Those that know me, know I love hotels, and I love London. So when I saw that BBC were doing a documentary, going behind the scenes of one of London’s most famous and luxurious hotel, Claridges, it is safe to say I nearly fainted. Now my love in London, has been and always will be the Savoy on the Strand, but Claridges comes a very close second, and has an equally wonderful, cultural history.
Located in the heart of Mayfair, the hotel first opened in 1898 after previously trading as two separate businesses. Bought by Richard D’oyly Carte, owner of the Savoy and it has been offering luxury accommodation and service ever since. Since opening, Claridges has solidly become a favourite haunt of royalty and celebrities. From the Queen Mother, it was her favourite hotel right up to her death, and to this day mega stars and Hollywood royalty prefer Claridges for its old English charms and discretion. In fact, so popular is the hotel with Royalty, there is a famous story of somebody ringing the hotel, asking to speak to the King, the operators response, which King? During the period of time covering the funeral of King George VI and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II so many heads of state were staying in the hotel, that the management had to add additional flag poles to every side of the hotel in order to display every nations flag, as peer protocol at the time.
Claridges’ heyday was in the 1920′s and 30′s when a large extension was added to the hotel, featuring a new ballroom. Prior to the 1920′s the rich and powerful used to entertain people in their fabulous city mansions, but after the Great War these large house fell out of favour. People preferred instead to live in smaller houses and the new serviced apartment blocks that sprung up all over the city. Claridges stepped in to fill the gap for this entertaining space, with some stunning function rooms, which previously were never needed. Claridges stands as a statement to the changing face of the city.
To this day Claridges is probably one of the best examples of Art Deco interiors in London, and is almost retained in tact. many of the rooms and suites still have the original Art Deco bathrooms, so if you are a fan of this style, this really is the place for you.
As with every big hotel in the world Claridges has some amazing stories of both cultural and historical significance. One such event occurred in 1945. During World War 2, King Peter II of Yugoslavia and his wife were exiled from their own country and spent most of the war living in Claridges. On the 17th July 1945, the time came for the birth of the King’s son, and Heir to the throne. The Royal family of Yugoslavia were having enough trouble holding onto power without the future King being born on foreign soil. Therefore Sir Winston Churchill and the British Government actually ceded suite 212 at Claridges to Yugoslavia for that one day so that the Prince could be born on his home territory. To this day this suite still carries its links to this event and is known as the ” Prince Alexander Suite”.
Claridges really is a living piece of history and if you are interested in history then I think a night here might make your year. But just be prepared to spend money, as rates can start from £300 per night, up to £9000 a night for the largest suite.
Alternatively if, like me you are on a budget you can do what I did and look up the documentary and get a full behind the scenes look at the running of the hotel, see the fab rooms and stunning venues within the building. The documentary also introduces us to some of the Hotels many returning guests, and long standing staff members, both of which show a strong stream of loyalty to the hotel.
To read more try “Claridges: Within the Image” by Gemme Levine and Maggie Koumi.
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