Boswell recalled Russell Street fondly in his biography The Life of Samuel Johnson:
‘No 8 – The very place where I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the illustrious subject of this work, deserves to be particularly marked. I never pass by it without feeling reverence and regret.’
Westminster Hall dates from 1097, but was remodelled in the 1390s. It was used for all sorts of state occasions, including legal trials, Parliamentary gatherings and coronation feasts after the crowning of a new monarch in Westminster Abbey.
On 13 October 1399, a new king celebrated his coronation with a lavish feast here. The king had just seized the throne from his cousin, King Richard II, who was still alive. The usurper’s claim to the throne was more than a little shaky as he and his supporters sat down to enjoy their meal:
‘When dinner was half over, a knight of the name of Dymock entered the Hall fully armed and mounted on a handsome steed, richly barbed with crimson housings. The knight was armed for wager of battle, and was preceded by another knight bearing a lance.
‘The knight presented the king with a written paper, the contents of which were, that if any knight or gentleman should dare to maintain that king ***** was not a lawful sovereign, he was ready to offer him combat in the presence of the king, when and where he should be pleased to appoint.’
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 46. Nobody dared to challenge the King’s Champion on his horse. But who was the King?
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