8th August 2016 – £6 (includes audio guide)
Joined by Sinead Flament
Banqueting House is the one remaining wing of the Henry VIII’s eponymous Palace of Whitehall, the rest being destroyed by fire in 1698. And, it was from a non-extant balcony, that the very late Charles I’s neck was introduced to the sharp end of an executioner’s axe. Here, history flows from the mortar like royal blood.
One room. No messing around. Here’s an amazing building, here’s an audio guide, now gawp. And so we sat on a bean bag, looking up, being told enchanting stories of regicide. It was marvellous. They even provided angled mirrors for those visitors who weren’t lucky enough to get a bean bag, or thought such methods of experiencing a museum were beneath them. Sitting on my arse whilst experiencing an attraction in its fullest was a rare delight. It’s the little things, Banqueting House.
Despite it being just a room, they’ve made a sow’s ear of space into a silk purse of thought. The audio guide’s the best I’ve heard in a long time, and is dedicated to the telling of stories. And what better story than the death of kings?
But a famously short king made famously shorter isn’t the only feather in Banqueting House’s cap. There is, of course, that ceiling. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Ruebens, but heck! the boy done good here. It may be the closest thing London has to a Sistine Chapel. Don’t get me wrong, the politics behind the art is as outdated as The Black and White Minstrel Show, but every brush-stroke tells a story and Historic Royal Palaces is an ardent raconteur.
I’m well aware this blog is funnier when I’m being critical, but I’m finding it hard to find fault. Yes, it’s one room, and that’s why it’s such a success – it does in one room what The Beatles Story fails to do in about thirty.
It’s basically a room dedicated to James I, one of this country’s most out of touch monarchs (imagine that!). It’s Carolinian propaganda exalting Charles I’s belief in his father and his belief in divine right. He was wrong on both counts, and Oliver Cromwell agrees. So, you sit on bean bags, looking at art, listening to stories. Banqueting House, give me a pint of ale and a belly rub and I’d ask you to marry me.