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So you’ve never been to Apsley House

Luke Abrahams

A regular guide to London’s sweetest spots

What is this fancy-looking joint, then?
Built by Lord Apsley back in 1778, this Grade I-listed mansion eventually fell into the hands of England’s most celebrated military hero, and former prime minister, the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. Snazzy carpets, opulent mosaic ceilings, glittering porcelain and a stonker of a semi-circular staircase await you. Pimped beyond belief, Apsley House makes Buckingham Palace look dowdy in comparison. Apologies, your Maj.

Okay, so it's pretty, what else?
Bang on Hyde Park Corner, this grand old Georgian house really is the definition of palatial OTT bling. Standing on the site of a posh old royal lodge, ‘Number One, London’ (as it’s also known), boasts one of the finest interiors in Great Britain: the Waterloo Gallery. Built to honour the Duke’s greatest battle, against Napoleon at Waterloo, the gallery has seven huge mirrored shutters, which were ironically inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles – a fave of Napoleon’s. The room has red and gold damask wallpaper, gothic chandeliers, dozens of paintings and a very long oak dinner table, where King George IV was once seated when he paid a visit for supper.

Anything else to see?
More than 3,000 pieces of silver, tea services, shields, oh, and several priceless masterpieces by Velázquez and Rubens. Top it all off with Antonio Canova’s colossal marble statue ‘Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker’. Apparently Napoleon was so embarrassed by its classical buffness that he banned it from public display. If only today’s empire-hungry, warmongering dictators were possessed of such humility… 

Apsley House. Hyde Park Corner. Wed-Sun. £9.30.

Want more things to do in Hyde Park? Why not check out the Serpentine Gallery?

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