From our special correspondent in London,
The ideal setting. On the banks of the Thames, many tourists take pictures of themselves at the start of the afternoon. The azure sky contrasts perfectly with the Palace of Westminster, creating the perfect backdrop for a great vacation photo in London. A few meters further, it is in front of Westminster Abbey that smartphones and cameras are once again unsheathed, to capture one of the most emblematic monuments of the city.
It is here, in this Romanesque-style stone setting, that Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953. And it is here that Margot, a tourist guide in London, passes daily as part of the visits she hosts for groups of tourists, to whom the French reveals some secrets of the crown. There, finally, that will take place, on September 19, the funeral of the sovereign. And that King Charles III will be crowned in a few months. Historical events that will upset the course of Margot’s visits, who will have to update the royal anecdotes that she tells during her excursions. And which could, she fears, have an impact on her activity. From Buckingham Palace to Piccadilly Circus, 20 minutes followed The Guide Margot.
Discover London and the royal tradition
On the program of her visit, “all the must-see monuments of West London: Buckingham Palace, Saint James Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, the Royal Cavalry or Downing Street”, explains Margot. Student in Spanish, she was destined first of all for a career as a teacher. But a year of study in Cordoba made him revise his plans. “I had a great art history teacher who taught us directly in the monuments”. His vocation was born. Back in France, Margot graduated as a tour guide, and moved to London a year ago for love. She is instantly conquered by the city. “To love your job as a guide, you have to love the city in which you practice it. And here, in just a few weeks, I got my bearings and felt at home,” says the 23-year-old.
For the first few months, Margot surveyed the city and documented herself to design the route of her visits, before joining a tourist agency and then launching her own site last spring: The Guide Margot. “Obviously, for the visit dedicated to the British crown, I talk a lot about the queen, the major events that marked her reign, over the monuments that I show you”. But also some unusual anecdotes on the history of the monarchy. Thus, passing in front of Whitehall, a former royal palace where we witness the end of the changing of the royal guard on horseback, Margot draws our attention to a detail of the building. “You will notice that the clock is marked with a black spot at 2 o’clock; it was at this time that King Charles I was beheaded in 1649,” explains the guide. The opportunity to learn that the two previous kings of England named Charles did not have an easy reign.
On Piccadilly Circus, the place to be for a shopping spree, Margot introduces tourists to very special shops: the businesses supplying the crown, “recognizable by the royal emblem that sits above their sign”. Direction Fortnum & Mason, temple of tea, “open since 1707. The queen went there in person to inaugurate a tea room opened in her honor on the occasion of her diamond jubilee [il y a vingt ans]. Tourists are happy to be able to buy a little royal souvenir there”.
“Update all royal titles and find trivia about Charles and Camilla”
When the young woman learned of the death of Elizabeth II, like thousands of Londoners and tourists, she went to pray at Buckingham Palace. “I felt the need to come, the atmosphere was very special and sad, a thousand miles from the intense jubilation that reigned in June for its platinum jubilee”. The young woman then had “the chance to see the Queen on the balcony of Buckingham, Princess Anne on horseback, as well as William, Kate, Charles and Camilla passed by in a carriage in front of the crowd”, as she likes to point out to of his audience. “I, who talk about the queen every day, am happy to have seen her! And even more today, she says. For a first year as a guide in London, I would have had a very rich year”.
From now on, Margot will have to do “an update of my visit, starting with an update of all the royal titles: Charles having become king, it is to his son William that the title of Prince of Wales returns. As for the title of Duke of Edinburgh, which Charles inherited when his father died last year, it is likely to go to Prince Edward. A game of musical chairs which is coupled with a redistribution of the lands and royal residences associated with these royal titles”, and which the young woman will have to learn like the back of her hand.
If “obviously, I will always talk about the queen, who will remain an icon both for the British and for foreign tourists, now that there is a new king, I will have to find anecdotes about Charles and Camilla, indicates Margot, who already thought about the question. You have to find the right anecdotes because Charles had a tumultuous life. There is his story with Lady Di, still adored today. And his marriage to Camilla, his love of youth.
A “Charles & Camilla effect” on tourist guides?
A new royal couple far from being as popular and loved as Elizabeth II was. “Besides, for a long time, the queen and the British people did not want him to accede to the throne”, notes Margot. The young guide is also convinced, “Elizabeth was determined to live a very long time so that the crown goes directly to William! But today, Margot is worried about a potential bad “Charles & Camilla effect” on the activity of tourist guides. “For many foreign tourists, the king and queen consort caused Lady Di’s misfortune. And I’m not sure the attraction to the royal family will stay the same. We risk having less of an audience, ”she fears.
In the meantime, this week, Margot has several scheduled visits. “But with the titanic protocol put in place for the exhibition of the coffin of Elizabeth II and the funeral, I do not even know if it will be possible to ensure them. If they are maintained, I will explain to tourists the sequence of events and all the protocol deployed ”.
Then, “we’ll see how the visits go, Charles will probably be less dreamy”. But as a good queen of guides, Margot offers visits on other themes, to discover the City, the small addresses known only to insiders, or even London along the water. And, of course, his royal visit to London, “because there will always be fans of the crown anyway”. God save the king!