Our entire group got up early to head to beautiful Greenwich for our day there. Most of us wore full Regency ensembles and took pictures against various period backdrops, including the famous Colonnade at the Royal Naval College (used in numerous costume dramas, including the recent “Little Dorrit,” where it served as the “Cirumlocution Office”).
Our chief goal this day was to visit the Fan Museum, splitting up into two smaller groups to fit into the two connected Georgian houses that contain the collection.The museum is privately owned and includes fans of all kinds, including ones of carved ivory that defy belief (the detailing is so fine, they look like lace). The history of fan making is clearly illustrated throughout the exhibits, and there is even a fan on display that contains a painted image of a fan “factory” with various workstations showing the steps that went into making a hand-painted silk fan. There were artists’ guilds (begun in Paris) that were dedicated solely to fans. In fact, artists who painted fans were forbidden to paint other works of art for sale or display! To get around this, many would paint a fan-shaped work of art, then fill in the details in the corners so that the painting was technically fan artwork but never cut or folded into an actual fan. There are a few of these framed and on display in the museum. Themes included not only the usual cherubs and classical Greco-Roman scenes but also historical events like royal weddings. One fan in the collection has over 1,500 tiny diamonds set into the ivory guard (the outermost layer of the fan that you see when the fan is folded)! All in all, the amount of work that went into these creations was astonishing. What’s even more amazing is how beautifully they have survived the years of handling (though many were never used but kept as mementos).
COMING SOON: Shots of some of the amazing fans in the museum’s display cases (just waiting on Lindsay to get me the pix in proper format!)
While the morning group was touring the museum, the rest of us visited the Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College (where Lord Nelson was laid out in state after his death in the Battle of Trafalgar). Lindsay took this shot of me in the upper part of the hall:
It was a little blustery, so we needed our shawls and Spencers, even though the sun was bright and beautiful. You wouldn’t believe how many times we were stopped by people wanting to know if a film was being shot that day! One large group of Italian tourists exclaimed over our group and asked their guide if we were movie stars. The guide (who alone spoke English out of the group) passed their inquiry along, and when one of our ladies told her we were just shooting pictures in period dress, she responded, “Well, I am going to tell them you are movie stars anyway; it will make them very happy!” We all got a chuckle out of that!
After touring around the Naval College, we made our way over to the Maritime Museum and Queen’s House, which are basically across the street and through a large park. The layout of the Naval College was designed by Sir Christopher Wren to perfectly frame the Queen’s House and create a symmetrical view with the river unobstructed from the Queen’s House. You can best appreciate this when you stand in the middle of the grounds between the Painted Hall and the Royal Naval College Chapel and look toward the Queen’s House. A colonnade runs between the Queen’s House and the Maritime Museum, and exactly centered between the two is the Royal Naval Observatory, up on the hill beyond. It’s really striking. In this picture, you see some of our ladies preparing for portraits against the idyllic backdrop of the Royal Naval Observatory and park under the Queen’s House Colonnade. We had gusts of wind to deal with, but the portraits Lindsay took really turned out beautifully. Below is yet another gratuitous pregnancy shot of yours truly taken in the colonnade!
And here’s Catherine in her stunning ensemble (I had a real case of Spencer envy when I saw the deep midnight blue velvet!):
At the very end of our little photo session, one of the guards from the Queen’s House came to shoo us off, insisting that it was illegal to photograph at this location without prior written permission from the royal household! He said that all locations belonging to the queen are copyrighted and cannot be used in photographs. We explained that we weren’t taking pictures for publication–only for personal use–and he replied that it didn’t matter in the least. We were not allowed to stand in the colonnade and shoot pictures. If we wanted to step out into the grass, we could use it as a backdrop, but we couldn’t physically stand upon it and take pictures! This sounded highly illogical to me, and when I later repeated this story to a native, I was told it was a bunch of poppycock and that no locations “belong to the queen” or are forbidden to photographers. Tourists shoot the Queen’s House every day, just as they do Buckingham Palace and Windsor Palace. She said that perhaps the guard thought we were shooting a commercial or something for publication, in which case we would need permission — but we were definitely within our rights as tourists! We’d already finished at any rate, so we took ourselves off while the guard clucked and tsked.
After a quick lunch, we swapped places with the morning group and toured the Fan Museum. Afterwards, the entire group reconvened in the museum’s beautiful Orangerie, which opens onto a fan-shaped garden to the rear. It was heavenly! At right you see a photo of the room all laid out for us, including beautiful dried rose centerpieces, pink and white linens, and fabulously painted walls and ceilings. It really is an outstanding location. We were joined by Suzi once again, and then our surprise guest, Jema Hewitt of Bridal Originals, shared her amazing portfolio of original creations with us. Jema specializes in bespoke wedding garments for men and women with no two designs alike. Her clients have had everything from medieval to Regency weddings and just about anything in between. Jema designed and made the outfit she wore to our tea as well, including a stunning gold dupioni silk Spencer jacket with Swarovski crystal buttons! The gown beneath was made of a royal blue Indian sari with gold trim.
After an absolutely delicious tea (in which the treats just kept coming until we could hold no more), we all gathered in the garden courtyard for a group photo:
And here’s a shot of our lovely photographer, Lindsay:
This was an absolutely delightful end to our London tour, and we headed back to our hotel brimful of stories and pictures from the day and the week preceding. It was sad to bid farewell to seven of our group members that night, as they prepared for their early morning flight. Those of us staying on for Bath really missed them during our extension! Next time I’ll share about our trip to bath via Jane Austen’s house in Chawton!