A building built in 1625 is bound to have a story or two to be told, and this is certainly the case for The Royal Kings Arms Hotel. Stories of kings and queens, murder mysteries, disasters and treasures are held within the historical walls of one of Lancaster’s most spectacular buildings.
Fit For a King…
The hotel may be called “The Royal Kings Arms” but you never would have imagined that this Lancaster hotel was actually owned by a king! Back in 1666, just 11 years after construction, King Louis XIV took ownership, introducing three large tapestries with borders designed by the renowned artist Rubens to be displayed within the building.
It wasn’t until Queen Adelaide, wife of King William IV, resided here between 1818 and 1837 that the hotel acquired its Royal appendage, becoming what we know as “The Royal Kings Arms Hotel.”
Among other royal guests, The Prince of Wales (later, King Edward VII) became such a frequent visitor that he possessed his very own suite. His adoration for the inn was commemorated in 1863 when a torchlight procession was organised to celebrate his marriage to Alexandra of Denmark.
The Lancaster and District Heritage Group revealed that during this procession, characters dressed up as royal figures while the proprietor at the time, Mr Sly, generously offered free roasted oxen and drinks to the poorer people of the city.
King Edward VII still has a place within the hotel to this day with a large portrait adorning the wall in the modern day “throne room!”
Sly by Name, Ambitious by Nature
Mr Sly, the proud proprietor of hotel between 1856 and 1877 had one ambitious mission: to transform The Royal Kings Arms into a museum as well as a comfortable inn fit for kings, queens and the highest patronage.
Mr Sly introduced many treasures to the hotel, including some of the finest specimens of Gobelin art which have now become a part of the famous Sandringham Estate.
In 1879 the hotel was rebuilt after a great fire devoured the building. Mr Sly sold much of its fine art and furniture at auction. Many of the pieces found themselves within the homes of the rich, showcased in museums across the globe.
While the priceless artwork and furniture may no longer be a part of the hotel, the building rose from the ashes with the grand façade that we know and love today.
Legendary Authors and Murder Mystery
Whether you are a bookworm or not, chances are you have heard of Charles Dickens and his good friend novelist, Wilkie Collins. What you may not have known was the love the two authors shared for the Royal Kings Arms Hotel and the city of Lancaster itself.
In 1857 Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, visited The Royal Kings Arms for the first time, inspiring the duo to immortalise the hotel in their novel “The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices”.
Two weeks before Dickens and Collins’s visit to Lancaster, a shoemaker named Edward Hardman was hanged at Lancaster castle for poisoning his wife with arsenic. His intention was to acquire her fortune. During their stay at The Royal Kings Arms, Dickens claimed to have felt Hardman’s ghostly presence within his room, inspiring him to fictionalise the gruesome events in the short story “The Ghost in the Bride’s Chamber” within their novel.
The haunting didn’t stop Dickens or Collins from returning to the hotel in the future and they even went on to write that The Royal Kings Arms was a “Good Old Inn, established in a good old house, an inn where they give you bride cake every day after dinner”, where the visitor can “eat bride cake without the trouble of getting married, or knowing anybody in that ridiculous dilemma.” Dickens also later shared his love for hotel with the Illustrated London News in 1868.
The Royal Kings Arms Hotel was “very quaint. it was, and is, and will be for many a long year to come, a remarkably picturesque house.”
With many more stories to be told and still many treasures to be found, you too can experience this remarkably picturesque house. Enjoy a stay in the Dickens Suite and look over at the magnificent view of Castle Hill where he first found inspiration for his mysterious tale. Who knows what inspiration you may find.