A jaunt yesterday to the royal archive in Windsor Castle with His Royal Keithness from Henry Poole & Co to try and track down a photograph of King Edward VII as Prince of Wales wearing the first short dinner jacket cut by Poole’s for the Prince to wear at Sandringham in 1865. This is a matter of urgency because our fearless leader Chairman Angus Cundey has been invited to the Tuxedo Club in New York to give a paper about the birth of the dinner jacket. So Keith and I donned our best bib and tucker and stomped off down Southampton Row to Waterloo en route to Windsor.
I’ve never been to Windsor before, have you? I have to say it was magical. We spent the morning in antique bookshops and came away with the Coronation Book of Edward VII for an absolute steal, had a quick cruise around Eton then had a quick glass of bubbly and a sausage before presenting ourselves at the Henry VIII Gate. Isn’t it marvellous that Eton High Street is still populated by tailors such as Welsh & Jefferies. Get them young and you keep them for life.
So we marched to the top of the hill and were met by the archivist who was quite simply adorable, erudite and terribly helpful. He led us through a security door in the Great Tower – the oldest part of the castle – and we ascended about ninety steps on which Anne Boleyn had walked no less. Thence we entered the heart of the Tower which was formerly open to the elements but is now sealed and surrounded by tiers of beautifully decorated archive offices. Nice to see large photographs of late Royals on the walls. Well, to say Keith and I were in our element is the understatement of the century. The archivist had prepared about ten boxes of perfectly presented private royal photograph albums. We actually got to peruse Queen Victoria’s own albums of private photographs of her children. We also saw Queen Alexandra’s photographs that she took as a very early adopter of the medium.
Did we find the Edward VII coat? That would be telling. Suffice to say, we hope to have another appointment when we’ve catalogued the many pages of King Ted’s orders in the Henry Poole archive. I expressed an interest in Prince Eddy, the Duke of Clarence & Avondale: eldest son of Edward VII and rather a scandal in his day. He’s been identified as a suspect in the Ripper murders of 1888 (unlikely) and in the Cleveland Street male brothel scandal (more than likely) and died in 1892 tragically young. In fact, he was to wed Queen Mary who was betrothed to his brother King George V on Eddy’s demise.
Well, there is an entire album devoted to Prince Eddy with scores of pictures I have never seen before. There’s a book in there somewhere about the Royal Males. I’d love to do a study in words and pictures of the dandy Princes of Wales from George IV to the present PoW. Wouldn’t that be a winner? While in Windsor, I had an email from our other fearless leader at the Savoy, GM Kiaran MacDonald sending congrats for my Royal Wedding showcase in the American Bar corridor. Call me vain, but I do love it when people acknowledge one’s work.
The best news this morning was from Sunset & Vine who produce the BBC fashion coverage for Royal Ascot. Suzi Perry and I are confirmed as co-presenters for the fashion for 2011 – the tercentenary – and it looks like Mrs T will be with us all week as the hostess with the mostest looking after VIP guests that we hope to interview live every day. Suzi is going to ask Bespoke Banter presenter – and my adorable – Scott to do a spot called the People’s Catwalk with her on one of the Royal days. I think he will be brilliant.
We left Windsor Castle well after 5pm and it was a rare treat to walk the precincts with no tourists present. My favourite view was of the moat gardens surrounding the Great Tower. It has been landscaped as a rockery with an ornamental stream and banks of snowdrops and crocuses in bloom: enchanting. So, rather punch drunk having seen such precious things in such a prestigious location, we tottered off to the Christopher Wren’s House hotel by the river and had a couple more hits of bubbly on the terrazzo and fed the swans. I have never seen so many swans as on the river at Windsor. It almost made me want to channel Nathalie Portman and dance to the death.
So Keith and I stoated into Waterloo and took a cab to you know where – J Sheekey’s Oyster bar – for a dozen pearls and a few more gargles with the bubbly. Did I tell you in one of the pubs at Windsor they actually sold Dom Perignon by the glass? Probably for all those Eton parents. Isn’t it interesting, Rowley, looking at the little Eton boys and realising they will be ruling the world in twenty years’ time? And I think they know it.
That’s all for now folks. I’m off to the Savoy today to deliver an invoice and drop off tickets for End of the Rainbow tomorrow for Bretty. We are going to see the remarkable Tracie Bennett give her all as Judy Garland and I can barely wait. Of course I’ve seen it before but I am sure there will be subtleties in the performance that will make it new all over again. Talk about hit show. If that doesn’t transfer to Broadway then I don’t know the answer to ‘who put the ding in the rama-lama-ding-dong?