Rules of London

I love it when I find some unexpected bit of history while researching a totally unrelated topic. That’s what happened when I was researching famous places in Regency London, and stumbled across a reference to one of London’s most famous and historic spots.

I’m talking about Rules restaurant on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden.

Rules as it appears today.

First established in 1798 as an oyster bar, Rules is still in business and holds the distinction of being the city’s oldest surviving restaurant.

Thomas Rule, who founded the place, bragged in the early 1800s that his “porter, pies, and oysters” attracted the best “rakes, dandies and superior intelligence.”

A plaque outside the restaurant tells the story of Rules’ history.

For more than two centuries since then, the very best of British society have dined, gossiped, embibed, and entertained each other within Rules’ walls—from members of the Royal Family to movie stars Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Literary giants Charles Dickens and HG Wells dined there, too. Rules has even been used as a set for Downton Abbey and the James Bond film, “Spectre.”

A scene from Downton Abbey, shot at Rules.

Perhaps Rules is most famously known as the place where Queen Victoria’s son and heir, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) wooed the beautiful Lillie Langtry.

Lillie Langtry.

The Prince frequently smuggled Mrs Langtry up a back staircase to a private room where they could dine alone, far away from prying eyes.

A cozy corner at Rules. I love the diamond-paned windows and rich wood tones of the mouldings.

Rules’ walls are covered with mementos and souvenirs from 200 years of historical events and famous customers.

One corner of the restaurant; its walls are adorned with photos, drawings, and caricatures of famous people.

It’s a beautifully decorated restaurant; and despite its present décor that leans heavily toward the Edwardian era, I can very well imagine a Regency gentleman partaking of oysters and porter at one of Rules’ tables. Who knows? Maybe some day, Rules may make an appearance in one of my Regency romances.

You can see more photos of Rules by clicking here.

America Waits for Downton Abbey

It’s not easy to be an American right now. Downton Abbey’s sixth and final season hasn’t yet aired here in the U.S. We Americans have to wait until January 2016 to see Season 6 while the rest of world is consuming and savoring every last detail of the final episodes right now. (The last part of the preceding sentence should be read with an increasingly whining tone.)

Season 6 Cast

While I do my best to patiently wait for PBS to air the show in America (and for Amazon to fulfill my pre-ordered DVD of Season 6), I started looking for ways to still be part of the Season 6 hoopla. It’s a bit of a tricky tight-rope walk. For example, I wouldn’t mind seeing some still photos of the production, but I don’t want to know what happens in the plot. I wouldn’t mind seeing reveals of some of the gorgeous costumes Edith and Mary and Cora will wear, I but I don’t want to read editorials that criticize the final season (gasp!).

What’s a patient American Downton Abbey fan to do?

Highclere Castle, site of the fictional Downton Abbey (BritishHeritage.com)

Highclere Castle, site of the fictional Downton Abbey (BritishHeritage.com)

Answer: Turn to British Heritage. I’ve subscribed to this magazine for years, and it’s one of my favorites (see my previous post). And in honor of the show’s final season, British Heritage has included a nice article about Downton Abbey in their winter edition.

Even better, they’ve delivered the first in a series of podcasts that describe the social and economic world of post World War I Britain and how those factors might influence Season 6 plot lines.

The Ladies of Downton Abbey in Season 6(PBS.org)

The Ladies of Downton Abbey in Season 6 (PBS.org)

Thank goodness! British Heritage delivered just enough Downton Abbey to satisfy me. I think I can wait until January now (although I may have to revisit PBS’s website and watch those one minute teasers a couple more times).

If you’re like me and are patiently waiting (more or less) for the final season of Downton Abbey to air, please leave a comment and share how you’re passing the time.