Welcome to part two of the Royal Residences series. In this post we will begin with Windsor Castle which is located in the town of Windsor, Berkshire county. Several parts of the castle can be traced back to the 14th century. It is the largest inhabited castle in the world with over 500 people living and working on the estate. It is also the oldest castle to be in continuous occupation for over 900 years.
It is H.M. the Queen’s official weekend residence. The Royal Standard flies over the Round Tower of Windsor Castle when the Queen is in residence and at other times the Union Jack flag flies in its place.
After Windsor Castle survived the English Civil War, during which the castle was used as a military headquarters for parliamentary forces, it was restored and rebuilt with Baroque interiors under Charles II with the assistance of architect Hugh May. It was neglected in the 18th century, then George the III and George IV both renovated and rebuilt the castle to feature the current design of the State Apartments which are full of Baroque, Gothic and Rococo furnishings. These design elements can be seen in the Green Room.
The State Apartments are formally decorated rooms that are used for state and official functions. While the rooms themselves are works of art you will also find paintings and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, Van Dyck, Canaletto and Rubens. Over 100 rooms suffered from a fire in 1992 and great pains were taken to restore the parts of the castle that were lost.
The public is able to visit Windsor Castle. It’s open every day except Garter Day, Easter, Christmas, and one or two other days during the year. Opening times and access may be restricted at certain times of the year due to state functions. Wouldn’t you love to see the Grand Reception Room?
The history of Windsor Castle is quite extensive but it is quite easy to find information on the many Kings and Queens that have graced its hallowed halls. The opulence is truly awe inspiring as visible in the the bedchamber of the King.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, also known as Holyrod Palace, is another official residence of the monarch. It is located in Edinburgh, Scotland on the Royal Mile on the opposite end of Edinburgh Castle. David I, King of Scots, founded Holyrood Abbey in 1128. The Palace has served as a principal residence for the Kings and Queens of Scotland since the 15th century.
H.M. the Queen, spends one week in residence at the palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements, state ceremonies and official entertaining. It is said that the Queen enjoys being seated at the center of the dining table so that she may converse with all of her guests.
The wooden ceilings of the main rooms in the North West tower were created during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Her monogram, MR (Maria Regina) and the IR monogram (Jacobus Rex) refer to Mary and her son, James VI. The suite contains an audience chamber and the Queen's bedroom, leading from which are two turret rooms. In the northern turret room, on 9 March 1565, the infamous murder of David Rissio took place in Mary's presence. Tourists were often convinced that they could see his blood stains on the floor. During my visit I felt that I could indeed see the markings of this gruesome piece of history.
The Kings Closet is an extraordinarily beautiful room which features an elaborately detailed plasterwork ceiling, lovely Brussels tapestries and truly fine furniture.
Sandringham House is located near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk, England. The house, which is surrounded by 20,000 acres of land, is privately owned by the British Royal family.
In 1771 architect Cornish Henley built Sandringham Hall. It was modified in the 19th century by Charles Spencer Cowper and designed by Samuel Sanders Teulon. The hall was purchased in 1862 by Queen Victoria at the request of her son, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) as a home for himself and his wife Alexandra. The royal couple commissioned A J Humbert to create a larger building in 1865. The red brick home was completed in 1870 in a somewhat mid-Victorian country house design.
King George VI died at Sandringham in 1952. It has been Queen Elizabeth II’s custom to spend the anniversary of her father's death with her family at the house. It is her official base from Christmas until February each year.
The home is often used for shooting parties. Edward VII had such a fondness for hunting on the estate, that he ordered all the clocks to be set half an hour ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) to allow more time for the sport. This tradition was kept on the estate from 1901 until 1936 until King Edward VIII ended the custom.
As it is primarily a hunting estate the interiors reflect a design of a luxurious hunting lodge fit for nobility.
As Sandringham House is the private property of the British royal family and not part of the Crown Estate the house became an issue in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated his throne. As Edward had inherited the house from his father, George V, the estates did not automatically pass to his younger brother, George VI, when he abdicated. George, during his reign, made periodic payments to Edward as compensation for both Balmoral, (which was featured in last weeks post), as well as Sandringham. As the transactions were private it is unknown whether or not the titles were ever actually transferred.
Our last castle to be featured in this post is St. James’s Palace which is located on Pall Mall street in the City of Westminster, London. The palace was commissioned by Henry VIII on the site of a former leper hospital which was dedicated to Saint James the Less which gave the palace its name. It was constructed between 1531~ 1536 in the red-brick Tudor Style.
The State Apartments of the Palace contain many beautiful items such as Mortlake tapestries and several displays of armor. As it is often in use for official functions St. James Palace is not open to the public.
Recently, H.R.H. Prince William of Wales announced his engagement to Catherine Middleton at St. James’s Palace.
The official engagement portrait of the couple, by Mario Testino, was taken in the Council Chamber of St. James’s Palace.
The State Apartments in the Palace also contain an interesting range of Royal portraits from the time of Henry VIII. For those of you who have seen “The King’s Speech” you may remember the scene in which King George VI is surrounded by several austere portraits of previous Kings and Queens. St. James’s Palace was also the location where King George gave his inspiring speech that inspired the film.
This is a superb film which shows a very humanistic side of the monarchy. Although it does have an “R” rating due to language, it is a must see film worthy of its numerous Oscar nominations. (Good luck my dear Mr.
The entire cast is stellar and Queen Elizabeth has given her approval which is saying quite a lot as the principal storyline of the movie is about Her Majesty’s father.
Just for fun I want to include an image of the grand staircase located in Buckingham Palace which is also featured in the film. Happy design ahh’s and sighs.
A gentle reminder that the High Tea Tablescapes link party is coming up soon!!! It will be held on February 23rd. Two separate English themed grand prizes will be awarded to the participants who design a tablescape or vignette that is “Fit For A Queen” or “Royally Scrumptious”. I will announce our esteemed judges as well as provide a peek at the prizes for the event next week.
How will you dress your table for the tea?
There is also an open invitation to come celebrate at the Bloggers Tea on March 26, 2011. It will be held at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, Arizona. The owner, Joanne Gemmill, is authentically English.