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The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich covers British naval history from the Spanish Armada all the way up to the submarines of World War II. Along the way you’ll learn about exploration and trade during the days of Empire, and Nelson’s battles with Napoleon.
The Maritime Museum’s principle building is the Queen’s House, which Inigo Jones designed in 1615. Although unremarkable by today’s standards, it caused an utter sensation in the 17th-century as it was London’s first example of a Palladian-style edifice.
James I commissioned him to build it as the summer residence of Queen Anne, who passed to Charles I on her death. It now contains sixteen galleries filled with naval paintings.
The two buildings connected either side by long white colonnades were commissioned in 1807, to celebrate Britain’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The Admiral’s exploits are admirably covered in his own gallery. The prize exhibit is the actual jacket that Nelson was wearing when he got shot on board HMS Victory – you can even see the bloodstained bullet-hole through which it entered his shoulder.
The Maritime Museum also has a fine collection of boats and ships, including hundreds of scale-models. Some famous examples include Frederick’s golden barge of 1732, and Ernest Shackleton’s lifeboat James Caird, from his arctic expedition. There is also a replica of the 7th-century Sutton Hoo burial ship, found in Suffolk in 1939.
Kids can keep themselves busy firing mock cannons, and traversing Nordic straits in a Viking longboat.
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