This article is published in issue 49 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until 5 December 2023. To celebrate our #20changes with us, read here
They know everything, probably even that you have just arrived, Ms”, says the butler with a half smile as he shifts his gaze outside, to a troop of horses proceeding up Horse Guards (and where else?). The red cloaks of the royal cavalry flutter, and for a moment they seem to be trotting to the beat of the music coming from Trafalgar Square: a street band playing Led Zeppelin, it seems to me Whole Lotta Love. There is also a helicopter in the sky, a lucky day sun illuminates central London and between the red guards, old rock and the helicopter – a minister? Kate Middleton who lives just across the park, in Kensington Palace? – the scene as a whole is like a movie.
A spy film, you might say: «I would like to point out that going out on the balconies on this side is not allowed, National Security rules». I’ve only been here a few minutes, but I admit that the atmosphere is already totally James Bond.
I move aside a light curtain looking for clues from a large cathedral-sized window (5 and a half metres) and I realize that we are in the turret. I’ve seen it before, in a movie: 007 Skyfall. Daniel Craig stood on the roof scanning the city.
But here it’s not like in The Crown 6, where each building plays the part of another place, like this You can find Buckingham Palace in Wiltshire, the Ritz hotel in Paris here in London (Dartmouth House, in Mayfair) and the supervilla in Saint-Tropez where Lady Diana meets Dodi al-Fayed in Mallorca. It’s all true here, and it’s a whole different story.
We are in a brand new hotel, with a name as varied as its birthplace: Raffles London at The OWOwhich must remain capitalized because it is the first Raffles in London but it is also the building ofOld War Officethe famous London palace from which Winston Churchill he coordinated the military operations of the Second World War, meeting authorities and receiving spies of all kinds in his 1,100 rooms. After a major restoration that lasted six years (and at least 1 billion pounds, it is said), it has just become the most eagerly awaited of London’s great hotels.
We were invited to see it first from Italy, and having crossed the threshold, after having counted 37 fireplaces, we explored 8 km of corridors between staircases, living rooms, very contemporary-old velvet curtains Mad Menwinter gardens where a breakfast is served that Churchill himself, a well-known gourmet, would approve of (the buffet also includes oysters and champagne if desired, as you can see below. For us, the English Breakfast is better, complete with baked beans).
We opened practically every door we found on the way, even those of the five historic suites called Heritage that you see photographed. One is Churchill’s office (in case you are a head of state or the Pope and want to sleep there, it’s called the Haldane Suite) where you enter and you feel like it’s quiet like in church because it gets you a little emotional.
For the beauty and works of art that the owners, the Anglo-Indian family Hinduja of the economic empire of the same name, have spread everywhere. But also to the thought that many fundamental moments for the events of the twentieth century, and indeed for the whole world, happened here. And it was here that a phrase was said to Europe for the first time, by Churchill in 1945, from the balcony above the staircase: “The war is over”, which these days sounds even sweeter.
Another door, another name on the plaque: «Granville Suite». These rooms worthy of the Favorite they are dedicated to a brilliant and fascinating spy whom Churchill held in high esteem, Christine Granville. It is here that we discover a bathroom as spectacular as ever, with a brass tub in front of a fireplace and showers covered by theatrical curtains.
My room is dedicated to two other courageous women, Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne, right in the Daniel Craig style turret. They were active members of the SOE, the Special Operation Executive, that is, “good spies” of the secret group that fought Nazism. Arrested twice by the Gestapo, they always managed to escape. Their twenty-year-old faces smile in their well-pressed uniforms from the wall of their office which is now my airy, rounded and inspirational Corner Suite. It’s easy to think of these people and thousands of other heroic people like them, because while inside, in the Drawing Room, tea with scones and clotted cream – first the cream then the jam: we follow the Devon rule – the Remembrance Day parade flows through the windows, remembering the soldiers of every war. Women, men, great-grandchildren, there’s also Princess Anna, very feisty. Like her, they all have a red poppy on their jackets.
With a London colleague we try to carry out the last mission: find the Spy Bar. Try searching online for a photo of this secret lounge, already the most sought-after in London, you won’t find it: no signs to find it, no sign, and a ban on photos: various influencers have already argued. We find him in a basement: it was the interrogation room.
Low lights, exposed brick, beautiful music & beautiful people, patient enough to find it. And yes, there is a car hanging above the counter: obviously it is aAston Martin, silver, that of James Bond.
But I can’t say more, otherwise I would then have to eliminate you.
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Source: Vanity Fair
I’m Susan Karen, a professional writer and editor at World Stock Market. I specialize in Entertainment news, writing stories that keep readers informed on all the latest developments in the industry. With over five years of experience in creating engaging content and copywriting for various media outlets, I have grown to become an invaluable asset to any team.