Visiting the Rubens Hotel, London, England: Close to Buckingham Palace; & Memories of General Sikorski Death Mystery
General Sikorsky; the Living Wall
(This short hub article is limited to some historical and design aspects of this building in London, England. For any aspect of the services of this fine hotel, contact should be made directly with its management.)
The Rubens Hotel lies — as its address, 39 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1, seems to suggest — opposite The Queen's renowned London residence. Prior to World War One the Hotel had become popular with debutantes staying in central London while waiting to be presented to the Monarch, literally over the street. The Hotel's Beaux-Arts Neoclassical frontage may be overshadowed by the fame of the seat of the British monarch, but the building in its own right has interesting historical and design features (1).
One such feature at the entrance of the Hotel is the historical plaque in memory of General Wladislaw Sikorski (1881-1943), Prime Minister of the Polish Government in exile during World War Two, whose headquarters were based at the Rubens Hotel.
On July 4, 1943 General Sikorski's crucial role was suddenly cut short by his death in an aircraft crash off Gibraltar. Thus began one of the enduring mysteries of World War Two.
Enter the British Government. The aircraft on which General Sikorsky was travelling was under British jurisdiction and so the crash investigation was arranged by the British authorities. Their report claimed that the aircraft on which General Sikorsky died has crashed into the Mediterranean for unknown reasons but that sabotage had not occurred.
Given such an imprecise and seemingly self-contradictory conclusion to the report, the Polish Government in exile declined to endorse the report about the crash which killed General Sikorsky.
The in parts vague — and in many people's minds unsatisfactory — crash report gave rise to various alternative theories about why the aircraft on which General Sikorski was travelling crashed.
Among those theories, the idea that the crash may not after all have been an accident, was prominent.
It was known that General Sikorsky was in fierce disagreement with Stalin's Soviet Union, which, with Nazi Germany, had dismembered Poland in 1939.
It was also known that there was intense rivalry among Polish exiles, some of whom were suspicious of General Sikorsky's contacts with the Soviet Union.
Given the proximity of the boundary with Fascist Spain to Gibraltar, off which General Sikorsky's aircraft crashed, possible Nazi German operatives were also suspected by some observers.
It was also known that the government of Winston Churchill, which had by 1943 become a previously improbable ally of the Soviet Union in the war against Nazi Germany, attached a lot more importance to maintaining tolerable relations with Soviet dictator Stalin than with the Polish Prime Minister-in-exile, who had, however, proved unresponsive to British efforts to persuade his government to compromise on issues of post-war Polish borders (2).
So the death of the Rubens Hotel's famous former resident, General Sikorski, remains a mystery. (To be honest, from an historical angle, my own amateur impression is that the accident scenario is probably the least unlikely one, since I wonder just how much a priority it was — with everything else going on in World War Two in 1943 — for any of various governments to pursue the death of General Sikorski to such lengths.)
The Living Wall
One of the now famous features of the Rubens Hotel is the Living Wall. It's vertically placed plants attract various species of butterflies, birds and bees.
At various seasons of the year, the Living Wall, containing 10,000 plants over 350 square metres, is a sea of diverse colours from the flowers which are ingeniously — and vertically — arranged. Winter geraniums and spring bulbs are included in seasonal features which give vibrancy to its appearance.
The Living Wall's designer was Gary Grant and its installation in 2005 and maintenance has been by TreeBox Ltd.
Among the many quality hotels in London, England, the Living Wall is certainly a feature which makes the Rubens Hotel distinct and memorable.
January 28, 2019
(1) See also: https://www.rubenshotel.com/about ; https://www.rubenshotel.com/about/history
(2) The wartime government of Prime Minister Winston Churchill pursued a rather complex variety of policies about the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans which had been invaded by Nazi Germany. In Greece, the British backed the Royalists, much to the consternation of Great Britain's American allies. In Yugoslavia, however, the British backed the Communist partisans led by Josip Tito, while the Yugoslav Royalists were sidelined. Regarding Poland, the invasion of which had supposedly been the reason why the British government declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939, the British position had swung from defending the 1939 borders of Poland to wishing for the Polish government-in-exile to compromise over its eastern borders with the Soviet Union, which only in 1939 had shared responsibility with Nazi Germany for dismembering Poland.
Thus it was that, given the somewhat obscure logical girations of British diplomatic policies regarding Eastern Europe, General Sikorsky's British host government was added in the minds of some observers to the list of possible suspects among those who may have felt an interest in removing the obdurate General from the scene and who also had the capability to carry out such efforts.
(3) See also: https://www.rubenshotel.com/about/the-living-wall
Also worth seeing
Also worth seeing
London has such huge numbers of visitor attractions that I will refer to only a small fraction of the principal ones; these include: Trafalgar Square; the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster; Westminster Abbey; St. Paul's Cathedral; the Royal Albert Hall; and many others.
How to get there
United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Underground and train services link Heathrow Airport with Central London . Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
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