The storied palace of Whitehall was home to some of England’s flashiest characters, including Henry VIII. In a wrenching loss for art and architecture—to say nothing of bowling heritage, since Henry had an alley installed—it burned down in 1698. But if you had to pick just one room to survive, it would have been the one that did, designed with Italianate Renaissance assurance by Inigo Jones and completed in 1622. Henry never set foot in it, but another fateful king set his last foot in it: In 1649, Charles I walked onto the scaffold from a window that stood in the present-day staircase, and met his doom under an axe wielded by Cromwell’s republicans, many of whom (shades of modern fundamentalism here) thought that by executing the king of Divine Right, they were heralding the return of Christ himself. The reason to come here is to gape at the nine grandiose ceiling murals by Peter Paul Rubens in which the king is portrayed as a god. They give you a bold clue as to why the rabble would want to see His Highness brought low. Thoughtfully, mirrored tables help you inspect the ceiling without craning your head to behold why Charles lost his.
The Banqueting House
Whitehall at Horseguards Ave., SW1
Our Rating Hours Daily 10am–5pm; last admission 30 min. before closing. Transportation Tube: Charing Cross or Westminster Phone 084/4482-7777 Prices Admission £6.50 adults, £5.50 seniors and students (including audio tour), free for children 15 and under; posted rates are higher and include a “voluntary donation; £1 cheaper if bought online Web site The Banqueting House
MapWhitehall at Horseguards Ave., SW1 London
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.