blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Royal Pavilion

 The Pavilion at Brighton is worth visiting on a wet day, although I admit it would be grand to see the gardens outside in mid-summer sunshine. These days, their original plantings are being restored, apparently.

The outside is Indian style architecture, with domes and minarets everywhere. The inside, as a sort of witty surprise, is all (Qing Dynasty) Chinese, or at least chinoiserie, what the western Europeans of the day thought of as Chinese. I took the offer of a headset for my self guided tour, but found the recordings too long, so I didn't listen to the whole thing. I'm not a great fan of headset tours; they either state the obvious or make the assumption I don't know what to be interested in, whereas I feel I can make my own decisions about that, and can read the information boards for myself.

Banqueting Hall at the Brighton Pavilion, in 1826
The interior has been restored as far as possible to its original appearance. A long corridor stretches at right angles to the entrance, mirrors and gilded cupboards lining the walls, with nodding wooden Mandarins standing on their surfaces. Chinese lanterns hang there and long red and green carpets lies underfoot. The headset told me that the interior was planned by Frederic Crace at the request of the Prince Regent to be a surprise that increases; the further in you go, the more sumptuous it looks. Visitors aren't allowed to take pictures of the interior, but I found a Wikipedia image that I'm including here of one of the most lavish of the rooms, where the banquets were held, a chandelier in the form of a dragon hanging above the dining table being the most eye catching ornament. It literally weighs a ton. Above the chandelier is the painting of a tree top as seen from below, with extra leaves attached to make it more realistic, three dimensional. Every panel of the walls is painted with a pseudo-Chinese scene.

George unconventionally used to take his guests into the kitchens at Brighton, alongside this hall. The pillars supporting the ceiling there are shaped to look like palm trees. On one occasion he served a meal that consisted of 100 different dishes, high cholesterol ones at that. No wonder obesity finished him off at the end. He eventually needed wheels to get himself across the gardens and was ashamed to be seen in that state by the local people. Disapproved of by his father, he was a playboy in his youth who entertained a series of mistresses at Brighton, and who brought music (Beethoven's music, for example) and dancing to this exotic palace. The music room, used as a ballroom in its day, has a full scale organ at one end, painted gold, velvet curtains as in a theatre, rows of miniature pagodas against the walls and great hanging lamps in the shape of lotus flowers.

Even the galleries or withdrawing rooms between the big reception areas are lavishly decorated with Wilton carpets and ornate furniture in the Chinese style. The King's and his family's apartments featured heavily clad four-poster beds, of course. What a way to live. Queen Victoria, apparently, did not feel so comfortable here when her turn came to inhabit it.

In the first world war the grand rooms of the Pavilion were converted into wards for wounded Indian soldiers, using the photographs of this makeshift hospital as propaganda to convince Indian recruits that they'd be treated well if they were injured. All the same, some died there and were cremated in a purpose built funeral pyre on the South Downs where a memorial to them still stands, the Chattri.

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