Not losing my head - unlike Charles I
PUBLISHED: 11:02 19 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:29 19 February 2018
“What do you want for your birthday, mum?” asked Mark as he regularly does, every 12 months.
“There was something I wanted...” I lied. “I’ll let you know.”
Last year, of course, there was the debacle of the dress... though, to be fair, I hadn’t realised it was coming from China and would in no way resemble the dress I thought I was getting, based on the photograph. The material was different, the style was different and the colours were different. And when I tried it on I looked like a blue and purple suet dumpling. That is what happens when you think you’re getting a bargain.
This year, as a pre-birthday treat, I spent a day in London with my husband. We had lunch at Fortnum and Mason (in the restaurant - we didn’t go round eating food samples) and then we crossed the road to the Royal Academy (RA) and saw the Charles I King and Collector exhibition which is currently inhabiting 12 exhibition rooms.
By the time we finished lunch, I was feeling a little less smug about avoiding the nasty flu and cold bugs that seem to be afflicting everybody. My throat was sore and my nose was streaming... so much so that at one point I seriously considered blowing it on my linen napkin in Fortnum’s. I didn’t because I am well-brought-up... I wiped my nose on my sleeve instead.
The RA exhibition was, for the first time, reuniting many of the works of art Charles I collected and commissioned. What it was unable to reunite was his head and body. Charles was the king beheaded after being found guilty of treason.
After Charles’s death, the puritan Oliver Cromwell became head of the Commonwealth, during England’s brief dalliance with republicanism. I’m guessing Cromwell didn’t approve of the Goddess Athena’s bare breasts and similar shows of naked lady flesh because he sold off much of Charles’ collection.
This new exhibition has roamed the continent to bring these works back to Britain for the first time in more than 300 years. The biggest source, however, was our own Queen’s art collection from the period – which, even accounting for the sell-off, remains vast.
Charles I was, I read, a short man, which is why he liked to be pictured on his horse. It made him look lofty and superior, although it would have been a brave artist that showed him standing on a box. He was one of the kings who have come to the throne because of the death of an older brother and heir apparent.
Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur, died young, as did Charles I’s brother, Henry. George V was the second son of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra but his older brother, Albert Victor, died during an influenza pandemic in 1892. Interestingly, George would marry his brother’s fiancee, Mary of Teck, just as Henry VIII married his dead brother’s wife, Katherine of Aragon. Those royals and their princess sharing, eh...
I would heartily recommend the RA exhibition, although I confess my feet were aching by the time I had explored all the works.
The next stop in our cultural feast was the Royal Opera House, where we watched a performance of Giselle with a debut in the title role by the exquisite ballerina Francesa Hayward. At the end of this sad, classical ballet, she was presented with at least her body weight in bouquets. I could have been a dancer... except for the fallen arches, dodgy knees, overly large physical attributes and, perhaps most significantly, a total lack of talent.
Then it was back to Liverpool Street for the 10.30pm Greater Anglia train to Norwich which left bang on time. I would have liked to drink my cup of coffee but even after more than an hour it was still at a temperature approaching that of volcanic lava. Maybe they could think about offering it very hot, hot or medium hot, to give passengers a chance.
• I must thank Hozelock for the email about Mothers’ Day. I admit that until then I hadn’t considered buying my mum a garden hose or an unusual nozzle.
My thanks also to Judy Speed, of Norwich, who, reading of my clumsy and ineffective egress from the back seat of a two-door car, suggested I exit backwards. “Works for me but make sure skirt is not tucked into knickers.” Ah, were you at the talk I gave to the Friends of Leiston Film Theatre, Judy?
My friend Cherry, from Aylsham, was musing on Valentine’s Day. “I had a romantic Valentine after a first date with my husband (then my boyfriend). The card, with roses and hearts, said I was in all his plans, which I took seriously - he later said he hadn’t read the words.” Cherry adds that it was a bit like the Valentine sent to Mr Boldwood by Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd.
I am happy to see it worked out better for Cherry than it did for Mr Boldwood.