Royalty and A-list celebs from the Queen and Princess Diana to The Beatles have visited Grosvenor House.
The 5-star luxury Park Lane hotel has long served as a bolthole for the rich and famous.
From Hollywood legends Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to sporting legend Muhammad Ali, they’ve all been here.
Now the hotel is sponsoring the second Mayfair Times’ Mayfair & St James’s Literary Festival this autumn.
Howard Hartley has spent 38 years working at Grosvenor House.
Tears come to his eyes as he recalls the time he escorted the Queen Mother through what is now Corrigan’s restaurant.
“It’s emotional now even thinking about it. Everybody stood up and clapped. It was… amazing,” he says.
He started as head waiter and is now director of Middle East and diplomatic sales.
The Queen and Princess Diana
A month later, Her Majesty arrived with a party of six for a meal in the private dining room.
Later Princess Diana attended an event in The Great Room.
“I escorted her down and we had a fireman here and his previous role was security in Harrods,” says Howard.
“He had taken her and the boys for a private shopping trip and she remembered him and we took her down to meet him.
“She had that way with the public. She was a magnetic character.”
He added: “The only other person I remember like that was Elizabeth Taylor… She didn’t do anything or say anything, but everybody stopped and turned around.”
A spin in the Batmobile
On another occasion, Howard was assigned to look after Batman star Adam West.
“We got chatting and I said I had grown up watching him and he said: ‘Well, if you want a trip round in the Batmobile?’ – it was parked on the forecourt – and so I jumped in and we went round the block.”
A glittering history
Throughout its 90 year history, the hotel has hosted a huge range of stars.
The Beatles played here in 1963. Ballerina Margot Fonteyn and US President Barack Obama have also been here. Sophie Loren stayed only last year.
The Great Room, now the ultimate banqueting and wedding venue, also home to the BAFTAs after-dinner and the Russian debutantes ball, was once an ice rink.
“Our present Queen and her late sister, Princess Margaret, would come down from Bruton Street and take lessons on the ice,” he says.
“For two years they used to have a parquet mat which they rolled out over the ice and then they would have dinners on.”
The hotel escaped the Blitz unscathed and The Great Room later served as the American officers’ mess serving 7,000 meals a day.
Now, following a four and a half year renovation project, the hotel is as glitzy and prestigious as ever.
For more information on Grosvenor House read here.
To find out about the hotel’s literati connections read here.
To read the full story in the Mayfair Times, read here.
For more about Princess Diana in Mayfair, read here.
Main picture: 19th May 1950. The massed ranks of debutantes at the Queen Charlotte’s Ball at Grosvenor House descend into the ballroom. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.
Other pictures all taken at the hotel:
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in 1967 for the BAFTA awards. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.
Princess Diana attending the America Cup Ball in September 1986. Photo by Jayne Fincher/Getty Images.
The Beatles in concert, December 1963. Photo by Les Lee/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.