“What has The Rubens got to do with Buckingham Palace?” One might justifiably ask. Not only are the two related, however, they were in fact once the same property. Here, we take a glimpse down memory lane at some of the shared roots of The Rubens & The Royal Mews.
Buckingham Palace started as an exception even as it entered history. The original house was built by the Earl of Mulgrave, who later became the Duke of Buckingham, and it remains to this day the only royal house to be named after a subject. However, its completion was threatened from the start, thanks to Buckingham’s miserly ways. In fact, it was only thanks to the architect’s threat to throw the duke off the roof unless he paid his fees that it was completed at all. The Rubens formed part of the grounds and stabling of this much earlier house, which back then abutted green fields, marsh, and a no-mans-land of highwaymen.
In 1761, however, George III acquired the site as a family residence and numerous shops sprang up to take advantage of the access the road provided when royalty sought to depart London. The spot upon which the Rubens now stands hosted various wonders, from apothecaries to apartments that middle-ranking palace servants would rent. By the Victorian period, an artificial flower maker known as Elizabeth Dowe had settled here, succeeding druggists, stationers and dressmakers.
It was not until 1912 that The Rubens at the Palace, originally called Hotel Rubens, arrived. Immediately popular with debutantes, bright young things and all sorts of high society, the venue took an unusual turn by becoming the HQ of General Sikorski’s Free State Polish Army during WWII. By 1953, however, it had returned to a hotel, changing hands twice before being sold to Red Carnation Hotels in 1997.
Guests to the hotel today can still see over the palace’s walls, providing a very tangible glimpse of the Rubens’ and Royal Mews’ shared history. And the portion that can be seen is known as the Royal Mews – one of the finest working stables still in existence. Housing and maintaining all the glorious carriages, horses (such as the famous Windsor Greys) and livery that contribute so much to royalty’s pomp and ceremony, it amounts to an historical version of a Ferrari showroom.
Other delights include spying on the guardsmen as they prepare for their watch, as guests sit back to enjoy an afternoon tea. This is a real royal ritual at The Rubens and includes HM the Queen’s much-loved jam pennies, red velvet cupcakes influenced by the House of Stuart, and chocolate biscuit cakes, a favourite of Princes William and Harry.
If you would like to feel like royalty, why not book an afternoon tea or perhaps a sumptuous room that overlooks the Royal Mews at The Rubens At The Palace. And if you would like to book tickets to visit the Royal Mews, tickets can be purchased here.
Image Credits: Courtesy of Royal Collection Trust & Red Carnation Hotels