Kate Middleton will be driven down The Mall from either Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace or Clarence House. The Mall was created as a ceremonial route in the early 20th century, and the road surface includes synthetic iron oxide pigment which gives the effect of a giant red carpet leading up to Buckingham Palace.
The Mall runs along the side of St James’s Park. In 1532, Henry VIII purchased the area of swampy marshland. James I ordered it to be drained and landscaped. He kept exotic animals in the park, including camels, crocodiles and an elephant. Charles II entertained guests and mistresses here, such as Nell Gwyn, while notorious rakes like the Earl of Rochester got up to no good in the park after dark. The 18th century saw further changes, including the 1761 purchase of Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) for the use of Queen Charlotte.
At the end of The Mall Kate’s car will turn into Horse Guards Parade. This is a large parade ground used for the annual ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour, and Beating Retreat. Horse Guards Parade was formerly the site of the Palace of Whitehall’s tiltyard, where jousting tournaments were held in the time of Henry VIII. It was also the scene of annual celebrations of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I. The site will host the beach volleyball competition of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Two courts will be installed, with seating for 12,000 and 5,000 spectators.
Kate’s car will then emerge onto Whitehall, near the Banqueting House. Designed by Inigo Jones in 1619 for James I, the painted ceiling is a massive masterpiece by Rubens, the only one of his in-situ ceiling paintings to survive. It was one of Charles I’s last sights before he lost his head. The King stepped out of the Banqueting Hall window and onto the scaffold in 1649. The vaulted undercroft of the Banqueting House was designed as a drinking den for James I and his friends. After his death it was used for holding lotteries. John Evelyn describes one gambling session in 1664, at which ‘the King, Queen-Consort and Queen Mother’ won only ‘a trifle’.
Kate will then pass the end of Downing Street. The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet (1632–1689), a notorious spy for Oliver Cromwell and later King Charles II. Although the houses were large, they were put up quickly and cheaply on soft soil with shallow foundations. Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote that Number 10 was “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear.” The diarist James Boswell took rooms in Downing Street during his stay in London of 1762-3 at a rent of £22 per annum and, like the Earl of Rochester, he records having dealings with ladies of the night in the adjacent St James’s Park.
The bride will then drive past the Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster. The first royal palace was built on the site in the eleventh century, and Westminster was the primary London residence of the Kings of England until a fire destroyed much of the complex in 1512. After that, it served as the home of Parliament, which had been meeting there since the thirteenth century.
On 16 October 1834, a fire broke out in the Palace after an overheated stove used to destroy the Exchequer’s stockpile of tally sticks set fire to the House of Lords Chamber. The subsequent competition for the reconstruction of the Palace was won by architect Charles Barry and his design for a building in the Perpendicular Gothic style. During the Second World War the Palace of Westminster was hit by bombs on fourteen separate occasions, but Barry’s building largely survived.
Finally Kate will arrive at Westminster Abbey. The site, and church, is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. Benedictine monks first came to this site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day. The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. Many have also been married here, including Henry I in 1100, Richard II in 1382, and Queen Elizabeth II in 1947. The Abbey is also the last resting place of a huge number of famous people including Geoffrey Chaucer, William Wordsworth, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Jane Austen, to name but a few.
After the ceremony Kate and her husband Prince William, will retrace the same route to Buckingham Palace in a carriage procession.
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