Thursday, September 3, 2009

Brighton's Shining Star: The Royal Pavilion

So, imagine you’re a young prince, the heir apparent to the British Empire. Your father is old and stodgy, none of the government officials appear to be interested in a thing you say, and now you’ve been sent to bathe in the sea because your neck’s a little thick. Who’d blame you for wanting to escape from it all?

That’s the basic picture of George IV, darling Prinny, when he first arrived in Brighton. He rose late, went riding, and give a dinner party for as many friends as possible every few days. He had so much fun, in fact, that he decided to live there. So, he bought a simple farmhouse at the edge of town. Over the next 35 years, he lavished extravagant sums of money on the place, eventually turning it into an opulent pleasure palace (Neverland, anyone?).

You can see here the metamorphosis:

a) In 1787, George had renowned architect Henry Holland extend the original farmhouse into a faux-temple. At the time, it was known as the Marine Pavilion.

b) Between 1815 and 1823, Prinny’s favorite architect, John Nash, turned the temple into an Indian palace with domes and minarets over a cast iron framework. He even replanted the gardens with curving paths and picturesque views.

If the outside is amazing, the inside was designed to boggle the mind. An elaborate entry hall led to the Long Gallery, which linked the main state rooms. The gallery also served as a card room during larger parties. The walls were originally painted with a landscape against a pink background. Large, painted-glass lay lights in the ceiling lit the gallery during the day, and painted lanterns and chandeliers lit it by night.

One of the most magnificent rooms is the Banqueting Room. Prinny loved nothing so much as his food, especially when he could share it with a few hundred of his closest friends. Large painted canvasses covered the walls, and a dragon holds up the massive center chandelier.

Another gorgeous room was the music room, where Prinny could host concerts. Notice the glass chandelier, with painted Oriental ladies on each panel.

Prinny didn’t spare expenses for the less public rooms as well. The kitchen was one of the biggest, airiest, best lighted of its age, with the newest technology including steam heating. The ceiling is supported by four cast-iron columns surmounted with painted copper palm leaves.

Perhaps the most outrageous portion of the Royal Pavilion is the stables. Completed in 1808, the Royal Stables and Riding House were considered engineering feats for their time. The stables are topped with a dome 80 feet across and 65 feet high. Along the circular interior were stalls for 44 horses, who took their water from a gorgeous fountain in the center.

In 1822, Prinny had an underground passage built from the main pavilion to the stables, so he and his visitors could go visit the horses on rainy days without getting wet. Supposedly the passage was big enough to turn a carriage and four (wouldn’t want to walk to see the horses, would you?). A critic of the day declared, “The King’s horses (if they were horses of taste) would petition against such irrational a lodging.”

Yes, the pavilion was an amazing structure. Unfortunately, Nash’s designs weren’t very practical. By 1833 the roof was leaking, and drainpipes concealed in the walls were overflowing and causing dry rot. Queen Victoria first visited the place in 1837 and failed to find the same delight in it as her predecessors:

“The Pavilion is a strange, odd, Chinese looking place, both outside and inside. Most of the rooms are low, and I can only see a morsel of the sea, from one of my sitting room windows.” She only visited two more times before deciding to dismantle the place, sending various paintings, furnishings, and accessories to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

In 1850, the city of Brighton petitioned the Queen, who allowed the city to purchase the pavilion and its grounds for 53,000 pounds sterling (close to 4 million in today’s pounds). It is currently undergoing extensive renovation to restore it to the glory Prinny imagined when he first laid eyes on Brighton over 200 years ago.

And Millysdaughter and ChaChaneen, you’ve both won fans in our final two giveaways for August! Contact me at La Petite Four with your land address, and I’ll pop those into the mail!


QNPoohBear said...

Wow! That is insanity! The first picture with just a dome reminds me of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello but the final Pavillion design is beyond words. Wasn't there a war on?

Regina Scott said...

There was indeed a war on, QNPoohBear! Prinny's "investments" in the Royal Pavilion were severely criticized by Parliament and lampooned in the newspapers. However, his mother, Queen Charlotte, at one point gave him 50,000 pounds out of her own pocket to help pay for embellishments. So somebody besides him loved the place!

ChaChaneen said...

Yahoo! I am so excited to have won. Thank you, thank you!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.