London In Love
With so many centuries of history under its belt, London has a lot of love stories worthy of St Valentine’s attention. As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle plan their spring wedding, we’re retelling some of the city’s epic relationships – both world-famous and lesser-known – and revealing where they happened.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Nottingham Cottage, Kensington
Nestled in the grounds of Kensington Palace, Harry and Meghan’s love nest seems quaint and simple but, this being the royal family, the cottage was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, one of Britain’s most renowned architects. We wouldn’t expect anything less.
Oswald Laurence and Margaret McCollum
Embankment Station, Charing Cross
This tale of London love may not be between two famous figures, but it might be the most beautiful story: actor Oswald Laurence and doctor Margaret McCollum were married for 15 years and lived together in north London. During his career, Oswald recorded the famous ‘mind the gap’ message for the Northern line, but after 40 years London Underground reduced its use until it was only played at Embankment Station. Oswald died in 2007 and Margaret regularly visited the station to hear his voice, but in 2012 Transport for London (TfL) replaced the recording. Margaret contacted TfL, which arranged for a CD recording of Oswald’s ‘mind the gap’ message to be sent to her. TfL was so touched by the story that in March 2013, it reintroduced Oswald’s voice to Embankment Station, where you can still hear it today.
Ruth and Richard Rogers
The River Café, Hammersmith
One of London’s most iconic restaurants has a love story at its heart, which began almost half a century ago: design student Ruth Elias met architect Richard in 1969, and they married four years later. In 1987, Ruth partnered up with her friend Rose Gray to open The River Café in Hammersmith, an Italian restaurant designed by Richard. It was founded primarily to feed the staff at Richard’s nearby architectural practice, and for decades, he and Ruth would walk back and forth to see each other every day. As the years have passed, the restaurant has become a London institution and although Richard has been forced to move his practice out of the neighbourhood, their love story continues.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington
Arguably the biggest London love story of them all, Victoria and Albert’s epic bond is in evidence on a grand scale in the city: the Victoria and Albert Museum was just one of the museums on Kensington’s Exhibition Road built by Albert (the area’s 19th-century nickname was ‘Albertopolis’). The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and more were all funded using the huge profits generated by his Great Exhibition of 1851. The money intended for building the Royal Albert Hall was diverted by Victoria following Albert’s death in 1861, so that she could use it to build the Albert Memorial just across the road – following Albert’s death, Victoria famously wore nothing but black for the rest of her life.
Paul and Linda McCartney
Old Marylebone Town Hall, Marylebone
The Beatle and the photographer met at Soho’s Bag O’Nails club in 1967, parallel to the epicentre of London’s Swinging Sixties scene, Carnaby Street. The club is still open, for members only, but for Beatles fans, it’s worth visiting to see the commemorative plaque in the doorway. In 1969, Paul and Linda were married at Old Marylebone Town Hall, which has just emerged from a major interior refurbishment. Breast cancer took Linda’s life in 1998, and in 2011 Paul returned to the town hall to marry Nancy Shevell. The hall has also witnessed the weddings of Ringo Starr, Liam Gallagher and Antonio Banderas to Melanie Griffith. If you’d like a free tour of the Sir Edwin Cooper-designed, 1920s hall, note that you need to book in advance.
Gilbert & George
Spitalfields Market, Shoreditch
Originally from Plymouth, Devon, George Passmore met his Italian husband Gilbert Prousch in 1967, when the pair began studying sculpture at Saint Martin’s School of Art (which is now part of the Central Saint Martins arts school). They have been inseparable ever since, as an artistic partnership that believes in ‘art for all’. Together Gilbert & George won the Turner Prize in 1986, counted David Bowie as a customer and also enjoyed Tate Modern’s largest artist retrospective exhibition in 2007. The couple married in 2008 and have lived in a restored 18th-century house on Fournier Street in Spitalfields since 1968. Embark on a shopping trip to Spitalfields Market and you might just spot them.
John Keats and Fanny Brawne
Keats House, Hampstead
It seems only right that one of English literature’s greatest Romantic poets had an equally romantic (and tragic) love story. In pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, John and his two brothers moved from the City of London to Hampstead in 1817, when John was 22 years old. He moved into the smaller half of a house called Wentworth Place in 1818, and soon after the Brawne family moved into the larger half. John quickly fell in love with their eldest daughter, Fanny, and they became engaged in 1819. When John became ill with tuberculosis, he wrote letters to Fanny, despite the fact that she lived just next door. John died less than two years later and these days, you can tour the Georgian villa where he met the love of his life. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/keats-house
Prince William and Kate Middleton
Westminster Abbey, Westminster
There was a time during the credit crunch when it was rumoured that Will and Kate would have a low-key wedding. In April 2011, however, the second in line to the British throne married a Berkshire commoner at Westminster Abbey in front of 1,900 guests, fulfilling the fairytale wedding dreams of royalists all over the world. Will and Kate met at the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2001, but the capital is very much their home now – the couple live in Kensington Palace.
Dana Ingrová and Emil Zatopek
Wembley Stadium, Wembley
This athletic couple were born on exactly the same day in the former Czechoslovakia, but didn’t meet each other until they were competing in the London Olympic Games in 1948. Emil was a runner and Dana a javelin thrower, and they both broke their personal best records on the day they met. During the Games at Wembley, Emil won two medals (5,000m silver and 10,000m gold) and by the time the 1948 Games were over, Emil and Dana were engaged. The couple continued to compete together and were married for 52 years, until Emil passed away in 2000.