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What is the Capital of England

What is the capital of England?

London is The Capital of Great Britain and England, on the River Thames.
London, the Palace of Westminster and the Clock Tower (Big Ben)The history of London, the capital of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as England, dates back to the capture of the British Isles by the Romans in 43 AD. e. The troops led by Aulus Platius built a bridge to cross the River Thames and created a settlement called Londinium. By the year 200, the city had become a center of trade and was surrounded by a fortified wall that defined its borders for the next thousand years.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the population of the city declined sharply, many buildings were destroyed. And only at the beginning of the 7th century London began to revive. In 604, the first cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral ( St. Paul’s Cathedral ). By the 9th century, as soon as the city restored its function as a center of trade, it was captured by the Vikings. From that moment until the 11th century, the city was ruled by either the Vikings, or the Normans, or the British – until King Edward the Confessor approved the Anglo-Saxon power.

London has long been one of the largest metropolises in the world. Its political, financial and cultural influence remains considerable. Like Paris, London is located on a passage of the river, place of exchanges between the North and the South. La Cité (City), in the heart of the city, remains the center of business. The West, dotted with parks, remains mainly residential. The East, still industrialized, was renovated on the banks of the Thames and then profoundly redesigned for the 2012 Olympic Games. The city is also the main British port, where the role of warehouse has receded in favor of the regional function. The growth of the agglomeration was slowed down after 1945 by the creation of “new towns” in a large radius around London.


1.1. The site and the situation of the city

The geographical location is excellent, in the south of England, on the main river of the country, the Thames, at the entrance to its wide estuary, where the tide begins to be felt. Many natural routes, through the heights of the Downs and the Chilterns, also converge in London, which has always been a great crossroads, a port, a city of last bridges. The marshy bottom of the valley is bordered by unsinkable terraces. The City was born at a narrowing of the valley, on the low terrace, north of the river.

The Thames, which begins its river section and crosses from one side to the agglomeration, constitutes a fundamental element of the London landscape and its representations (Old Father Thames) . Since 1984, a movable dam (Thames Barrier), in Woolwich, protects the capital from the risk of flooding during high tides associated with a storm in the North Sea (six of the ten gates of the dam rest, in normal times, on the bed of the river to allow the passage of boats; they stand up vertically in the event of too high a tide). Although wide, the cut of the river is crossed by many bridges, and the city could largely extend on the south bank. The relief gradually rises on either side of the valley and forms, at the limits of the agglomeration, lines of hills covered with moors or forests, such as Hampstead Heath to the north and Wimbledon Common to the south.

1.2. Spatial expansion

London has a dual origin: the City (City), a merchant city, to the E., near the port and London Bridge, a single bridge until the 18th century  ; Westminster, political capital since the 11th  century, also on the left bank, but further west These two primitive nuclei, 4 km apart, were not joined until the 16th century . century (the north bank of the Thames having retained most of the higher functions). The city grows and spreads over the bottom of the valley, the high terraces, the tertiary plain of London as the economic and political power of Great Britain asserts itself. London had 35,000 inhabitants in 1348, 200,000 in 1600, 500,000 in 1700, 1,500,000 in 1831: it was then the largest city in the world and remained so until around 1940. The early creation of public transport ( the first metro line in 1863, the first motor buses in 1899) facilitated the gigantic spread of the agglomeration within a radius of 25 km around the City.

1.3. “Greater London”

From an administrative point of view, by an astonishing paradox, the city waited a very long time to be endowed with a single municipality. Only the City had boundaries and a defined government. The rest of the city was shared between the three surrounding counties: Middlesex, Kent and Surrey. Greater London, which corresponds to the jurisdiction of the capital’s police force (Metropolitan Police, created in 1829), had only a theoretical existence until the 20th century  . Each district of the capital was administered by a parish council (vestry)without real power. To this complication and this administrative disorder, the creation of a Metropolitan Board of Works, in 1855, brought only few remedies, and the city was only endowed in 1888 with a municipality (London County Council).

However, as the suburban crown expanded beyond the county limits, the need for a single authority grew more acute. After having been on the agenda many times, the reform of the government of London led in 1964 to the creation of a council of Greater London (Greater London Council). It was replaced in 1986 by direct borough administration , before the Greater London Area was created in 1994.

Today’s “Greater London” has an area of ​​1,572 km2and includes 32 boroughs and the City. It has the status of Region, in the same way as the other eight Regions of England. With, however, some peculiarities: it is the only British Region where there is a mayor elected by direct suffrage with broad powers and a regional assembly of elected officials. These authorities represent the Greater London Authority (GLA), whose headquarters are at London City Hall, Southwark. The Mayor is responsible for London’s strategic planning and must produce the London Plan, published by the Greater London Authority. Its first publication dates from February 10, 2004 and has since been amended several times. This plan defined priority objectives: providing housing in line with London’s growth, within its limits and without spilling over into green spaces, making the city more pleasant to live in for its inhabitants, ensuring that economic development is diversified, promoting social integration, combating discrimination of all kinds, improving accessibility of the city and make it more attractive, more functional and greener. Other objectives have been added relating to climate change, globalization, housing, transport, quality of life and the fight against exclusion, as well as preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics. . improve the accessibility of the city and make it more attractive, more functional and greener. Other objectives have been added relating to climate change, globalization, housing, transport, quality of life and the fight against exclusion, as well as preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics. . improve the accessibility of the city and make it more attractive, more functional and greener. Other objectives have been added relating to climate change, globalization, housing, transport, quality of life and the fight against exclusion, as well as preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics. .

1.4. The functions of the agglomeration

London combines all the important functions of the country. Political capital, it houses the royal palace, the Parliament, the ministries, the embassies, the courts, the management of the nationalized firms, the employers’ organizations and trade unions.

London was for a long time the first port of the kingdom (and even of the world in the 19th century )  . The first floating basins (West Indies, London, India, Surrey basins), near the Tower of London, date from the beginning of the 19th century  . The increase in traffic made it necessary to dig, further downstream, larger basins (Victoria, Albert, George-V basins). Almost all of these old basins are closed nowadays, and some have been filled in or converted into marinas. The traffic is concentrated in the downstream basins, accessible to large container ships, and along the oil piers.

London has five airports. The most important is Heathrow, the world’s leading airport for international passenger traffic, followed by Gatwick, but Luton, the last to open, and especially Stansted, located to the northeast of the capital, play an increasing role, while London City Airport , within the conurbation itself, handles medium-haul flights.

London was one of the very first capitals to be served by rail, from the middle of the 19th century  . Today, transport by rail is largely outpaced by road, especially since six motorways link London to the province. The national company British Rail has nevertheless considerably modernized its equipment by concentrating its traffic on a few main stations: Paddington for the West, Euston, King’s Cross, Liverpool Station for the North, Victoria, Charing Cross, Waterloo for the South. Added to this is the new Saint-Pancras station, the terminus of the link with the continent via the Channel Tunnel. Every day, 1.1 million people come to work in London, three-quarters using the train or tube.

London still has some industrial sites: mainly present in the suburbs, particularly in the western suburbs.

The City, second place of business in the world after New York, brings together in its offices a number of commercial and financial functions: the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange, British banks and several hundred foreign banks, marine insurance , investment companies, gold, non-ferrous metals, furs, tea markets, sea and air freight, brokerage, consulting and import-export companies.

London is also a major commercial and tourist centre, a cultural and sporting capital, thanks to its shops, theatres, museums, concert halls, universities, BBC, film and recording studios, and large stadiums (Wembley, Wimbledon, Twickenham). The city is the only one to have organized three summer Olympic games: the 1908 Olympic games, the 1948 Olympic games and the 2012 Olympic games.

1.5. The different parts of the agglomeration

The spatial differentiation of the agglomeration took place in concentric rings. The duality of the central districts is still visible: to the west, the political district of Westminster and the wealthy residential districts of the West End (Belgravia, Mayfair, Bloomsbury, Kensington), rich in parks and Georgian squares; to the east, the glass and concrete buildings of the Cité and the popular districts of the East End (Poplar, Hackney, Islington, Bethnal Green). The Docklands, on the Thames, were converted into a business and residential district in the 1980s, around the Canary Warf project. It connects to the north with the ongoing constructions for the 2012 Olympic Games, creating a new space whose axis will be a vast urban park. In the center, the once popular district of Saint-Pancras, also called King’s Cross, is transformed into a residential and business district around the new station. On the right bank, the creation of the Tate Modern and the renovation of the Royal Albert Hall have led to the redevelopment of the banks of the Thames.

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London has the highest tower in Europe, with The Shard, a building built by Renzo Piano and which rises 306 m above London Bridge station.

A first halo of Victorian suburbs extends mainly to the east and south (Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Croydon, Wandsworth), with long lines of modest houses and, in the bombarded areas of the Second World War, large housing estates rental. The more recent suburbs, born of the extension of the metro and the spread of the automobile, have suburban housing with a few blocks of apartments here and there. A green zone strives to contain the sprawl of the agglomeration.

The improvement of public transport allows a growing dissociation of employment in the center and residence on the outskirts. The ring of growth is now within the 25-60 km radius ring, partly thanks to the new towns created by the State (Crawley, Basildon, Harlow, Stevenage, Bracknell, Milton Keynes, etc.). In addition, from Canary Wharf to the North Sea, over approximately 70 km, the Thames estuary is the subject of a vast development operation, called “Thames Gateway”. It aims to develop this area, by associating new transport infrastructures with the construction of housing and the creation of jobs.


2.1. ancient origins

Numerous remains of Roman origin (surrounding wall, Mithra sanctuary, etc.) reveal an important commercial activity, the intensity of which increased after the conquest of Brittany by Claudius in 43 AD Occupied by Aulus Plautius, henceforth called Londinium (Latinized form of an obscure Celtic toponym), the city developed on the future Cornhill, at the northern end of a bridge located in the axis of the current Gracechurch Street, a little downstream from the London Bridge over the River Thames.

At the same time river and maritime port, first road crossroads of the Roman province, Londinium becomes a very active center of international traffic from the reign of Nero. The city was evacuated by Governor C. Suetonius Paulinus during the revolt of Boudicca, and was burned down in 61 AD by the Bretons. Depopulated by flight or assassination, set on fire again around 120 AD, it quickly came back to life under the protection of the Cripplegate Fort, incorporated at the end of the 2C  . AD to a first surrounding wall, which in fact marks the limits of the “City” and inside which are built a basilica 500 feet long, built at the northern limit of the forum, a temple of Mithras (early iis  . AD) and two thermal baths. It was occupied by the “archipirate” Carausius from 286 to 293, then by its praetorian prefect Allectus from 295 to 296; it was saved from destruction by Constance Chlore, as evidenced by the gold medallion found in Beaurains, near Arras in 1922, on which, personified by a woman, she welcomes the victorious Caesar. It is reinforced with bastions built with the remains of earlier tombs or stone monuments, which bears witness to the insecurity of the 4th century  .

2.2. The Anglo-Saxon city

Evacuated in 407 by the Roman legions under Anglo-Saxon pressure, probably largely deserted in the 5th and 6th centuries s., the city becomes in 604 the seat of a bishopric provided with a cathedral: Saint Paul. But, in 516, with the death of king of Kent, Aethelberht, its first holder, Mellitus (?-624), is driven out by the pagan reaction. In fact, ousted by Canterbury as the religious metropolis of England, the city first developed as a commercial center thanks to the convergence of Roman roads which brought traders there, as evidenced by the work of Bede the Venerable or the remains of pottery from Ipswich and the Rhine region discovered in 1962. A Danish pillage base from 871-872, it was reoccupied in 886 by the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great, who reinforced its tusks. Devoid of any municipal autonomy, since it was then administered by a royal official, the bailiff of the port,divided into “sokes”, private jurisdictions granted by the king to ecclesiastics or high-ranking laymen, the city where the Saxon Witan frequently sat , nevertheless animated the resistance to the Danish invasion, before admitting merchants of that nationality granted urban citizenship following Knud’s accession to the throne in 1017. -West in the 11th century  .

2.3. Municipal autonomy and economic expansion ( 11th – 15th c .  )

London, which escaped the harmful consequences of the Norman conquest thanks to a prompt submission to the conqueror in 1066, increased in area and in population. Well defended by the White Tower, built on the order of William the Conqueror, which makes this building all at once a royal palace, a fortress and a prison, the city therefore appears as the true political and economic capital of the kingdom. .

Its notables, the “great barons of the city”, forced Henry I to abandon the farm of the city and the county of Middlesex to them, and to authorize them to elect their own sheriff. Participating in the election of Stephen I in 1135 , associating under oath to eliminate Empress Mathilde in 1141, helping Jean sans Terre (1167-1216) to replace Chancellor William Longchamp (?-1197) with the title of “summus rector totius regni” in the absence of Richard Coeur-de-Lion in 1191, the London bourgeoisie obtains in return, the same year, the authorization to constitute a commune. This measure is abolished by Richard on his return from Palestine; the city remains administered by a mayorelected, but sworn to the Crown, and by twenty-four (one per ward) aldermen, who are compulsorily chosen from among the merchants of the city by virtue of the charter issued in 1191 and confirmed in 1215 and in 1221, and who are elected for life from 1249. Obligatorily consulted by the king in the event of the levying of new aid by virtue of articles 12 and 14 of the Magna Carta of 1215 (subsequently suppressed), it welcomes the royal prince Louis (of France) in 1216. Such an attitude perhaps explains why the Crown suspended the “commune” ten times between 1239 and 1257.

In April 1258, London is the seat of the Parliament which leads, with the participation of its bishop, to the development of the “Provisions of Oxford”, city where this assembly was transferred; the city refuses the “Mise d’Amiens”, which cancels this act (January 1264). At the instigation of tradespeople, a helping hand from its inhabitants triggered the civil war, which enabled Simon de Montfort (circa 1208-1265) to bring together there around June 24, 1264 the assembly which placed Henri under guardianship. III. But, after its failure, the government of the city is entrusted to a guardian (warden) from 1285 to 1298.

Having become the true capital of England under the terms of the charter of 1327, which sealed its alliance with the Crown, the city of London also remained its emporium. It has been frequented since the 12th century  . by Flemish merchants grouped in the Hanses of Bruges and Ypres, erected into the Hanses of London probably before 1187; it continued to attract colonial merchants, whose establishment of Gildhall, established after 1130 upstream from London Bridge, was incorporated a century later into the Hanseatic trading post of the Stalhof (Steelyard), a walled and privileged enclosure established between the rue de the Thames and this same river. In the middle of the xiii the s., the Hanseatics ensured the monopoly of the current of exchanges linking the English capital to Novgorod. The foreign community accentuates the cosmopolitanism of the city: weakened by the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, it is reinforced by the presence of Italian merchants, who, like the Peruzzi and the Bardi, are authorized to establish branches there at the beginning of the fourteenth century . . and s. on condition of granting large loans to English sovereigns. Exploited by the latter, whose impecuniosity bankrupted the two Italian firms in 1343 and 1345, and forced the German merchants to pay “subsidies” deemed contrary to Hanseatic privileges, it contributed to the prosperity of the city. But it also favored the birth of a xenophobic current there, increased by the presence of Flemish textile craftsmen established in London by cloth merchants, supporters of free trade. To this are hostile, on the other hand, the food guilds, from which the three aldermen comewho, on June 13, 1381, opened the doors of the capital to Wat Tyler (?-1381), leader of the peasant uprising of the workers, who immediately set fire to the Savoy, the palace of John of Ghent.

Center from which the repression of the revolt started, often playing an active role in the dynastic crises which upset England at the end of the 14th and 15th centuries  . London, however, experienced a great economic boom under the impetus of cloth merchants, who then arrogated to themselves the monopoly of the administration of the city, since 61 out of 88 mayors were chosen from among them in the 15th century  .

The city of a hundred churches has been developing since the 14th century  . between two extreme poles: the City, to the east, the center of economic life, where order is maintained exclusively by the urban militia, and Westminster, the royal city, to the west, where the political life of the country s organized around three buildings: Westminster Abbey, rebuilt in the 13th c  . and where the sovereigns are crowned, the Palace of Westminster, built by William II le Roux and where the Parliament sits: finally the Palace of Whitehall where the services of the Royal Administration and those of the courtyard.

2.4. From the 16th to the 18th century  . : the classical period

With the sixteenth s., the destiny of London is experiencing a momentous change. Thanks to the great discoveries, the port, instead of being located, as it had been until then, at the ends of maritime routes of the great European trade, is placed at the center of the new axes of world trade. The boom in Atlantic traffic gave London a decisive chance, which the city’s “adventure merchants” and shipowners skilfully exploited. In all directions, towards the New World, towards the East, towards the Baltic countries, business developed: Muscovy Company (1555), Royal Exchange (1568), East India Company (1600), Virginia Company ( 1606). The city largely contributed to laying the foundations of the first British colonial empire. At the same time, with the dissolution of the monasteries and the secularization of their property, large areas on the outskirts of the city are offered for urban development and building activity. The agglomeration, hitherto confined within its enclosure, quickly overflowed it. Constructions, in particular mansions for the aristocracy, linked the City along the Strand to Westminster, which came out of its situation of isolation and was included in the urban perimeter. The West End begins to be built (Covent Garden in 1631, then Leicester Square offer the first examples of urban planning of classical inspiration). On the banks of the Thames to the east of the Tower line up residential houses, shipyards, workshops, while to the south grows the suburb of Southwark with its inns and theaters (notably the Shakespearean theater The Globe) .

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The expansion continued brilliantly in the time of the Stuarts, but, for London, the mid – seventeenth s. constituted one of the most troubled periods in its history: first with the civil war (in which London took sides against the king and supported Cromwell), then with the great plague in 1665 (the epidemic undoubtedly carried off the seventh of the population), finally and above all with the great fire of 1666. This disaster struck the entire center of the city, destroyed most of the public buildings (Saint Paul’s Cathedral, 87 churches, 11,000 houses) and left tens of thousands of people without -shelter. But, on the immense devastated space, the reconstruction is actively carried out under the inspiration of Sir Christopher Wren. Gothic London disappears in favor of a classical and baroque London. Demographic pressure favors the push towards the suburbs: in the East End, in Whitechapel (Jewish quarter), at Spitalfields (refuge of the French Huguenots), at Shoreditch; in the West End, with the nobly ordered building of Bloomsbury. the18th c  . sees the movement continue in all directions: commercial exchanges with overseas territories, extension of the West End towards Hyde park (Mayfair) and Regent’s park (Marylebone), construction of new bridges (Westminster, Blackfriars), development of beautiful classical ensembles of “Georgian” London.

2.5. The great rise of the 19th century  .

The 19th c  . marks a new turning point in the development of the city. It is the beginning of an extension less and less controlled. What Dryden, as early as 1667, called the tentacles of the metropolis was denounced aggressively by William Cobbett (1763-1835), who baptized the capital the great goiter (great wen) .

In a century, the population more than sextupled. The area of ​​the city swells disproportionately: from the famous “square mile” of the City, we pass to 692 square miles (about 1,800 km 2) of Greater London. The villages and towns of the periphery are included one after the other. Nothing holds up against the inexorable advance of the “bricks and mortar” tide: London is not a city, observes J.-B. Say, “it is a province covered with houses”. Urban development, which until then had mainly taken place on the north bank of the Thames, took a different direction. As the working-class suburbs win over the flat expanses of the East End, while the rugged and elegant suburbs of the north (Hampstead, Highgate) and the mixed neighborhoods of the west continue to grow, a huge, active, contrasting new city grew up south of the Thames: first on the alluvial areas, where the proletarian neighborhoods of Battersea, Bermondsey and Greenwich were concentrated,

At the starting point of this urban expansion, two essential factors: the activity of the port and the development of new means of transport. Port life was profoundly transformed by the creation of docks. The growth in traffic and the congestion of the quays required the digging of vast basins lined with warehouses. After 1920, the docks cover more than 17,000 ha (with nearly 300 ha of water) and can accommodate 1 Mt of goods. For more than a century, the Port of London has asserted its supremacy as the world’s leading port.

The railways made their appearance in 1836; first there are small lines serving the suburbs (Greenwich, Croydon), then, very quickly, the main lines linking the capital to the main cities of the country give rise to 13 large stations (Euston, Paddington, Waterloo, Victoria…). The first line of the metropolitan was opened in 1863. Dug at a shallow depth, it operated partly in a trench, partly in a tunnel with steam trains. It was not until 1900 for the breakthrough at great depth of the “tube” served by electric trains. The first omnibuses circulated from 1829, but their price restricted the clientele. Towards the end of the century, workers’ trains and then trams democratized urban transport. They contribute considerably to the extension of popular suburbs.

The urban landscape is enriched with new monuments (Buckingham Palace and National Gallery in classical style, reconstruction of Parliament in Gothic style) and urban development (Regent Street and Regent’s Park district, where the genius of John Nash triumphs; construction of Trafalgar Square). The road system tries to adapt to the increasing flow of traffic: drilling of new arteries or widening of old streets, construction of quays on the north bank of the Thames, construction of the bridge of the Tower (1894). Alongside the “royal parks” (Hyde park, Saint James’s park, Regent’s park), many green spaces are open to the public (Battersea park, Victoria park): this is one of the glories of London, which partly compensates the monotony of gray, smoky neighborhoods lined with endlessly similar little houses.(leasehold system), in force on most landed areas (estates). In the second half of the 19th century  . begins the construction of social housing, first due to private initiative, then prompted by the municipality.

Then the first city in the world by its population, metropolis of finance and capitalism, center of attraction for provincials in search of fortune, for immigrants from the countryside, for populations driven out by poverty (Irish) or by poverty. persecution (Jews from Russia), refuge open to all (French exiles from December 2 and the Commune, Italian patriots like Mazzini, revolutionary theoreticians like Marx, Engels, Kropotkin, Eduard Bernstein, Lenin, etc.), London offers in its cosmopolitanism the an image of the most violent social contrasts: on the one hand, the aristocratic opulence of the noble districts of Belgravia and Kensington or the well-to-do wealth of a bourgeoisie who very early fled the center to live in the calm of suburban villas; on the other, the working masses, victims of unemployment, degradation, misery, with at the bottom of the social scale the lowlands, where wrecks and criminals mingle. A very thorough sociological survey concluded, in 1889, that a third of the population lives below the subsistence minimum.


3.1. Introduction

London vividly bears witness to Britain’s artistic past, without however summarizing it. The eras prior to the Norman conquest have hardly left any traces there. Of the Roman city, only fragments of the surrounding wall remain, with the foundations of a Mithraic sanctuary and various debris collected by the British Museum and the London Museum. Nothing of importance remains from the Saxon period except for the remains of the New Church of Westminster Abbey, erected by Edward the Confessor to the west of the City and consecrated in 1065.

3.2. From the Norman Conquest to the Great Fire

The Norman domination made London a real capital. At the eastern edge of the City, William the Conqueror erected the “White Tower”, both fortress and residence, which was begun around 1078 and still forms the core of the famous “Tower of London”, whose two concentric enclosures are posterior. It is a large square keep, provided with buttresses and confined by four square turrets. Inside, Saint John’s Chapel offers an example of “Norman” religious architecture, which also includes, in the City, the three-storey choir of Saint Bartholomew the Great ( 12th century  ). Next to the abbey, the Palace of Westminster became a second urban center; the hall is preserved , the walls of which date from 1097.

Consecrated in 1185, the circular church of the Temple marks the appearance of the so-called early English Gothic style , including Saint Paul’s Cathedral, built in the 13th century  . and disappeared in the fire of 1666, illustrated maturity. At least one can judge of it with the vast abbey church of Westminster, rebuilt from 1245, but tributary of a certain French influence; one recognizes the English genius better in the cloister and in the chapter house, of polygonal plan (second half of the 13th century )  . Westminster also offers one of the most brilliant testimonies of the so-called perpendicular style: the large chapel founded by Henry VII and erected from 1503 to 1519 in the axis of the apse, with its network offan vaults of rare virtuosity. If the numerous statues of saints appear to be of Dutch hands, the superb tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York marks the intervention of the Italian Renaissance in the person of the sculptor Pietro Torrigiani.

In the first half of the 16th century, the patronage of Henry VIII and  his courtiers resulted, in London and at the gates of the city, in the construction of palaces where the Tudor style flourished, picturesque and cheerful . , shyly tinged with Italianism. In 1529 the king confiscated Whitehall from Cardinal Wolsey and set about rebuilding it, charging Holbein with part of his decoration. Begun in 1532, the Saint James Palace has kept its entrance building from this period. At Hampton Court, which Henry VIII also took from Wolsey and continued from 1526, one can admire the hallof that time with its elaborate framework. The Tudor style is finally recognized in Lambeth, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The fire of 1666 spared in the City certain buildings of the colleges of lawyers, known as “Inns of Court”, which recall the university colleges by their sets of courtyards and gardens (Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn ).

In reaction against the taste of the Dutch Renaissance, which inspired the Stock Exchange, for example, Inigo Jones wanted to impose a strictly classical architecture, in the tradition of Palladio. In Greenwich, he raised from 1616 the very sober pavilion of Queen Anne. Begun in 1619 by Jones in a very Palladian style, but more ornate, Banqueting hall is all that remains of the Palace of Whitehall since the fire of 1698; painted by Rubens in Antwerp, from where it was sent in 1635, its magnificent ceiling represents the apotheosis of James I.

3.3. From the great fire to the advent of Victoria

The fire of 1666 having spared almost nothing in the City, Sir Christofer Wren proposed to rebuild it according to a regulatory plan. He was prevented from doing so by the traditionalism of the Londoners – so the rebuilt City kept its capricious configuration – but he remains the author of the main buildings. In commemoration of the fire he raised the column called The Monument(1671-1676). He directed the reconstruction of about fifty churches, those which remain (Saint Mary-le-Bow, Saint Bride’s, Saint Stephen, etc.) stand out for the ingenuity of their plans and the variety of their steeples. Begun in 1675, the new Saint Paul Cathedral, of colossal proportions, continues the classical Renaissance with its cupola, but sacrifices to the Baroque with its facade. Outside the City, Wren was in charge of major royal enterprises. For the naval hospice at Greenwich, founded in 1694 and inaugurated in 1705, he conceived a grand plan which included the pavilion of I. Jones; the ceiling of the “Painted Hall”, brilliantly executed by James Thornhill (1675-1734), celebrates the triumph of William III and Mary. It was for the same sovereigns that Wren directed the partial reconstruction of Hampton Court.

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In the first half of the 18th  century, the tradition of Wren was continued by James Gibbs (1682-1754), author of the churches of Saint Mary-le-Strand and Saint Martin-in-the-Fields We were then witnessing, between the City and Westminster, the birth of the aristocratic districts of the West End, with their streets with uniform houses, their squaresplanted with trees: Grosvenor square, Hanover square, Berkeley square, etc. Domestic architecture appears to be marked by Palladianism, of which Lord Burlington (1694-1753) gave the models by erecting Burlington House in Piccadilly (today the Royal Academy of Arts) and, at the gates of London, the exquisite Chiswick House. His collaborator was William Kent (1685-1748) to whom we owe the barracks of the Horse Guards (built from 1750 to 1758). Mansion House, the residence of the Lord Mayor (1739), is of George Dance the Elder (1700-1768). Sir William Chambers, who had sacrificed to Chinese taste with the “pagoda” of Kew Gardens, rebuilt Somerset House according to a grandiose design (1776-1786).

In the second half of the 18th and the first third of the 19th  century, intense land speculation was to accelerate the general growth of the city and especially its expansion towards the west The architecture of this time comes from the neoclassical movement, of which the so-called Adam style is the most refined expression. With his brothers, Robert Adam created the real estate complex called The Adelphi,of which almost nothing remains. His art, by turns robust and delicate, remains in the exteriors and especially the interiors of certain houses in Portman square, Portland place, etc., in those of Apsley house or of suburban residences such as Kenwood, Syon house, Osterley park. John Nash, the official architect of the Regency, rebuilt Buckingham Palace, which had become a royal residence, in severe forms, but he was above all the author of a vast urban plan which, partially carried out from 1811, was to fix the aspect of the aristocratic districts of the west and north. The main elements of this plan are Trafalgar square, Regent’s street and Regent’s park, a fine example of the landscape style which characterizes the vast parks of London. The houses built under the direction of Nash or in the same spirit, brick with stucco covering, form low rows underlined by colonnades (Chester and York Terraces, Park Crescent). In the City, Sir John Soane built the Bank of England (1792-1833).

Since the first half of the 18th century, the English school of painting had its main workshop in London ( and  there is its prestigious museum: the Tate Britain (formerly Tate Gallery), but Hogarth is almost alone in delivering the he echo of the London spectacle, and it is to Canaletto, who came from Venice in the middle of the century, that we owe the best views of the capital and its surroundings. as the center of those crafts which contributed so much, in the 17th and 18th centuries to  the brilliance of the decor of British life, whether it be furniture, tapestries from Mortlake or Soho , silverware, Chelsea porcelain, etc.

3.4. From the advent of Victoria to the present day

London’s growth took a quantum leap in the Victorian era. The depopulation of the City, now delivered to offices, has found a large compensation in the development of the West End and other peripheral districts. The neoclassical style was maintained for a long time, especially before the middle of the century, it inspired the residential area of ​​Belgravia, the new Stock Exchange, the British Museum, the National Gallery. However, the Victorian spirit was more easily recognized in neo-Gothic architecture, illustrated, next to Westminster, by the grandiose Palace of Parliament, rebuilt from 1836 to 1860 by C. Barry and AW Pugin and whose tower houses the famous clock called “Big Ben”. We must also mention the Palais de justice, the Saint Pancras station, the bridge of the Tower, a technical success in medieval clothing, the Victoria and Albert Museum, etc. But the eclecticism of the time also inspired pastiches of the French classical style, of the Baroque, and even of Byzantine art, as in the Catholic cathedral of Westminster.

The appearance of London hardly changed at the beginning of the 20th century  . and between the two world wars. On the other hand, the city has undergone profound transformations since the German bombings of 1940. If the outlying areas attest to the loyalty of the English to individual housing, the center is devoted to business and is gradually becoming a vertical city, whose buildings must, however, accommodate an old road.

Major architectural achievements today include the South Bank Arts Centre, comprising the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Hayward Gallery and Royal National Theatre. , by D. Lasdun (1976), as well as the Barbican Centre, by Joe Chamberlin (1972-1977), a cultural complex integrated into the City. An ambitious project to renovate the old docks, to the east of the city, was undertaken in the 1980s: development of the Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf Tower (1991).

Great center of the English school of painting, London has been, since the Pre-Raphaelites, the laboratory of the artistic avant-garde. After the short-lived attempt of the London Group (1913), the different trends in modern art were brought together in 1958 within the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art), whose exhibitions – painting, sculpture, etc. – have been grouped together since 1968 at the Hayward Gallery.


The British Museum was built in London around the library and the collection of works of art purchased in 1753 from Dr. Hans Sloane. One of the most important museums in the world, it has been enriched with various collections, including the Cotton manuscripts, the library of George III, the Elgin marbles. Opened to the public in 1759, it first occupied Montagu House before being transferred to the palace built from 1823 to 1847 by Robert Smirke near Russell Square. The main collections of the British Museum are those of Greek and Roman sculptures (frieze of the Panathenaic Parthenon, Diana of Ephesus ), those of Assyrian and Egyptian antiquities ( Pierre de Rosetta ), the Grenville library (manuscripts from the 11thin the 15th  century), the Prints and Drawings room, the ceramic collections, etc. Independent of the museum since 1973, the library (British Library) has been installed since 1997 in a new building in Saint Pancras. The Great Court was renovated by Sir Norman Foster in 1997-2000.

The National Gallery, whose buildings border Trafalgar Square, was formed from English private collections through donations and purchases, the museum fund includes many masterpieces of the great schools of painting. Italian art is represented by capital works of the Renaissance: Nativity by Piero Della Francesca, a Battle of Uccello, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist (cartoon) by Leonardo, Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian, Michelangelo’s Entombment , etc. ; also by many Canaletto, Guardi and Tiepolo. The Flemish and Dutch schools form a very complete ensemble, in which Spouse Arnolfini shinesby Van Eyck, the Bathing Woman and portraits by Rembrandt, the Lady with the Spruce by Vermeer, the Straw Hat by Rubens. The Spanish schools with El Greco, Goya, Velázquez ( Venus and Love ), German with Holbein, French with Poussin and Claude Lorrain are also well represented. The English school is grouped around its most remarkable painters: Hogarth (Cycle of the “Fashionable Wedding”), Reynolds, Gainsborough ( Morning Walk ), Constable ( The Hay Cart ), Turner ( Rain, Steam, Speed). Rooms reserved for French Impressionism (Manet, Degas, Claude Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat) complete the ensemble. Adjoining the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery brings together portraits of famous British figures.

Founded in 1897 on the left bank of the Thames (Millbank), the former Tate Gallery is now spread over two sites: one housing the English art collections (Tate Britain), the other the collections of international modern and contemporary art (Tate Modern). .

The Victoria and Albert Museum, founded in 1852, houses sculptures by Tino di Camarno, Giovanni Pisano, Riemenschneider, Donatello, Della Robbia, Giambologna, Bernini, Roubiliac, Clodion, Houdon, etc. Many rooms are devoted to furniture and architectural woodwork from European countries, others to tapestries ( Triumphs of Petrarch ), to goldsmithery (Gloucester candlestick, 12th century )  . Painting is represented, in particular, by the vast Constable collection, by Gainsborough, Reynolds and the English genre and landscape painters of the 19th  century. In a special room are exhibited the boxes of the Acts of the Apostlesby Raphael, on loan from the British Crown. The ceramics department includes English stoneware, porcelain from the continent (Sèvres, Meissen), China, Japan, and Korea. Large sections are devoted to the arts of India (all eras) and the Far East. The museum also includes a vast collection of textiles, the national collection of English watercolors (Turner, etc.), that of miniature portraits, a cabinet of prints and drawings rich in more than 500,000 items, a library devoted to all the arts and applied arts.

The Wallace Collection was started at the beginning of the 19th century  . by the third and fourth Marquess of Hertford and greatly enriched by Sir R. Wallace, who inherited it. It was his widow who bequeathed it to the state. Conserved at Hertford House, the Wallace collection includes sculptures (G. Pilon, Houdon), a large number of works of art (French furniture and Sevres porcelain from the 18th century  ), as well as paintings by Titian, Rubens (three sketches for the History of Marie de Medici ), Van Dyck, Velázquez (to whom the Lady with the Fan is attributed ), Poussin and his contemporaries, works by minor Dutch masters, ten by Rembrandt (Portrait of Titus ), English portraits and paintings by Fragonard, Boucher Lancret, Greuze, etc., and especially Watteau.

Other museums: the Courtauld Institute, the Museum of London, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum.

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