The Royal Pavilion is a former royal residence located in Brighton, England which can still be enjoyed by visitors today! Beginning in 1787, it was built in stages as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who became the Prince Regent in 1811. The current appearance of the Pavilion with its exotic domes and minarets is the work of architect John Nash who extended the building, starting in 1815 and ending in 1823.
Queen Victoria visited the Pavilion after ascending the throne in 1837, and she was none too impressed with her uncle’s decadent palace. After just two return visits, the Queen resolved to sell the Royal Pavilion in the late 1840’s. When the opportunity arose to acquire the Pavilion, leading figures in the town recognized the importance of the structure to Brighton’s history and economy. The building was purchased by the town of Brighton in 1850 for £53,000 and remains to this day the only royal palace not owned by the state or the Crown.
Let’s take a brief cyber-tour of this singularly unique British landmark as it stands today!
A Whimsical Wonderland
Upon entering the Royal Pavilion, we pass through a porte-cochere and then the Octagon Hall.
Here, tiny bells hang from the ceiling canopy and tinkle in the breeze, which has accompanied us through the open door. A burnished brass fireplace bids us a cheerful welcome in lieu of the footmen that would have greeted visitors during the Regency Era. In those days, the Prince of Wales was eager to impress guests and went so far as to commission Architect John Nash to create a commemorative book filled with watercolor portraits of the Pavilion. The book was then reproduced and given to visitors as a sort of brag-book-meets-party-favor.
We now meander into the Entrance Hall. Designed in a monochromatic scheme of jade, this room features painted glass screens and Chinese lanterns. The carpeted floors are original and would’ve been considered odd as most grand homes in the early 19th century had floors paved with stone.
Next we proceed into The Long Gallery, which was ornamented by Decorator Frederick Crace. While its primary use was as a corridor linking the Pavilion’s main rooms, we can observe from the books and ivory-veneered Chippendale chairs that it also functioned as a pleasant room, lit by splendid Chinese glass.
Let us now ascend the main Staircase found at the end of the Long Gallery. The balustrades appear to be made of bamboo, do they not? This artistic illusion is achieved with a cast-iron base and painted handrails of carved mahogany. Turning our attention upward, we find exotic stained glass painted to depict Chinese warriors. During the Pavilion’s zenith, servants would have placed lamps behind the windows and lit them at night in order to cast a subtle glow upon the staircase.
We now return downstairs to explore the Great Kitchen, which features “modern” innovations such as a steam table. Fitted with a cast-iron top and bound in brass, the table was heated by means of an extensive copper piping system which grew from table to ceiling in the guise of palm trees. The technology allowed numerous dishes to be kept warm and ready until served to the gluttonous Prince Regent.
Moving from the kitchen, we find the Pages Room. This is where dishes would’ve been assembled and rushed by footmen to guests in the adjacent Banqueting Room. This close proximity was another unconventional design choice. In most great buildings, the kitchen and domestic offices were situated far from the formal dining area, so that cooking smells and noises didn’t intrude.
Now we travel straight through to the fanciful Banqueting Room. Here a chandelier forest hangs from the domed ceiling, which is painted to resemble a vast tropical sky with three-dimensional plantain leaves. A gilded dragon grasps the main chandelier in its claws whilst the four subsidiary chandeliers, shaped like lotus leaves, are suspended from mirrored stars.
As our tour nears its end, we enter the Music Gallery and stroll across the Brussels weave carpet. Take note of the elegant cast-iron columns, which support the floor above. This gallery was used for small, day-time gatherings centered around one of the pianofortes. Follow along and I’ll show you where the Prince hosted grand concerts and balls!
Our tour concludes with the magnificent Music Room! The Prince was fond of music, and its importance to him is expressed through frippery. The Chinoiserie decoration was the work of three people: Architect John Nash & Decorators Frederick Crace and Robert Jones. Looking toward the back wall, we see the Music Room’s centerpiece—an organ. During the Regency Era, this instrument was the largest and most powerful domestic organ made in England.
Always fearful of catching cold, the Prince commissioned Designer Robert Jones to create this chimney piece for the Music Room at a cost of £1684.
Before we say farewell, let’s admire the artistry above our heads! The ceiling’s dramatic colors indicate that this room was intended for use in the evening. In the dark, the brilliant colors would’ve been seen to best advantage amid the glow of chandeliers!
Thank you for joining me on this tour of a Whimsical Wonderland! Of all the rooms we explored, which one was your favorite? I’d love to chat with you in the comments. And for those wishing they could tour The Royal Pavilion during its prime, you can do just that by picking up a copy of The Regency Brides Collection which includes my novella Masquerade Melody!