Last week I was honored to visit the Royal Library at Windsor Castle at the invitation of my friend Simon Rhodes. Simon is a cousin of, and former Page of Honour to, Her Majesty The Queen. This is extraordinary access, beyond what I ever imagined possible.
The day of my visit I was instructed to arrive at the Henry VIII gate, to the left of the normal public entrance. Having passed security clearance weeks prior, I presented two photo IDs and was approved entry. Walking through the castle grounds prior to opening, in the silence, one could imagine Elizabeth I walking the same paths. I was escorted to a well-guarded side entrance near the State Apartments, but only accessible to staff and approved guests.
Windsor Castle, Royal Collection Trust
Oliver Urquhart Irvine, The Librarian, & Assistant Keeper of The Queen’s Archives met me there. I write about extraordinary access travel and have had some fantastic trips, but never dreamed I would be privileged to visit the Royal Library at Windsor with the Royal Librarian.
One of the most valuable collections in the world, the treasures here are astounding and the rooms that they are housed in equally steeped in history. These rooms were formerly Queen Catherine of Braganza’s state bedchamber, Henry VII’s private bedchamber, and Elizabeth I’s indoor walking gallery. The fragility of these spaces, as much as the value of the collections, limits the number of yearly visitors allowed.
The Royal Library at Windsor, Royal Collection Trust
The Royal Library at Windsor, Royal Collection Trust
Mr. Irvine is working to share these treasures with a wider public, both digitally, through some exciting upcoming exhibitions and with a wider range of scholars. Some may even rewrite history.
But the reason for my article is not to brag about my visit, but to let you know that you too can visit as a guest on an extraordinary tour that Simon has designed for a small group of guests. You will walk through the same rooms as Henry VII and his more famous son, and see special exhibits created just for your group, just as they are for visiting Heads of State.
But that is only one visit on an unprecedented tour. Below is a summary of Simon’s “Royal Tour.” Read it carefully as it is full of visits you have never seen offered before. Simon has also invited my friend, author and historian, Alison Weir to speak. One of my favorite exclusive visits on his itinerary is the opportunity to visit St. James Palace. Rarely open to the public, you can see the rooms below and learn the history of this, the most senior of all the royal palaces.
The Throne Room at St. James Palace, Royal Collection Trust
St. James Palace, Royal Collection Trust
Note: As my readers know, I do not sell travel, but do promote extraordinary access travel. I do not receive compensation for promoting this, I just wanted to share as this is one of the most exciting tours I have ever seen. I know you will think so too. This tour would be perfect for an exclusive Board trip or an individual. For a full itinerary and further information contact Simon directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at https://www.simonrhodestours.co.uk/.
A Royal Tour with Simon Rhodes May 4 – 13, 2018
Green Drawing Room, Buckingham Palace, Royal Collection Trust
Enjoy privileged access to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and The Royal Library, The Banqueting House, Whitehall, St James’s Palace, The Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, Sandringham, HM The Queen’s private estate in Norfolk, and Her Majesty’s racehorse stud and stables.
Also included are private visits to Hopetoun House, South Queensferry, hosted by Lord Hopetoun; Glamis Castle, with The Earl of Strathmore & Kinghorne, breakfast aboard and a tour of the former Royal Yacht, Britannia, and a visit to the Headquarters of The Royal Company of Archers, The Queen’s Bodyguard in Scotland.
Your host throughout the tour will be Simon Rhodes, a cousin of and former Page of Honour to Her Majesty The Queen, Simon is also a member of The Royal Company of Archers, The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland.
Simon’s mother, the Honourable Margaret Rhodes, was a Lady-in-Waiting to her aunt, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother – who, because she, the Queen and Princess Margaret grew up together more as sisters than first cousins, referred to her as “my third daughter”.
A highlight of the tour will be a visit to the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, once the gallery in which Queen Elizabeth I would walk for exercise when the weather was too inclement for more strenuous outdoor pursuits.
Never open to the public, the Royal Library, which contains an important collection of books and manuscripts, was created by King William IV in the 1830s. Two decades later, during the 1850s, the Print Room, which is part of the Royal Library and which houses priceless drawings, watercolours and prints, was laid out in its present form by Prince Albert, the Prince Consort.
Windsor Castle during my visit last week to the Royal Library
St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
Two guest speakers, Alison Weir and Alastair Bruce have been invited to give talks about the Royal Family and the history of Britain’s monarchy, that will both inform and entertain.
Alison Weir, international best-selling historian, biographer and novelist, and renowned authority on Norman, Plantagenet and Tudor history, is the biggest-selling female historian (and the fifth best-selling historian) in the United Kingdom since records began in 1997. She has published twenty-three titles and sold more than 2.7 million books – over a million in the UK and more than 1.7 million in the USA.
Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, who, as Fitzalan Pursuivant, serves as one of the Royal Heralds at the College of Arms, a position he has held since 1998. Alastair has also provided commentary for most of the major royal events in the United Kingdom, including the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 and The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the State Visit of Pope Benedict in 2010, and the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1997 and 2002 respectively. He is a godfather to Viscount Severn, son of TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex.
You will dine in fine and imaginative establishments.
In London, you will have the opportunity to dine at Berry Bros & Rudd – vintners to Her Majesty – in their cellars in St James’s.
Berry Bros & Rudd, who have been located at Number 3 St James’s Street since 1698, when the company was founded, are Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchants. The company has been a supplier to the royal family since the reign of King George III.
Today members of the Berry and Rudd families continue to own and manage the family-run wine merchant.
At Sandringham, you will have dinner in Her Majesty’s private cottage with dishes provided from the kitchens of Sandringham House itself.
Field Barn, as this cottage is known, is situated in the heart of the estate, from which no human habitation is visible. The cottage is very simple and is used by the Royal Family for picnics, barbecues, and shooting lunches.
Message from Simon Rhodes
I feel hugely privileged to have been welcomed as a family guest at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the private residences of the Royal Family on many occasions over the years. I have also been fortunate to attend several important State occasions.
As my personal guests, you will be guided by a unique and fascinating combination of specialist curators, experts, and hosts as you enter the extraordinary world of The Royal Collection, the working palaces, and various Stately houses.
The Royal Palaces and Castles in the United Kingdom house much of The Royal Collection. You will be immersed in the world of the British Monarchy – a constant thread woven through the 1,000-year history of the British Isles.
You will also visit the private royal estate at Sandringham. Although not part of the Royal Collection, it offers a fascinating glimpse into an alternative and less formal way of life.
Sandringham is also home to the Queen’s racehorse stud and stables.
I truly look forward to welcoming you on this unique royal tour of Britain
The itinerary is highly dependent upon the royal family and royal household activity. Final royal diaries tend to become confirmed about 4 months ahead and so it is possible that there may be alterations to the itinerary sequence of events as we get closer to May 2018.
Unforeseen circumstances can intrude on the availability of specific persons; in the event of any person being unavailable then an alternative will be brought in. Any changes will be advised to those who have booked.
Comprehensive travel insurance is advised.