The bridges that stretch across the River Thames are major landmarks in the city and many of them bear significant royal connections.
From being the place where severed heads were displayed as a warning to potential traitors, to dedications to the Queen and even royals falling off bridges into the Thames, London’s river crossings have rich histories of royal connections.
While we (thankfully) no longer see the heads of treasonous Londoners stuck on London Bridge, plenty of the royal links can still be seen and felt today as we cross the Thames.
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London’s iconic bridges tend to have significant royal links – but some are much more gruesome than others
(Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire)
Tower Bridge is perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of the capital and is connected with the royal family in more ways than one. The bridge was officially opened on June 30, 1894 by the Prince and Princess of Wales (the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra).
More recently, the bridge was painted red, white and blue in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s silver jubilee in 1977.
Several crossings have existed in the place of the current London Bridge, with the oldest dating back to the Roman times. Many of the structures have shared the name London Bridge, yet the most modern bridge was opened on March 17, 1973 by the Queen.
London Bridge was also the site where the severed heads of criminals and traitors were displayed on spikes after their beheading. Perhaps most famously, the head of Scottish rebel William Wallace was placed on the bridge by order of King Edward I.
King Henry VIII also had the head of Lord High Chancellor Thomas More displayed on the bridge after he refused to recognise the annulment of his marriage from Catherine of Aragon.
Cannon Street Railway Bridge
When Cannon Street Bridge was opened in 1866, it was named Alexandra Bridge in honour Princess Alexandra of Denmark who married the future Edward VII in 1863.
As with several of the bridges, Cannon Street Railway Bridge was sailed under by the Queen and several other royals during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
The original structure was named Queen Street Bridge in honour of the street it leads off of on the Northern side.
It was officially opened on June 6, 1921 by King George V and Queen Mary. There is a plaque halfway along on the western side which reads, “Rebuilt by the Bridge House Estates Committee of the Corporation of London 1913-1921. Opened for traffic by their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary 6th June 1921…”
The newest crossing over the River Thames was opened in 2000, with construction beginning in 1998. However, on its opening day, it was nicknamed the ‘Wobbly Bridge’ due to its obvious swaying motion and soon closed. The reinforced bridge re-opened in February 2002 and was dedicated to the Queen.
The Millennium Bridge was dedicated to the Queen when it reopened after the ‘Wobbly Bridge’ issues were fixed
(Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
The current Blackfriars Bridge was opened on November 6, 1869 by Queen Victoria. Following the ceremony, the Queen travelled up Farringdon Road and opened the Holborn Viaduct.
Almost 150 years later her great-great granddaughter sailed under the bridge in a pageant to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
At the time of its construction, it was the widest bridge in the capital. Waterloo Bridge was opened on June 18, 1817 by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and the Duke of Wellington to mark the second anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.
The impressive structure also enthused foreign royalty, with Tsar Alexander I of Russia visiting the crossing during his trip to London in 1814.
The view from Waterloo Bridge now looks a little different from when Tsar Alexander I of Russia visited
(Image: Grahame Larter)
Golden Jubilee Footbridges
Back in 1996, a competition was launched to design two footbridges to flank the existing Hungerford Bridge which would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.
The structures were opened on July 2, 2003 by the Queen’s cousin Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy.
The most modern Westminster Bridge was opened on Queen Victoria’s 43rd birthday (May 24, 1862). In honour of this occasion, there was also a 25-gun salute to celebrate the Queen’s 25 years on the throne.
Westminster Bridge in 1890, almost 30 years after it was opened on Queen Victoria’s birthday
(Image: London Stereoscopic Company/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Opened on July 19, 1932 by King George V and Queen Mary. According to the Illuminated River Project website, it is also rumoured that King James I, Oliver Cromwell and an Archbishop of Canterbury fell off of Lambeth Bridge at some stage.
Vauxhall Bridge was opened on May 26, 1906 by the Prince of Wales (the future King George V). This crossing was also the fourth that Her Majesty and several other royals sailed under during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012.
Grosvenor Railway Bridge
This is the widest bridge in the capital and comprises 10 individual structures. Grosvenor railway bridge was named after the landowners of which the bridge is built upon, this being the Grosvenor Family.
The royal link lies in how the family are able to trace their lineage back to Hugh Le Grande Veneur, who was a close aide to William the Conqueror.
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It was originally named Victoria Bridge after Princess Victoria, The Princess Royal but after some negative public reviews about the wobbly nature of the structure, the name was quickly changed to Chelsea Bridge. This was decided as, in the event of the bridge collapsing, the princess and the Royal Family would be associated with it. The bridge was opened in 1937 by Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King.
The namesake behind this final bridge is clearly Queen Victoria’s beloved consort, Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, however, there are several other royal connections which make up its history.
Much like the Chelsea Bridge, it was originally named Victoria Bridge, and was even opened and walked on by the monarch and two of her daughters on April 3, 1858.
The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) declared this bridge and its neighbours toll free on May 24, 1879. The bridge was re-designed and re-opened by Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King on May 6, 1937 as he was in the capital for the coronation of King George VI.