Walk two, part one: Roundheads and Cavaliers  
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This walk, which takes in most of the famous Royal Palaces, as well as Parliament and the Seat of the Church, Lambeth Palace, focuses on the history of power. Three figures - the Monarch, The Prime Minister and The Archbishop of Canterbury have held the balance of power in England - each more or less in control for a period.

1) Spot the pidgeon
                              spot the heroWe start in Trafalgar Square, where atop his column sits Lord Nelson - if it was not for him Trafalgar Square would be in Paris. Nowadays his worse enemies are not the French, but the pigeons which infest the square, Nelson has had to be coated in a special paint to protect him from their droppings. Great place to
                              cool down on a hot dayHowever the new Mayor, determined to 'tidy up' the square has banned the pigeon-food vendors. Feeding Trafalgar Square's pigeons is now illegal in what is widely seen as a move to earn money from fining tourists, as councils do already with their anti-social parking restrictions and other bye-laws. You don't have to show your passport and if the attendants get stroppy, give a false name.
A few years ago a man was caught trapping the pigeons in the square and carting them away in a box. It was presumed he was Rich pickingsselling them to a restaurant somewhere (illegal) but as it's perfectly legal to trap vermin such as pigeons, the police couldn't do anything.Pecking order They followed him, but he always evaded them. Moral: don't order pigeon in London unless you know the restaurant very well. If you want to hold a public demonstration about the ill-treatment of pigeons this is the place - most political demonstrations start or end here.

In the Northeast corner of the Square is St Martins-in-the-Fields, which like St Germain in Paris used to be out in the country. It's the official exact centre of London (a plaque marks the spot), the architecture dates from 1722, but there's been a church here since about 1000. Centre of London
                              - St Martins Buried there are Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Chippendale. The Academy of St Martins in the Fields is named after it, though that's the only association (they once used to rehearse here) - the oft advertised concerts are not usually up to that group's high standard.  

The north side of the square is made up by the National Gallery, but we're going to be taking Whitehall out of the South side. Look right at the bottom of the square, throughAdmiralty Arch Admiralty Arch you can see Buckingham Palace at the end of The Mall - our walk's final destination. The Arch belongs to the Admiralty though candidates for the Secret Services are interviewed here. Whitehall - synonymous with Government - was actually the site of Charles I's Palace, where Samuel Pepys used to come on Naval business to his successor - he is credited with the making of the Navy as we know it - NelsonKing's Head would not be on his column if it weren't for him. The admiralty building is on the right side of the street - closed to tourists, but inside is a magnificent quad. It was built in 1722, incorporating elements of an earlier building by Wren. Britain's Navy is 'The Senior Service' - it was no co-incidence that James Bond was a Naval Commander - sailors sit atop the tree of military power.  

Next down on your right is 2) Horseguards - you can smell it before you get to it - home of the mounted division of the Queen's bodyguard.Absolute Sangfroid
                              - a Horseguard braves the tourists There are usually guards on duty outside the building between 10:00 and 16:00 in their characteristic helmets with plumes of horsehair. They're relieved every hour - and the butt of much tourist attention (their sangfroid is absolute) while they're on duty. Through the arch is their Parade, where the Queen annually inspects the troops (on her official birthday) in a pageant of military history. Only members of the Royal Family are permitted to drive through the arch. But we'll continue down Whitehall to visit 3) The Banqueting House - the last remainder of Whitehall Palace.  

                              house, where Charles I had his last and
                              Charles II his first mealIt was designed by Inigo Jones and dates from 1622 - the magnificent ceiling painting is by Reubens. Charles I walked out to his execution here, and Charles II celebrated the Restoration here as a sop to the Puritans. Charles I's head was cut off outside the fourth window from the right, at first floor level.

4) Next port of call is where political heads roll - Margaret Thatcher's rolled here at No 10 Downing Street when she was deposed by a palace coup. Although the Premier traditionally lives at No 10, Tony Blair, father of four, lives in No 11 - the Chancellor's house, because there's more room.10 Downing
                              Street When a new Prime Minister comes into power, s/he visits the Queen at Buckingham Palace, then has a victory ride back to No 10 - followed by the television cameras. Sadly public access is limited due to the current vogue for terrorism.

It hasn't always been a government street - Boswell rented rooms here and Smollett set up a surgeon's practice here. Prime Ministers got exclusive use from 1732. No 12 is the party whips office - a job that refers not to the sexual inclinations of incumbents (well... they do call it 'le vice anglais') but to their role as a 'whippers-in' (as in fox-hunting) of the Members of Parliament. Files kept by the whips are used to blackmail politicians into voting with their party, should they feel like voting with their consciences instead.  

In the middle of the road is the Cenotaph, where the dead of the wars are remembered, in a ceremony attended by the good and great on Armistice day. Big Ben, insideLooming over it you'll see the tower of Big Ben - the name actually refers to the large bell within. The tower is called St Steven's Tower. You can set your watch by it - everyone else does. The thirty-nine steps are here and allegedly provide a sniper with a clear shot at the PM, if you believe the novel by John Buchan. Between 1859 and 1913 when it went automatic, it used to take two men 32 hours to wind up the clock - the pendulum is regulated by the addition of pennies. Women's Suffrage campaigner Emily Pankhurst was the last person to be incarcerated in the prison cell at the bottom of the tower, in 1902.

5) The Houses of Parliament are a crowning glory of the Thames,Mother
                              of all Parliaments but until the river was cleaned up, the stench from the leatherworks at the Tower was such that several times MPs had to stop sitting, nowadays it's the smell of intrigue that wafts through the corridors. Bits of the building go back before 1066, but the only bits that survived the fire of 1834 are the Hall & cloisters, and the Jewel Tower. The current building dates from 1832, architecture by Barry, decorative bits by Pugin - the greatest of the Victorian ornamentalists - who even designed the inkwells on the politicians' desks.  

Bombed during the war, it was restored in 1950. You can visit - join one of the queues - for either Lords or Commons. The best time to visit is during Prime Minister's Question Time - when political sparring occurs across the floor of the house. However tickets for this quipfest are like gold dust - it's virtually impossible to get into PMQs without a ticket from an MP or friendly Commons staffer; people queuing don't normally get in before 4-4.30pm. If you just want to see the chamber of the House, it's quicker to come later in the evening when the queue's shorter. Pugin's
The best political sparring in PMQs happened between Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock a decade ago - but the current PM and Leader Parliamentof the Opposition give it a good go. You'll be surprised at how rowdy it can get - the newly-retired speaker Betty Boothroyd used to officiate like a school ma'am - threatening the naughty boys and girls with punishment. If one of the MPs cries out 'I spy Strangers' all the public is thrown out of the building. The traditions are arcane - ask one of the porters to explain it all to you. You can view that endangered species the Lord in the House of Lords too. When the House is not sitting there's a guided tour that is highly recommended see here for details  

6) Across from Parliament is the gothic fantasy of Old St Thomas' Hospital - St Thomas'
                              hospitalwhich is with St Pancras Station the most Ghormenghastly piece of architecture in London. Although it was founded in the 12th century where Guy's hospital now stands in The Borough (see Walk one). It's named after St Thomas a Beckett who was disposed of in an unfortunate 'accident' in Canterbury Cathedral and canonised in 1173. The accounts show that the cook doubled as a gravedigger in 1583 at a salary of £1. Most of the current buildings date from 1871. The hospital food still tastes as if it was cooked by a gravedigger, according to the students. Florence Nightingale established her school of nursing here, and the nurses in the wards are still referred to as Nightingales (behind their backs).

The Crook
                              and MitreNext to Tommy's is 7)Lambeth Palace, the seat of the Church separated from the State by a river and an act of Parliament. Built in 1200 - with Gothic additions in 1830. You can go in by arrangement with a vicar (your local one has to write a letter) but it's shortly to be opened to the public.  St John's Smith
                              Square, now a concert venue specialising
                              in baroque music

We stray away from the river to visit 8) Smith Square with its exquisite houses on the East side. It's the headquarters of the Conservative Party. The church in the middle is actually a concert-house that specialises in Baroque music.

Frocks for
                              the boysLeave Smith Square at its Northeast corner, by Gayfere St, and diagonally opposite on the left hand side is Tufton St, which leads us, past an oddball Ecclesiastical outfitters, which makes the robes for the Archbishop of Canterbury, to 9)Dean's yard, which we enter by the gate to the right of the large arch. See also Little Dean's Yard. Westminster Abbey Choir School is on the west side, and if you're lucky you'll see the choirboys parading out in their uniforms for a service - usually just before 1700. Westminster Abbey
                              - Dean's Yard entranceEdward Gibbon's aunt used to live here. There are guided tours of the historic school during the summer holidays.  

                              AbbeyWe emerge through the great gates towards 10) Westminster Abbey, sadly a church which charges for admission (unless you attend a service, in which case it's free) but is well worth the money.

By now you may be wanting to stop for refreshment - most of the pubs around this area are renowned for having a division bell - MPs are allowed to leave the Commons during a debate but Westminster Abbey(especially if the whips are at work) must return for the vote at the end. Given the absolute tedium on some of the more arcane bills before the house, they often nip out for a swift pint. When the vote (or 'division') is about to take place a special bell is rung - not only in Parliament but anywhere that has a relay installed within the 'division bell area' - ie: where MPs can get back to vote within 10 minutes. So, if you're drinking in a pub nearby and a bell rings and several curmudgeonly types rush out suddenly you'll know where they're going. One such pub is the Storey's Wine bar on Storey's Gate which is between the Methodist Central Hall and the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre - opposite Westminster Abbey.  

Carrying on we return to Parliament Square and head for the northeast corner, diagonally opposite from the entrance to Parliament, where a short road - St George Street leads off towards the park. We follow that until the park, when we turn right and walk along Horseguards Road - on our right is 11) the Cabinet War Rooms, where Churchill planned the end of Nazism. During the war their existence and location were top secret, but today anyone can visit. They have been left exactly as they were in 1945, with Churchill's chamber pot still visible. They are run by the Imperial War Museum.

Opposite the entrance to the War rooms you'll see the pelicans of St James' park on a small island in the lake. They are descendants of a pair presented by Russia in the 1650s.The park was once a hog-rearing ground for a leper colony (now St James' Palace) and has come on somewhat since then. Elizabeth I used to hunt here and Charles II used to play Pell Mell here - a kind of cross between basketball and golf - from which Pall Mall (properly pronounced Pell Mell) takes it's name. The park was by the 1760s a favourite haunt of prostitutes and as such features in many plays of the period. We'll walk towards Buckingham Palace along the lakeside, then turn right to cross the bridge.  

The view from the bridge is one of the most sublime in London and has been made, in 2000, a protected view - the domes and turrets of Whitehall cresting the fountain A View from the
                              Bridge- you might think you were in a country park - it's at its best after 18:00 on a sunny day. We cross the bridge and continue straight on to The Mall, cross over and turn right back towards admiralty arch. On our left is a flight of stairs looked over by a statue of George VI, which we take. At the top in a square is the official residence of The Foreign Secretary. We emerge onto Carlton Terrace, home of the Turf Club, one of the most exclusive, in money terms, Gentlemen's clubs in London.

12) The gardens that back onto Carlton Terrace are attached to the various gentlemen's clubs that line Pall Mall - left onto a road named Carlton Gardens and you emerge on that august thoroughfare - on our immediate right is the Reform clubReform club where Phineas Fogg set out to go round the world in 80 days. All the clubs are members only, but from the top of the stairs you can see the Florentine Courtyard within and the interior architecture is apparent through the windows. It was formed in 1832 and designed by Barry who did the Houses of Parliament. The head chef Alexis Soyer, a celebrity in his day, designed the kitchens.The frontage of
                              the Oxford and Cambridge Club on Pall
                              Mall This club, for liberals, was one of the first to go mixed, in 1981. Stella Rimmington - former head of MI5, and on whom the current 'M' in James Bond films is modeled is a member - strange as she presided over a very illiberal regime of secret policing. More on Gentlemen's clubs  

Heading down Pall Mall - in the direction of the traffic flow, we pass other clubs, the RAC and the Oxford and CambridgeClubland - the Oxford and
                                Cambridge. Flambeaux are lit outside clubs on special occasions. A plaque on the wall indicates a house where Charles II installed Nell Gwynne - an orange seller from the South Bank (see Walk One) who he made his mistress. He was living in St James' Palace at the time so she was always on hand should he need close conference with her.

On the northern corner of Pall Mall, as it turns up into St James's street stands 13) the Texas Legation, now a wine merchant's - when Texas was a Lone Star State this was its embassy in London. After Texas won its Lone State Legationindependence from Mexico in 1836, England was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the Republic of Texas as a nation. Closest embassy to
                              the PalaceTheir charge d'affaires to the Court of St. James, Dr. Ashbel Smith rented office space at 3 St. James's St in an upper floor above Berry Bros. and Rudd (who opened a grocers here in 1696) If you pop in you can see a large set of scales used to weigh coffee - nearby residents would also get themselves weighed here - the shop's ledgers record the weights of Lord Byron, Horatio Nelson, his mistress Lady Hamilton and Queen Victoria's father.  

On the other corner of Pall Mall, a few metres down Marlborough Road is the pale yellow building of the Queen's Chapel - the first classical church in England. It's part of the Royal Palaces complex, but politically and socially separate. It was designed by Inigo Jones in 1623 The Queens Chapel -
                              the only way to see inside St James'
                              Palaceas a catholic chapel for various Queens imported from Europe: Henrietta Maria, Catherine of Braganza and Charlotte von Mecklenburgh. As interbreeding continued between the royal families of Europe, it's held services for all religions outside outside the Church of England tradition - Dutch reformed (William & Mary) German Lutheran (for the Hannoverians) and Danish (for Queen Alexandra). Visiting times are posted outside. You can attend services here in summer, in Winter they are held in the Chapel Royal in St James' Palace - the only way for tourists to get into either building - services are at 08:30 and 11:15 on Sundays.

14) St James' Palace itself is guardedSt James Palace,
                              home to Prince Charles by busbee'd guardsmen when Prince Charles is in residence - there's usually a small changing-of-the-guard ceremony at about 16:00, which is much less crowded than the one at Buckingham Palace. It was built by Henry VIII and was the main Royal Residence in town between 1698 and 1820. You can't officially visit the Palace, but for half the year public Sunday services are held in the Chapel Royal inside - see the noticeboard outside the Queen's chapel for details.  

Beyond St James' Palace as we proceed down Cleveland St, is 15) Clarence House, traditional Palace of the Queen Mother. We walk round the courtyard to its northwest corner where a small passageway takes us into Green Park, and turning left we walk down Queen's Walk to 16) Buckingham Palace - the official residence of the Queen in London.Buckingham PalaceShe hates living there (a small apartment on the northern wing provides for her needs) and most of the building is used to receive official guests - it's a kind of Royal Conference Centre.

It is open to the public but is badly organised, expensive and there's not that much to see - it regularly tops the lists of 'Worst Tourist Attraction' compiled by the Consumers' Association - researched from thousands of interviews of tourists. You have been warned!

Details of the changing of the guard can be had on a noticeboard on the front. If there's a crowd head to the Palace's left side (as you face it) - the soldiers start off for the ceremony here on the Guard's Parade Ground (stand near the red sign advertising the Guards' Museum) - where they parade and sometimes march and drill with a band (depends on the regiment) and you'll get a better view of part of the spectacle - such are the crowds it's impossible nowadays to see both parts.

See Kensington
                              and Di
From here the walk continues through Green Park, to Hyde Park Corner, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and finishes off at Kensington House, home of the Queen's sister Princess Margaret, and home to the late Princess Diana. A good Royal website, if you're getting confused by all the names is here. The official monarchy website is here  

                              to what to see and do in London

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