• Sarah

The insider lowdown on the cover for Mystery in the Palace of Westminster

In my last post I revealed the cover for my book, Mystery in the Palace of Westminster. So this month I thought I would explain the ins and outs of what the illustrations mean. Let’s dive right in!


Larry the cat

The cat shown on the front cover of the book is Larry, the Downing Street cat. He has the distinction of being the only real character who appears in the book.


Larry doesn’t belong to the Prime Minister or the family resident in Downing Street. He is Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office and has been in position since 2011. He has seen three different Prime Ministers in his time at Downing Street.


Number Ten, Downing Street has a problem with mice. (As it happens, so does the Palace of Westminster.) Larry’s main job is to keep the mice at bay. His job also includes ‘testing antique furniture for napping quality’. He can be seen carrying out his duties during the course of the book.


The parliamentary mace

In the book, the parliamentary mace is stolen and our heroes – Theo and Sammy – set out to find the thief. The parliamentary mace is the golden club shown on the front cover.


But there’s a secret about the mace that Theo and Sammy don’t uncover. It’s not actually made of gold. It is in fact made of silver that has been gilded in gold. This means that there is only a thin layer of gold on the mace.


Silver is much lighter than gold, making it much more practical for items like the mace. If the mace had been made of solid gold, it would be far too heavy to lift.


The background

The pattern in the background of the cover was inspired by the tiles in the Palace of Westminster. The tiles were laid in the 1800s after part of the palace burned down in 1834. Charles Barry was brought in to redesign the palace and he sought help from Augustus Pugin and Herbert Minton. Pugin is responsible for the palace’s gothic appearance today.


Minton came up with a new process, called ‘encausting’, to create the multi-coloured tiles, which ensured their patterns would not fade. They have faded over the centuries, but some have since been restored.


The patterned tiles decorate St Stephen’s Hall, as well as Central Lobby – two of the prominent locations that appear in the book.


The green ribbon

This is one of my favourite features on the cover. During the story Will Duncan – the Prime Minister and Theo’s dad – is trying to pass a new law to reform the House of Lords. New laws that haven’t been passed in Parliament yet are called Bills.


All parliamentary Bills are printed out and tied together with ribbon. Bills can come from either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. The colour of the ribbon matches the benches in each house – red or green. Those that come from the House of Commons have a green ribbon – just like the ribbon on the cover.