Many thanks to Caroline Dubanchet of the superb LONDON ESSENCE on-line magazine for allowing my article to be reproduced here. To read this and previously commissioned essays, plus bang-up-to-the-minute London news in eight languages, log on to Caroline's website at LONDON ESSENCE.
Westminster is arguably London's most famous - and historical area - the seat of England's government for almost a thousand years. The name is also used for the larger City of Westminster which covers a wider geographical area and since the mid-60s has included the former boroughs of St Marylebone and Paddington.
The historic core of Westminster is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. The Abbey became the traditional and historical venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England. The nearby Palace of Westminster, in later centuries, housed the developing Parliament and law courts.
Politics were confined to men for centuries until the introduction into Parliament of the American-born politician Nancy Astor (1879-1964). She married her second husband, Waldorf Astor (later Lord Astor of Hever), the MP for Plymouth, Devon on 3 May 1906. She developed a passion for politics and took over his Plymouth Sutton seat when he moved into the Lords on inheriting his father's viscountcy. On lst December 1919, she was introduced into the Houses of Parliament Chamber, accompanied on either side, by Arthur Balfour and David Lloyd George. She wore a black coat and skirt with white blouse and black tricorn hat. Punch described her as "demurely, but daintily, garbed".
The Astor family were immensely rich, owning Cliveden mansion in Berkshire, a home in Plymouth, but primarily she lived at her lovely home at 4 St James's Square, Westminster. She remained a Conservative Member of Parliament for the next 25 years.
In the annals of history, Lady Nancy Astor was one of Westminster's most famous and colourful personalities.