London History Bulletin – February 6

February 6th is Death of Kings day. This London History Bulletin tells the tale.


London calling.

London Walks connecting.

London Walks here with your daily London fix.

Story time. History time.

This one’s necessarily going to be fleeting. Like expiry. Like last breaths. Because, as you can hear, conditions aren’t ideal. I’m at an airport, about to get on a plane. 

Title-wise on this day – February 6th – we could call this one The Death of Kings. Or, the day Kings die.

Well, two of them at any rate. King Charles II on February 6th, 1684. And King George VI on February 6th, 1952. For the record, George VI did not die in London. He breathed his last at Sandringham. He died in his sleep, so no last words.

Charles II, though, well, he cooperated.  He obliged us. He died at Whitehall Palace. And he died pretty quotably and I’d say, pretty bravely.

There’s of course the popular account – this went up on this podcast a few days ago – that one of the last things he said was “pray, let not poor Nelly starve.” Nelly was Nell Gwyn,  his much-adored mistress. The street-savvy London wench who became a celebrated London actress and in time – for a time – his favourite squeeze.

He probably did say, “pray let not poor Nelly starve.” It was certainly in character for him to have done so.

But they weren’t his last words. His wasn’t an easy death. He died of kidney failure. So it was a drawn-out expiration. We have it on good authority that his last words were, “You must pardon me, gentlemen, for being a most unconscionable time a-dying.”

Something brave and admirable and gracious and clear-sighted about that. On this day of days, Rest in peace Charles II and George VI.

You’ve been listening to the London History Bulletin for February 6th. Emanating from – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative. 

That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for. 

Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. See ya tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *