A few nights ago, I had the pleasure of attending a black tie dinner at the Houses of Parliament. The highlight of the evening was a guided tour of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and all the glorious parts in between. The official name for the Houses of Parliament is the Palace of Westminster as it is a former royal residence with Henry VIII being the last monarch to reside at the palace. It was a phenomenal tour and I could literally feel the physical weight of history on my shoulders as I walked through the arteries of ‘the heart of British politics’.
The next day, I decided to visit Syon Park and House. Many years ago, I used to live in an apartment overlooking the park and it’s tremendous beauty has always been a draw for me. Syon House with its 200 acre park, is located in the county of Middlesex and is the Duke of Northumberland’s London residence. There is a fascinating but macabre story about Syon House that also involves the last monarch to reside at the Palace of Westminster – Henry VIII. The story goes something like this:
Syon House gets its name from Syon Abbey, a medieval monastery of the Bridgettine Order, which moved to the site in 1431. It was one of the wealthiest nunneries in the country but was shut down in 1539 during the ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’ (The Dissolution of the Monasteries was the set of processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded Catholic monasteries and other structures in England, Wales and Ireland. This was the result of his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church after the pope refused to grant him a divorce and he set up the Church Of England). The Father Confessor of the nuns, Richard Reynolds, would not accept the king’s supremacy and was executed in 1535 and his body subsequently placed on the Syon Abbey gateway.
A few years later in 1547, when Henry VIII died, his coffin was brought to Syon on its way to Windsor for burial. Apparently, during the night his coffin burst open and in the morning dogs were found nibbling at his body! It is said that this event was seen as a divine judgement for his desecration of Syon Abbey. I suspect that his considerable size also contributed to the unfortunate incident of the splitting coffin. Or, perhaps it was on account of the medieval sinner (and not the medieval dinner) and the bad vibes that his multiple ex-wives were sending him from their after life. You know what they say – hell has no wrath like a women scorned and he had scorned a lot of women but I digress…
Visiting these two historical places during the same weekend reminded me of one of the greatest privileges of living in London – living history at every corner and doorstep. I think many of us live in cities and towns with multiple historically significant places to visit and yet we somehow overlook them in our daily lives. This weekend was testimony to the fact that visiting historical places is a great way to spend a weekend! I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Houses of Parliament and Syon Park and I would highly recommend visiting both given the chance.
The grandeur and drama of Syon House and it’s estate conjures up images of lords and ladies in scrumptious velvets and elaborate capes parading the halls of the grand house. It seemed an apt backdrop for me to lookbook my all black outfit featuring the fabric of the season – velvet! Velvet seems to be all over the high street and there is a richness to the fabric that makes it ideal for winter wear. I particularly like the style and cut of this devoré blouse and there is an opulence to the pattern that draws the eye in. I have paired it with high heeled black boots and a back cape to add to the Gothic inspired styling. I often find that adding pattern and structure to an all black outfit makes up for the lack of colour and considerably elevates the overall look.
I hope you enjoyed the brief history lesson and thank you so much for visiting my blog!