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Prince Henry’s Room

Alec Samuels

Quite a few members of the Pepys Club will have visited Prince Henry’s Room. Any who have not done so are strongly recommended to do so.

The building belongs to the Corporation of London and is situated in Fleet Street near Temple Bar, near the entrance to Middle Temple, opposite the south end of Chancery Lane. It was thought to have been built originally in the early C 16, but in its present form it dates from 1610. Prince Henry’s Room on the first floor is surprisingly spacious, and still has the original fine plaster ceiling and the fine oak panelling. The Room was used as an administrative office for the Duchy of Cornwall, the estate of the Prince of Wales, and the feathers of the Prince of Wales and his motto lch Dien (I serve) can be seen in the decoration and fenestration. Prince Henry, the eldest son of James I. and accordingly the Prince of Wales, was by all accounts a most pleasant, gifted, serious, well mannered and cultured young man, keen on horses and tennis and golf, a student of military and naval matters. Unfortunately in October 1612, aged 18, unmarried, he died of typhoid. If he had succeeded his father, as Henry IX, history might have been very different. The building survived (just) the Great Fire of London 1666, and also (just) the “Blitz” in the second world war 1940.

The particular interest for Pepysians is that Pepys memorabilia, belonging to the Club, are deposited there for safe keeping and display, portraits, reproductions, documents, copies, photographs, maps and similar things. Pepys’ public service career is recorded on the panels surrounding the fireplace.

Prince Henrys Room is open, free, Monday-Saturday 11-2. By arrangement the Curators can lake parties up to 25 or so, and give a little descriptive talk, all very fascinating. 2003 is the 300 anniversary of the death of Samuel Pepys. Perhaps individually and collectively we may all manage a visit.