Turner, and Algernon Charles Swinburne.

This home on Cheyne Walk, overlooking the River Thames, is where Dante Garbriel Rossetti lived in Victorian times.

This home on Cheyne Walk, overlooking the River Thames, is where Dante Garbriel Rossetti lived in Victorian times.

In the 1930s Laurence Olivier lived here, and in the 1960s Mick Jagger lived at Number 48 with Marianne Faithful, and fellow band mate Keith Richards lived at Number 3. The houses have fences around them for privacy and locked gates, but their view of the bustling river has not been obstructed. The closest I’ll ever be to glimpsing inside one of these houses is rewatching a Jeremy Britt episode of Sherlock Holmes. One of Holmes’ fictional clients lived on Cheyne Walk, and a scene supposedly depicts the home’s great river views.


Portobello Road on a Saturday

9. Portobello Road. This antiques Mecca comes alive every Saturday when hundreds of stalls open. I’ve been coming here for two decades and I confess to being a bit disappointed in it in recent years. It’s been discovered by the masses, many of whom probably learned about it from the Julia Roberts film Notting Hill. It’s gotten very crowded, prices have skyrocketed, and a lot of cheap imports have wormed their way in. Still, it’s a great place to see all kinds of “small” antiques, ranging from fine silver and pottery to ladies’ dresser sets and artwork. Many shops and stalls start closing in the afternoon, so come early.


10. The British Library. Close to the British Museum, the new British Library doesn’t have the fabulous reading room of the old British Library, but it’s still worth a visit. I came armed with archival references, a pencil with which to write (no pens permitted), and applied for and received a card. The average tourist will want to see the Magna Carta and other priceless documents on display.

These ancient sacred writings are on display at the British Library.

These ancient sacred writings are on display at the British Library.

11. Kensington Palace Gardens–the street. This street on the north side of Hyde Park is the most expensive address in the world and is sometimes known as Billionaire’s Row. Case in point: the de Rothschilds lived here until 2000. One house recently sold for £90 million–$140 million in U.S. dollars. Many foreign embassies are located here, and while it’s pedestrian friendly, armed guards control vehicular access.

This is the entrance to Kensington Palace Gardens Street from Bayswater Road. Mansions line either side of the street, which abuts Hyde Park.

Billionaire’s Row This is the entrance to Kensington Palace Gardens Street from Bayswater Road. Mansions line either side of the street, which abuts Hyde Park.

12. London Walks. Not to be confused with the commercial London Walks (like Jack the Ripper’s London, or Beatles London, or any of those informative walks I highly recommend), I advocate walking London. Regency buffs will enjoy a stroll along St. James where they can pick out those famed clubs such as White’s or Brooks. There are also self-guided walks of Fleet Street and Legal London, Royal London, and many others.

Strolling on the South Bank of the River Thames

Strolling on the South Bank of the River Thames

I urge visitors to walk the city. When I first started going to London many years ago, the East End and south of the Thames were not that desirable. Not so today. One of the best walks in London is along the South Bank of the River Thames. We start at Westminster Bridge and go all the way to Tower Bridge. It can take a full day if one stops along the way to see the Globe or the Tate Modern or any of the trendy restaurants.

Now that I’m thinking about it, there’s not a part of this burgeoning metropolis I don’t enjoy walking. Or visiting. That’s one of the reasons why it’s my favorite city.–Cheryl Bolen, whose articles on Georgian England can also be found on her website,

© Cheryl Bolen, 2014

London’s Devonshire House–Gone

© Cheryl Bolen, 2014

Though it was demolished 90 years ago, Devonshire House was one of London’s most fabulous aristocratic homes for a couple of centuries. One of the things that set it — and a handful of other aristocratic homes — apart from typical town homes of the nobility was the plot of land that surrounded it. While many of London’s grandest houses were terraced (what Americans might refer to as “row houses”), Devonshire House sat on three choice acres on Piccadilly, with a view of Green Park from the front and a view to the garden of Berkeley Square from the rear (across the gardens of Landsdowne House).

Devonshire House, late 1800s

Devonshire House, late 1800s

As with Melbourne House (now Albany), Burlington House, and Landsdowne House (all significantly altered), Devonshire House was entered through gates large enough for a carriage to pass, and gardens and outbuildings were located within the walls.

Cheryl Bolen with Devonshire House Gate behind her

Cheryl Bolen with Devonshire House Gate behind her

Today, the gates of Devonshire House have been relocated across Piccadilly to serve as an entrance to Green Park. (In the photo, I’m seated within Green Park with the Devonshire House gates behind me.) A London underground ticket office now lies beneath what was once Devonshire House, and now the Ritz is across the street. (In the photo below, the French-looking Ritz Hotel is on the right, abutting Green Park, and the office building that replaced Devonshire House in the 1920s is the larger building in the picture.)

Home to the Dukes of Devonshire, the Palladian house was completed in 1740 for the 3rd Duke, with William Kent serving as architect. This structure replaced the former Berkeley House, which burned. Berkeley House, bordered by Piccadilly and Berkeley Street, had been built in 1665-1673 by Lord Berkley and was later the residence of Charles II’s mistress, Barbara Villiers before the 1st Duke of Devonshire bought the classical mansion.

Though the exterior of Kent’s Devonshire House was plain, the interiors were said to be sumptuous, with a 40-foot long library the highlight of the three-story house.

It also housed what was said to be the finest art collection in England. Many of these paintings can now be found at the current duke’s opulent country house, Chatsworth House.

Devonshire House was famed in the late 18th century as the nucleus of Whig politics, presided over by the duchess Georgiana, wife to the 5th duke. A hundred years later a grand dress ball to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee was held there. Also during Victorian times, the house was altered by James Wyatt, who was one of the most fashionable architects in the late 19th century.

Large white building replaced Devonshire House in the 1920s; French building at right is Ritz; white, flat building in foreground is for London Underground. Taken from Green Park.

Large white building replaced Devonshire House in the 1920s; French building at right is Ritz; white, flat building in foreground is for London Underground. Taken from Green Park.

Following World War I, Devonshire House was abandoned in 1919 as the 9th Duke was the first to be required to pay high death duties. These amounted to £500,000 (approximately $16 million today). The 9th duke sold off much of his fine library, including a Caxton and many first editions of Shakespeare. In 1921, he sold Devonshire House and its three-acre garden for $750,000. The house was demolished in 1924, and an office building–also called Devonshire House–now stands on the site–Cheryl Bolen. See for more articles.