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Birthday!

Last week, it was my birthday! 
I turned 33, a nice satisfyingly symmetrical albeit large and scary number! In contrast to previous years, I kept it completely low key this year, but still celebrated in two parts as is traditional – on the Saturday closest to the day, and on the day itself.

Actually, three parts, if we want to get technical.

On the Saturday before, I had all these great plans, which were systematically ruined by the British weather. I had planned to go to a brand-new crazy golf course not far from my east London flat – it’s Moby Dick themed and looks amazing. Sadly, it poured all morning, so I cancelled.

This is when they were building it, but how great does this look? 
It’s the Premier Inn behind the ship that really makes it, I think.

The next plan was to go bowling! Woo hoo! Who doesn’t love bowling? Sadly, All Star Lanes was fully booked. Sad trombone.

So instead, I gathered the last stragglers of the group who were originally coming to play crazy golf (if there’s one thing guaranteed to curse attendance of birthday plans, it’s changing said plans. Apart from the weather, obvs), and we instead went for food (everyone) and a beer (me) at All Star Lanes and a mooch around Beyond Retro. Oh, and a hard milkshake (also me)!

These are all candids from phones as sometimes it’s more important to enjoy your birthday than have the specific goal to turn it into a blog post!

Always have your beer with a cocktail umbrella on your birthday!
Five beautiful ladies joined me at All Star. They were: 

Jeni and Katie
Moi and Sadie

We then went to Beyond Retro where I bought some cowboy boots for £12 before decamping to the awesome (or dare I say ace) Ace Hotel on Shoreditch High Street. It’s like a mid-century-ish dream in there, the food and drinks are nice, even if not cheap… and when the waitress overheard that it was my birthday, she brought me this! So nice!

More beer! Are you sensing a theme? 

That night, I met up with Bethan and a few others and headed to Last Resort, always just the best night out ever. Well, this side of 2004, anyway.

On the day of my actual birth, last Monday, I did something I have not done in nearly two decades… I went to a theme park!

Thorpe Park used to be the crapper version of Chessington World of Adventures – smaller and with no good rides. Then, they started getting all the good rollercoasters! Sadly, in the meantime I got myself a boyfriend who hates both heights and rollercoasters.

He had no problem with the more sedate, ‘family friendly’ rides, like Rhumba Rapids, pictured above. I did manage to persuade him to go on Colossus though. An excellent difference in facial expressions can be clearly seen! Hehe.

For the rest of the big ones, I was on my own! I queued for Swarm for the longest.

You could choose to go forwards or backwards – I went forwards!
Here you can see me (or not) plummeting on Stealth – the fastest rollercoaster in Europe. On my own, of course. 
Sean did go on Tidal Wave with me, which Jeni warned me about. You get wet through like you’ve jumped in a pool! That was the basis behind wearing a Fleur dress – repro for durability, cotton for quick drying! Luckily it was a beautiful day, so I wasn’t drenched for long… 

Last, but definitely not least, stop on my birthday adventure was the Ace Cafe – home of the famous Ton Up Boys (and girls) and Rockers in the 50s and 60s!

The food was as could be expected but still nice and no rockers were in evidence… a DeLorean was, however! Perfect end to the day.

And that was my birthday. Who’s up for a road trip to Alton Towers next year? I’ll leave Sean at home. 😉

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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A sundress of delight

This time of year, I’m surgically attached to my 1940s repro peasant tops, most of which are from Vivien of Holloway, that emporium of British-designed, British-made reproduction vintage. I recently did a rare spot of modelling for VoH, for their newest (old) creation, the Anna sundress and of course, they kindly let me have one.

I wore it out on a burger date with my love.

Earrings and bangles: Bow & Crossbones
Is it just me or is the quality of these uploads horrible? They look fine on Flickr.
I’ve tied her straps in knots but you can tuck the back ones away and tie as a halterneck if that’s your thing (as I have in the modelling shots). 
A millisecond later, a woman walked out of a door… 

You’ve all seen my tattoo… right? 😉

And because you can’t go anywhere without a jacket, even on a summer’s day… my lovely leather one (told you I wasn’t wearing anything else.
Coat: eBay

It’s kinda perfect for summer wearing,

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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Mini Me, you complete me!

Well this is an exciting thing.

A week or two ago, I was invited to the offices of British Airways’ ad agency to do something rather different.

BA have recently launched a campaign called Last Call, a last-minute type service where you can book to jet off somewhere within the next month or so for bargain prices, and they have chosen me to appear in the creative!

Along with six other bloggers, This Must Be For You (anonymous gift-giving which looks amazing), awesome Lauren from THE GIRL WHO STOLE LONDON (who I met through Bethan), The Travel HackThe Everyday Man,  and Chris from Urban Travel Blog, I was… wait for it…

3D-printed and turned into a tiny model! Of me!

This is actually it. Well, a photo of it. Probably the coolest thing I have ever done.

Fleur
Obviously, the only correct attire to be 3D printed is a Fleur dress and Hasbeens. Immortalised forever! 
Here’s a little minute-long video they made of the day so you can see how the printing works – you’re scanned with a handheld device while you stand as still as a rock! Apparently it doesn’t capture dark hair very well, so my head was done again separately and photos were taken just for tweaking. But it should be entirely accurate!

Remarkably, and this was not planned, the mini avatar of me is going to Istanbul, where I am going in real life in September for a 2 week holiday! I have asked them to send me to the flea markets and the Basilica Cistern, but they are also going to surprise me. Obviously I am going to recreate the poses wherever they do take me, how fun to have an action figure (albeit a stiff one) checking it out for me ahead of time!

From Wikipedia
I won’t try and photoshop the avatar into this Basilica Cistern picture but it looks pretty cool, right? I can’t wait to see the pictures and more importantly, I can’t wait to see the avatar! I only have these photos but I do get to keep it when it comes back.
I will display it in the loo like I would an Oscar or a Grammy. 😉

I’ll obviously be posting about this again soon. But isn’t it so cool you, guys??

Do check out Last Call in the meantime though!

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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The King’s Mistress – Sister Agnes

Good afternoon/morning/evening (delete as applicable to timezone) one and all, and welcome to my latest King’s Ginger adventure! Before I go on, there has been a big change at the KGL HQ, with distribution switching to Mangrove and this means world domination is on the horizon! Expect big things and hopefully even wider availability for all you wannabe Ginger tipplers. Hurrah!

On to the story, this time  it’s about another of the King’s fancy women, who was by far the most widely accepted of all his mistresses in Royal circles. She was even friends with Queen Alexandra, the King’s wife. All no doubt because of her incredible altruism. Meet the amazing Agnes Keyser!

Agnes was been a very rich and beautiful young socialite of the 1870s and 1880s.

Somewhat inevitably she came to the attention of the Prince of Wales. They became friends and, later, lovers. Agnes allowed him to use her house in Belgravia for entertaining his various other friends and mistresses, including one of his most famous companions, Alice Keppel. The two formed a strong bond and their relationship lasted until the King’s death in 1910.

Agnes was by all accounts horrified by the plight of British officers returning from the Boer war, whom she discovered were mostly highly self-sacrificing, unable to pay for surgeons’ fees and consequently medically neglected. She and her sister Fanny used their own considerable funds to set up a hospital at their home in Grosvenor Crescent in 1899. Agnes used her connection to the future king to secure the co-operation of the most distinguished doctors and surgeons.  King Edward VII became the first official patron of the hospital in 1904, when it became King Edward VII’s Hospital for Officers. This of course helped Agnes and Fanny get further support from many in royal and social circles.

Grosvenor Crescent, site of the original hospital

But what about the woman herself? There isn’t a vast amount known about her. Agnes was born Elizabeth Agnes Keyser in July 1852 at Great Stanmore in Middlesex, the daughter of Charles and Margaret Keyser. Her father was a partner in a stock exchange firm and she lived a very comfortable life. But it’s clear from her actions that this wasn’t enough for her. She never married, and lived with her sister Fanny, with whom she later set up the hospital.

She nursed soldiers throughout the Boer Wars (Fanny doing so in person in South Africa), and in 1901 was made a Dame of the Order of St John. Later the same year she was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal for her hospital work. In 1904, the hospital in Grosvenor Crescent was renamed in honour of the King and Agnes became known as Sister Agnes and used her gift for organisation to run everything. She was known for her kind yet firm ways, and gained a name for herself as a humanitarian.

Obviously when the King died in 1910, the hospital carried on in his name. During the Second World War, the site moved to Grosvenor Gardens where it remained, even after the death of Agnes Keyser in 1941 (aged 89). The same year, the building was heavily damaged by bombing and in 1948, it moved to it present location (so actually, King Edward was never present in the building, nonetheless there are lots of ties to him there). In 2000, the hospital was renamed King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes and it remains so to this day. It’s where the royals go to be treated themselves – Prince Philip went there when he had his infection during Jubilee year, and Kate Middleton when she had that terrible morning sickness. It was also the site of the tragic incidents when an Australian radio show prank-called the hospital when Kate was giving birth and the nurse involved later committed suicide. Very sad indeed.

Because of the above incident, the staff of the hotel are rather wary of press, and when I turned up, I only hoped they would consent to photographs, Luckily, one mention of The King’s Ginger and Berry Bros. & Rudd is enough to thaw anyone and they gladly let me snap some of the details as well as the Library, which features a number of portraits of his gingery Majesty!

Forgive the light glare!
There’s some good royal and Agnes-related memorabilia in a case in the Library too.
Back to the past for a moment. Agnes Keyser’s affair with Edward was a private one, and she was not splashed across the papers like Lilly Langtry or Mrs Keppel. I can’t help but feel she acted like more of an emotional confidante to his Majesty than someone who catered only for his desires, like the former. At least if her dedication to nursing and care is anything to go by. Sadly searches of the internet don’t reveal much else about Agnes’s life – if only I had had time to read this book, which lives behind the desk of the hospital!

I’d like to say a big thank you to the receptionist lady above and the gentleman who was also behind the desk for letting me snap photos and letting me take a peek at the book (though they warned me it was quite a dry read!). Apparently some bottles of King’s Ginger have been spotted in the building too!

(and outside)
Check in a day or two for full outfit post!

I’ll leave you with this video of me presenting the King’s Ginger Cocktail sessions from a few years ago, I have never ever watched before, for reasons unknown…

Here’s how to make a seasonally appropriate King’s Ginger Summer Cup (recipe on the KGL site)! I didn’t look as pink in real life.

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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The (no) Tweed Run 2014

I might as well give up taking my camera to the Tweed Run as I barely took it out of my bag this year, being far too busy enjoying myself (just as I should be). Not that it matters because you are absolutely guaranteed to snapped dozens of times as we all make our way through the streets of London!

Saying that, not one single shot of me appears in either of the three official Tweed Run albums which you can find here, here and here (if you want to see some amazing shots of the entire day without my face plastered on it 😉 )

Callotype: Tweed Run 2014 &emdash;

I have been lucky enough to go on the Tweed Run every year (with the exception of one year I was running a race) and this was definitely the best as far as the weather goes. It was HOT. Too hot for tweed, possibly, but everyone soldiered on regardless. I chose to wear something much more appropriate for summer weather and exercise combined! A playsuit!

Looking like the beanpole I am with Lady Velo
Playsuit: Matalan
Cardi: handknit
Flower Crown: GG’s Pinup Couture
Photo by Velo’s lovely chap Ian James
This playsuit is a few years old. It’s not vintage, nor is it repro. It is from that very British of institutions (as British as Tweed, really)… Matalan

I had the best riding partners a gal could have. The Vintage Mafia always ride as a gang, but lovely Bethan was on holiday in Tennessee (so awful for her) and so she missed it. Luckily the Vintage News gals were also in attendance as well as some other babes, so we could form a new gang for the day.

Photo by Michal Zagula
I managed to get a couple of Instagrams – one with the above babes and the lovely Katie Holt as a bonus…  
And one of me looking super classy with my can of 1664 and Katie and Mai in the background during the picnic stop. 

Here’s a selection of photos I didn’t take! This year’s route took the Tweed Run from the start at Somerset House…

Down Pall Mall & St James…

Tyrrells man on a Tally Ho cycle
To the tea stop at Guildhall with Good & Proper Tea 
Round Borough Market
Over Westminster Bridge where we bumped into the London Cycling Campaign Big Ride
Visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace
The picnic stop at Russell Square
Down Exmouth Market…
And then the finish at St James! With gorgeous Sally in her amazing home-made dress.
All these photos © Ben Broomfield found here.
Some more amazing ladies!
Callotype: Tweed Run 2014 &emdash;
Callotype: Tweed Run 2014 &emdash;
Callotype: Tweed Run 2014 &emdash;
Callotype: Tweed Run 2014 &emdash;
Callotype: Tweed Run 2014 &emdash;

For the first time ever, I wasn’t on a Pashley or vintage old lady bike. I was riding my lovely pink single speed from Pitango Bikes… which I carefully matched with my shoes! Thank goodness one solitary lady captured me on it after all that effort 😉

 Serious riding! Photo by lovely Chikage
As is always the way, I was tagged in a fair few candids that I didn’t know were being taken. Putting makeup on = a magnet for photographers! 

And posing for photos means other take your picture… albeit at different angles! In this shot with my pal Briggy, you can see my now healed backpiece by Tracy D!
Photo by Neil Archer
I’ll leave you with this love illustration of my Instagram picture by Bex Shaw of Bex’s Drawings

Oh and this elegant shot of me eating a carrot by Jeni.

Roll on next year!

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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Vintage dates for your diary!

Hi all!

I’m going to (try) to start a new regular-ish post about upcoming events that might appeal to my readers as I get sent info about so many that it seems a shame not to tell the world about them. The world who reads my blog, that is.

From Rhythm Riot last year – everyone loves a vintage weekender!

I have three vintage weekenders to kick off with so it’s by no means an exhaustive list of upcoming events, simply the ones I have been sent info on recently. I have the inbox memory of a goldfish, so there’s every chance I have missed things. But! I have set up a brand-new email just for events, so if you have an event coming up, ping me the info (and preferably some awesome photos) to

events@diaryofavintagegirl.com

Got it? Right!

Firstly, this Bank Holiday weekend is the The East Lancashire Railway‘s award winning 1940s Weekend. Here’s what they have to say about it:

It’s full steam ahead for the East Lancashire Railway’s annual 1940s event on the upcoming May Bank Holiday weekend. Hosted by the North West’s premier railway, the award winning three day event, which welcomes over 5,000 visitors, has expanded its array of attractions for its sixteenth year. 

 

One of the highlights of the event will be the action packed re-enactments with three different battles scheduled throughout the course of the weekend as well as short pop-up scenes around the line. This year’s event sees the introduction of more family attractions with Heywood Station hosting a fantastic vintage fairground as well as fun for all ages Wartime Workshops. Fancy yourself as Poirot? Both adults and children can take part in our Ration Card Quiz, find the clues up the line for a chance to win a family ticket to a Day Out with Thomas event or a luxury dining experience for two. 

The weekend would not be complete without a taster of some of the fantastic entertainment from the era as esteemed vintage performers Paul Harper, Jane Francis, Katie Mustang and Maria Manchester entertain the crowds with some forties favourites. Visitors can also choose to jive or lindyhop till their heart’s content at the array of daytime and evening dances. 

The railway’s vintage Pullman style dining carriages will be serving afternoon teas on Saturday and Sunday with other refreshments available at the two award winning pubs and buffet for the entire three days. 

More attractions include, vintage and military stalls, military vehicle and classic car displays, children’s craft activities, military parade and brass band. 

Visit www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk to purchase your event tickets and receive your free souvenir 1940s Weekend brochure. Day tickets are available for adults at £18.00. 

In a couple of weeks, there’s another weekend event – the 7th and 8th June are Scampston Does Vintage! I have a pair of tickets to give away too, so read on…

Scampston Hall near Malton will again play host to our second bigger and even better Vintage Festival and Classic Car Rally, with Britain Does Vintage, Scampston Hall and NECPWA bringing you ‘Scampston Does Vintage’! Set in the picturesque lakeside gardens of the regency Scampston Hall which is home to the award winning Walled Gardens, this event is set to be the perfect vintage festival! 

Let us set the scene – a fabulous Saturday evening of live music, picnics and vintage cocktails, followed by a relaxed vintage garden party in the immaculate gardens, hundreds of stunning classic cars to admire, live music and afternoon tea on the terrace, as well as of an array of the UK’s best vintage stalls to discover. Not to forget children’s entertainment to keep the kids happy while you transport yourself back in time! 

If you’re bringing along your pride and joy, register with the NECPWA here. 

So, grab your trilbies, don your best frock and shine up your chassis, we’ll be presenting a rosette for the best car ‘Scampston Choice’ as well a prize for the best-dressed visitor!  

This is going to be something very special and we are so excited for this event, we hope you can make it! Book your tickets here.

Saturday 18:00 til 22:30 (campers can arrive from 16:00)
Sunday 11:00 til 17:30

As mentioned, I have a pair of tickets to Scampston Does Vintage to give away… if you’d like to enter, please send an email to events@diaryofavintagegirl.com with the subject line ‘Scampston Does Vintage’ and I’ll pick a winner one week today (Friday 30th May). Good luck!

Next up is Twinwood, and more specifically, Twinwood’s search for the UK’s Miss & Mr Vintage 2014!

Now in its 13th year, Twinwood Festival is the original and best festival celebrating the style and music of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. And this year, for the very first time, they are looking for the most stylish vintage guy or gal in the UK. 

The first event of its kind, the contest will celebrate those people who best represent the iconic styles of the era, with prizes to be won from Twinwood Events, Vivien of Holloway, Vintage Life Magazine, Til The Sun Goes Down and more!

This is a unique chance for candidates to show off their vintage hair-dos, make up, clothes and accessories for a judging panel that includes vintage style icon Lola Lamour herself.

Well established on the vintage circuit, Lola Lamour is old school style personified. With her incredible knowledge of all things vintage and her dedication to living the lifestyle she is the perfect head judge and presenter in the search for Mr Vintage UK 2014 and Miss Vintage UK 2014. Lola will also be providing exclusive hair and make up tutorials in the run up to the event.

Joined by her co-presenters and judges Dusty Limits and Mark Ewing, she will then be running the rule over the finalists at the Twinwood Festival, which opens on August 23rd.

Marcella Puppini of The Puppini sisters will also be on hand to award the prizes

Organisers are also keen to stress that Miss Vintage UK and Mr Vintage UK is unlike any other beauty contest in that age and body shape are not a factor – simply the ability to capture the spirit of the era. 

Whatta bunch of babes!

How to Enter
To enter this fantastic competition simply get dressed up in your best vintage finery and email your photos (must be at least 300dpi) to:

info@mrvintageuk.com

Twinwood will then publish these on their Facebook page – the top twenty ladies and top ten gents receiving the most likes from the public will then go into the second round where the judges will decide which ten ladies and four gents are to go forward to the finals at Twinwood Festival 2014! 

Let me know if you are going to any of these fab events and don’t forget to send me yours!

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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In-between Weather – an outfit post!

After a few days of lovely sunshine here in Blighty, it’s now cooled down to the point where it isn’t really warm enough to go bare legged (but I do anyway) or leave the house without a coat. Once I have got going with the cotton dresses it is impossible for me to go back and so, from now on, I’ll be sticking it out with the bare legs. Today was no exception, despite it being a fresh 19ºC/66ºF.

I did something really rather cool related to my blog today, but you will have to wait until next week to hear about it… but it did involve wearing a nice outfit, and styling such as used to be every day for me, but is now more for occasions where extra effort is required. It was a shame not to capture it myself so here it is!

Today’s dress: Heyday Fleur
Bag: Leather Satchel Co (I use it every single day)
Earrings: Bow & Crossbones

But as mentioned, it is not really all that warm. Cue my favourite new eBay score, a ‘vintage’ (absolutely zero idea how old it is… maybe 80s) cropped leather jacket!

I absolutely adore this jacket! I have been looking for one for years, never found something that both fit and was suitably cropped. This was a very lucky find and risk on eBay – luckily it paid off and it is perfect!

I have a long body, so it might not be as perfectly cropped on a shorter lady. Just right on lanky old me! 
Isn’t it good?? It’s lightly lined so it’s not too warm but keeps the cold away nicely. I shall never take it off (except when I wear other jackets… or no jacket… or in winter).
Bonus details are my awesome new shoes from Swedish Hasbeens to replace my knackered ones from last year… Fredricas are the perfect height and the natural goes with errrrrr’ythang.

And matching your nails with your Cambodian ruby (maybe) ring is the one.

Do you buy a new thing, love it and wear it every day despite having loads of other things languishing in the wardrobe? I hope it’s not just me… 

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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Fun stuff and giveaways

Hey y’all.

To tide you all over until I have some nice outfit shots to post (no idea when that will be… but at least I can do summer clothes now, thanks sunshine!), I have some competitions and events to write about.

First up – I was emailed by the fab LoveurLook, who are a UK-based, ethically made repro clothing label who managed to secure a pop up shop at the mighty House of Fraser. Do go down and support if you can, such cute summery dresses!

Always happy to support home-grown brands 🙂

Next up, I have a pair of tickets to give away for Bourne And Hollingsworth’s world-famous Prohibition Party at the glamorous Art Deco Bloomsbury Ballroom on Saturday…

The 1920s isn’t usually my thing but strictly on the DL, the Vintage Mafia may be getting into the illicit bootlegging business with the shady B&H in the near future so if you want to check out the shindig for free then this is an excellent opportunity! From the guys themselves..

Throughout the night, entertainment includes live bands, DJs on gramophones, silent cinema, dancing troupes and gambling tables. In order to elude the beady eye of the law, cocktail menus are circulated hidden inside the pages of books, and drinks are served in teacups.

If you fancy going, email me at fleur@diaryofavintagegirl.com with ‘Prohibition’ in the subject line and I’ll pick a winner tonight. 

Lastly, someone I work with has a smashing competition running and I’d love a reader to win it, since the vintage community are so good with cameras…

Tune Hotels are giving away a 3-night stay in their Edinburgh hotel with £150 towards travel and a bonus package of Sticky 9 goodies. If you haven’t seen Sticky 9 before, then check them out – they print your Instagram photos on magnets and phone cases and so on. I really really want to get some of the magnets to put on my fridge!

To go along with the prize, the entry is with a ‘Scotland-themed’ photo – pictures of rolling highlands, heather, tartan garments, deep-fried Mars bars, cows, bagpipes, thistles… basically anything loosely related could be in with a chance as long as it gets votes.

Enter by clicking here… let me know if you enter so I can vote for your photo!

Here’s a bonus photo of the beautiful Idda Van Munster in a Collectif Blackwatch tartan dress…  what a babe.

That’s all (for now) folks!

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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Bella Venezia – Part 2

So continuing my holiday snaps, we actually spent most of the holiday in a town about an hour north of Venice, called Sacile. It’s where a lot of my boyfriend’s Italian family live. Italian relatives aren’t like English ones – when you tell them not to come over, they come anyway and shower you with food and friendly questions – I wasn’t complaining!

But there wasn’t anything worth documenting in Sacile, so my only holiday photos come from two trips to Venice. It was a joy just to wander the beautiful streets… even if the weather still wasn’t all that (as mentioned in my earlier post).

So hello again from Venezia!

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

We went to visit the amazing Doge’s Palace and did the ‘Secret Passages’ tour, which I highly, highly recommend. It’s hard to get on – we had to book days in advance! There were huge queues for it as well, but obviously online booking is for winners. Queuing is for losers. 
No photos allowed inside – boo.
Venice 2014
Venice 2014
Venice 2014
Pre-tour boyfriend
We just stood outside everything else, which was more than enough for me.
Venice
Venice
Venice
I hope I get to go back one day soon.
Venice 2014 Venice
Please excuse my mosquito bites… got mercilessly munched! 
Skirt: Nicole Katherine via Pinup Parade
Top: Topshop
Earrings: Outer Limitz
Bangles: all over (you can get bamboo ones at Outer Limitz too)
Shoes: Can’t remember!  

I need another holiday.

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

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A right Royal carriage

Hello!

Last weekend, I went to see the Queen again! Unfortunately, not only was she out for the day, but she had taken some of the things I had gone to look at. But being the Queen, she can do as she darn well pleases, of course. After writing only recently about King Edward VII’s famous love of horseless carriages, I thought it was time to look at something a little less newfangled. Come with me on a stroll through the Royal Mews and look at some fancy-pants coaches… the kind that come WITH horses!

It’s fair to say that the Royal Family like a good carriage. King Edward VII was a huge fan of carriages, horseless carriages AND a good undercarriage… sorry, maybe that’s a bit crude. On any given state occasion, the whole family will get to ride in one of the many snazzy carriages at their disposal. The most famous and definitely the jazziest of all is the Gold State Coach.

Yes, that’s real gold leaf. It’s a four-ton beast that was ordered by the 24 year old King George III in 1760. His precise order was for a ‘very superb’ State coach for his wedding. They missed their deadline by rather a lot, and George rode in it to the State Opening of Parliament in 1762. The people loved its glittering opulence, its cherubs, crowns, palm trees, lions’ heads, faces, tritons and dolphins. And what opulence? It cost an astonishing £8,000 which amounts to nearly 16 million quid in today’s money.

Luckily, it’s proved to be fairly good value, as it’s been used at the coronations of every British monarch since. Here’s Queenie in it in 1953, the first time it had ever been seen on TV!

And here’s our hero in it at his own coronation, over 150 years earlier, in 1902. 

Not all the Kings and Queens who’ve had the honour of riding in the Gold State Coach have had nice things to say about it. William IV compared it to being aboard a ship in rough seas and Queen Victoria apparently refused to ride in it, due to its ‘distressing oscillations’! Only our present queen has benefited from the wheel upgrade it was given after WWII… some air cushioning is now present!

Side note – it’s so bright, it throws everything into shadow!

Anyway, back to the Mews. There are over 100 coaches and carriages belonging to the Royal Family around the place, but only a selection of them are on display. Many date from the Victorian era, up to 1988, when the last adddition, the Australian Coach was presented to her Maj. The one I had really come to see though, was the 1902 State Landau, ordered by and built for King Edward VII himself, for his coronation in 1902.

Of course, this was the carriage being used by the Queen on the day I visited, along with all the horses! Darn it.

The 1902 State Landau is the one that was used at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, three years ago this month. But when it was ordered, the Hooper coachbuilding company took into account the king’s large girth when it was constructed, making sure he would be able to get in and out easily and sit in comfort with Queen Alexandra by his side.

It starred in a 1902 edition of the Black and White, but I think artistic licence was used in lieu of an actual visit to draw it… since as we can clearly see above, the landau doesn’t have a roof!

Pulled by four horses, with two postilions, or riders, on the front pair, it also took Charles and Diana to Buckingham Palace after their wedding, as well as Wills and Kate.

Unfortunately, since Bertie was the one who had it made, and every time its pictured they mention that, it’s hard to find a photo of him riding in it! There are lots of the Queen, Queen Mother, Camilla, Charles & Diana and Wills and Kate plus many more. I found this photo of Edward VII’s son, George V in an open coach, but I think it is a different one, with a much less snazzy paint job.

This postcard from 1908 shows King Edward on a Royal Procession to Ascot, for the races. The photo was actually taken the previous year as he rode to Ascot 1907 in what looks like the same carriage as his son in the photo above. History detective, I am.

But then… hurrah!

On Wednesday 23rd June 1909, the King visited Gloucester (the first monarch to do so since the Mad King George III) and he apparently went in his 1902 State Landau! I found this fabulous photo, taken by a visiting Government photographer from Queensland, and some info about it here (side note, we didn’t get a day off in my school when the Queen Mum came to visit, no fair).

The other relevant carriage in the Royal Mews is the one known as Queen Alexandra’s State Coach.

Patriotic Fleur dress was the only option, really.

This is a coach that was a plain old thing, built during Victoria’s reign, but reconditioned, glazed and jazzed up for the then Princess of Wales, soon to be Queen Alexandra in the 1890s.

From Wikipedia

Its main duty these days is to carry the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown and the Queen’s parliamentary regalia from Westminster to the State Opening of Parliament. It’s nowhere near as ostentatious as the Gold Coach, nor the Irish State Coach (which was destroyed by a fire shortly after King Edward’s death… here it is just for interest) OR Queen’s latest addition, the Australian Coach, which is so modern, it actually has electric windows!

The Irish one… Gold on the roof! 
But… the Aussie one has electric windows you guys! 
A most poignant note to end this blog upon has to do with King Edward VII’s final journey. I did a piece last year on his final train journey on the Necropolis Railway, but his very last procession through London was by carriage. 
For his State Funeral in 1910, the King himself was carried upon a gun carriage, which seems pretty appropriate to me.

And the Queen, now the Queen Mother, followed behind in her State Coach.

He may have been an advocate of the horseless carriage, but in the end, it was in supreme tradition that the King’s reign ended.

I’ll drink to that!

Talking of drink, The Twinger is my King’s Ginger cocktail of the month, a fittingly golden colour to match the Gold State Coach, and refreshing in this changeable weather we’re having!

If you want to try it, have a look out in Waitrose, loads of amazing bars or any of the places listed here and let me know if you do!

Fleur xx

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