London: By AppointmentWho says you need a tiara to live like a royal?
Sure... royalty may be to London, as Wall Street is to New York, or as Hollywood is to Los Angeles, but it does not necessarily follow that one needs either a crown or a royal bloodline in order to live like a queen in England's capital city. In fact, all one actually needs is a modicum of desire, a speck of pluck and a few exceptionally well-documented connections.
Though many significant arteries may flow from London's thriving core, all roads ultimately lead back to the seemingly inescapably regal force that feeds and energizes the city. From its museums to its street names to its numerous palaces and parks, threads of royalty are woven into nearly every turn one takes in Londontown.
So with that notion in mind, I set out to make my last visit to London all about living like a royal, with the first step being to explore that exclusive coterie of persons and companies who provide goods and services to the royal family "by appointment".
Officially known as Royal Warrant holders, this prestigious collection of purveyors, filled with brands whose pedigrees date back centuries, is personally selected by either HRH The Queen, her husband, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, or her son, HRH The Prince of Wales. Unremarkably then, given the source, the current roster of around 800 royal warrant holders represents, not only a who's who of commerce in the United Kingdom, but also some of the finest products and services Her Majesty's realm has to offer.
Armed with this prized list, the first and most important step on my agenda was to select a suitably royal hotel, which turned out to be a much simpler affair than I had originally anticipated, because the only such warrant ever granted for Hospitality Services by Her Majesty The Queen (or any other reigning monarch since the Middle Ages) belongs to the Goring Hotel. Serenely tucked away on a quiet street adjacent to Buckingham Palace, the Goring has a rich and storied history that offers more than adequate explanation for its designation as the royal favorite.
Not only has the hotel served as an unofficial annex to Buckingham Palace by playing host to a cavalcade or European royals, its very existence has featured prominently in the lives of the royal family. For instance, in the early 20th century, when Lady Randolph Churchill frequently visited her son, the future Prime Minister Winston Churchill who would see England safely through World War II, it was at the Goring that she took up residence. Fittingly then, when peace was declared at the end of the war, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth celebrated by dining on sausages and scrambled eggs at the Goring with the Princesses Royal in tow.
Years later, with the scourge of war behind them and a new monarch on the throne, the Royal kin engaged the pastry chefs at the Goring to mark the christening of Prince Charles with the creation of a christening cake. And when it came time for the intended of Prince Charles' son and heir, Prince William, to settle down to selecting accommodations for her final night as a single lady, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, opted for the Goring's Royal Suite, the bathroom shower of which is fittingly adorned with a painting of a watchful Queen Victoria encased in glass. Even the hotel's dining room, right down to the glittering, much-talked about Swarovski chandeliers that dangle above it, bears the royal imprimatur in that it was decorated by Viscount Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret and nephew of Queen Elizabeth II.
And that's just an abbreviated history.
However, despite its very British-ness combined with the fact that it has been owned by a single family for more than a century, the Goring is not a hotel that finds itself stuck in a fussy, old-fashioned time warp. In fact, each of the hotel's 69 rooms and suites has been individually decorated by one of London's most acclaimed interior designers, with the result being an assemblage of rooms that, while all feeling quintessentially British, simultaneously represent a spectrum of styles that run the gamut from the very modern to the very traditional.
Likewise the Goring's service, though thoroughly modern, also offers a nod to some of the better old traditions of English country estates. Honestly, I dare any guest not to be charmed by playful touches like the sheep that find their way into the décor of every room and suite, or hear the echoes of a bygone Downton Abbey-esque era resound through their thoughts each night before turning in, as they set their shoes outside the doors of their well-appointed rooms and awake to find them freshly shined alongside their daily newspaper of choice (compliments of the hotel, of course).
It is all quite enough to make one feel very noble indeed.
To find out more about Royal Warrant Holders, visit www.royalwarrant.org. For more information about the Goring Hotel, visit www.thegoring.com.