From proclamations to parades, there were many ways to let the public commune with the blue bloods. But one of the most enduring and effective ways to demonstrate institutional power and glory was art, especially portraits. A new 8-part BBC 4 series The Art of Monarchy explores precisely this topic. So now seems as good a time as any to take a closer look at The Royal Collection.
This repository of the palaces, art, musical instruments, royal conveyances and regalia of the British Royal Family is maintained and overseen by The Royal Collection Trust. In a world of Instagram selfies and rabid paparazzi, it’s hard to truly appreciate the ways that royalty and the royal image was carefully controlled and meted out in eras past. But any one of these sites will go a long way to helping you understand. Come, learn more about the royals.
The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, London
If unicorns existed, they’d be living in here by choice. The carriages are just that fabulous! The gentle-folk who work in The Royal Mews are responsible for all the Queen’s road travel arrangements, and those of the Royal Family. Take a selfie in a royal carriage and wave at the commoners like Queen Victoria at the Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s Cathedral, back in June 1897. Try tacking up a wooden pony (just because). You can even meet the four-legged Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays and see the grand, gilded Gold State Coach commissioned by George III in 1762. Bling isn’t even close to the word.
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London
The Queen’s Gallery is the place to see changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection; favorites of her majesty’s perhaps? Check out old master paintings, rare furniture (again, please refrain from sitting – there are cold wooden benches for us plebs), and decorative arts and images from the huge photograph collection. The exhibition is both far-ranging and in-depth. From now until 13 May 2018, visit the Charles II: Art & Power Exhibition and see some incredible paintings of the king (1630-1685), documenting his time on the throne. The wig and jeweled-buckled shoes he’s wearing in one painting suggest he was posing patiently (or impatiently – he doesn’t look too impressed) in the 1670s. Wonder what he’d think of Instagram…
Windsor Castle, Windsor
The royal residence of Windsor Castle happens to be the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It goes all the way back to William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Since then it’s been inhabited by 39 monarchs. But one of its biggest draws is a Dolls’ House built for Queen Mary in 1924. Also of note, Queen Elizabeth II spends most of her private weekends at the Castle, so maybe you’ll bump into her? Unlikely, but just the chance it may happen is thrilling. You can also see the private apartments created for George IV – there’s more glittering red and gold in here than in a Katy Perry world tour changing room.
Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
Edinburgh is all curry shops, comedy clubs, the faint sound of bagpipes and then, right at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Associated with some of Scotland’s most famous and influential historical figures, it’s still used by The Queen when she’s doing all her important, royal stuff in Scotland. On a trip here you’ll see Sir David Wilkie’s portrait of the king in his kilt (made of Royal Stewart tartan) in the Royal Dining Room, visit the opulent staterooms, see the changing exhibitions and imagine Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie running about the place, drunk on whiskey. (Again, unproven, but highly likely).
The Amsterdam Light Festival is a highlight of the Amsterdam cultural calendar. Copywriter Ryan Millar took a Christmas Day cruise to experience the bright lights of this temporary open-air gallery.
Winter clearly isn’t over in New York. Even a small dusting turns the city into a spectacular winter wonderland. See the best of 2018’s New York snow on Instagram so far!
Halloween is here, and millions of people are busy preparing their scariest/most revealing costumes for a night of devilish debauchery. But… why? Why do kids ‘trick-or-treat’? But why do we carve pumpkins? Why do apparently rational adults choose to dress up as sexy crayons?
When you think about it, our Halloween traditions are all pretty weird, and its origins are even weirder. This family-friendly extravaganza is its own Frankenstein’s monster – cobbled together from ancient Gaelic festivals and Native American death rites, with a healthy dose of colonialism thrown in for good measure. So, before you leave the land of the living, get to know the real origins of this most frightful of holidays
Halloween, the Early Years
The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the Gaelic Samhain festival, which took place in Ireland and Scotland over 2000 years ago. The original Pagans believed that when the seasons changed, the boundaries between the living world and the afterlife became looser, and rogue spirits would temporarily roam the earth.
The Pagans were a superstitious bunch, and would ‘hide in plain sight’ by disguising themselves as the undead. Likewise, they would leave food on their doorsteps to appease any frightful ne’er do wells who may be passing by – the origins of today’s Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating.
Samhain continued in various forms as Christianity began to spread across the world, ‘borrowing’ many Pagan traditions as it went. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III made it official, and established the first All Saints’ Day on the 1st of November. This celebration of all things saintly was also known as ‘All Hallows Day’, making the day before ‘All Hallows Eve’.
A Church-Sanctioned Pagan Festival
Convenient as this may seem, this was likely a political move, intended to replace these ancient Celtic rites with a more respectable Church-sanctioned holiday. As we know, the Christian church is anything if not persistent, and All Hallows Eve was here to stay. With the ‘discovery’/brutal colonization of the Americas, European holidays meshed with Native America’s undead-oriented traditions, and Halloween as we know it began to take shape.
It was still a celebration of the changing seasons, but the Pagans and Native Americans alike associated this period with fortune-telling, usually in relation to life’s two great pillars – death and marriage. The link to death should be fairly self-explanatory, but divination of all kinds has always focused on fertility and partnership. This was before Tinder, after all.
Naturally, the opportunity to wear masks and liaise with mischievous spirits meant that the holiday became associated with malicious pranks and widespread vandalism. There were various attempts throughout the 19th century to strip away the more grotesque elements, but it was only with the 1950s baby boom that celebrations shifted into the classroom and became more family-friendly. Trick-or-treating was now officially endorsed as a means of keeping kids out of trouble. Weirdly, this state-sanctioned begging can be traced back to the medieval practice of ‘souling’, when masked ‘soulers’ would go door-to-door begging rich families for ‘soulcakes’ in exchange for prayers. Basically the same thing as, “give me candy or I’ll put a brick through your window,” right?
Often, they would carry a lamp made from a candle inside a hollowed-out turnip – supposedly representing a soul trapped in purgatory. As All Hallows Eve shifted to America, people began to use pumpkins as they were more plentiful in the States, and much easier to carve. And, just like that, the iconic orange jack o’lantern was born.
Sex, Death, and Diabetes
So there we have it, Halloween is the bastard child of sacred Pagan rituals and the meddling of the Catholic Church, filtered through the American tradition of sheltering children from anything remotely rebellious.Still, whether it’s healthier for a child to indulge in some harmless mischief or dress up as a ‘sexy’ Donald Trump is yet to be determined…