The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 7 Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace, Malborough

Buckingham Palace 2

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7. BUCKINGHAM PALACE. ST. JAMES'S PALACE. MARLBOROUGH HOUSE. STATIONS: Dover Street, Down Street, and Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Tube. OMNIBUSES along Piccadilly; for Buckingham Palace, Nos. 2,16, 25, 36, 38, 52, etc. None but exceptionally favoured travellers are admitted to any of the royal houses in London, the art-treasures of which are quite inaccessible to the general public. From the reign of Edward the Confessor to that of William IV. the principal London residence of the sovereign was successively at Westminster Palace, Whitehall, and St. James's Palace. William III. and his successors down to George II. lived also at Kensington Palace, and George IV. as Prince Regent occupied Carlton House. Within a few minutes' walk of each other, near the west end of St. James's Park, rise Buckingham Palace (the present palace of the king), St. James's Palace (no longer a royal residence), and Marlborough House (the residence of the Prince of Wales). Buckingham Palace stands at the west end of the Mall, between St. James's Park and a spacious and umbrageous private garden. The site was once occupied by the Mulberry Gardens, which were planted by James I. in 1609 to encourage the native silk industry, but degenerated about twenty years later into a place of popular amusement, frequently mentioned by the Restoration dramatists and described by Pepys in 1668, a few years before it closed, as 'a very silly place, worse than Spring Garden.' The house of the keeper of the gardens, known for a time as Goring House, after Lord Goring, a later owner, was replaced in 1674 by Arlington House, afterwards sold to John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, who rebuilt it in 1703 and named it Buckingham House. George III. purchased this house in 1762, and here the famous interview between him and Dr. Johnson took place (1767). The building was altered and remodelled by Nash for George IV. about 1825, and since that time it has been known as Buckingham Palace, although neither George IV. nor his successor ever occupied it. Since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, however, it has been the London residence of the sovereign, and here Edward VII. was born in 1841 and here he died in 1910. The chief of the many alterations and additions during Victoria's reign was the erection by Blore in 1847 of the long east wing, next the park, which converted the whole into a quadrangle enclosing a courtyard. In 1913 the entire east facade of Blore's wing was replaced by a much more dignified design by Sir Aston Webb. When the King or Queen is in residence (in which case the royal standard is flown) the palace-guard is changed every day at 10.30 a.m. in the forecourt (at other times at St. James's Palace). The band of one of the regiments of Guards plays during this gay military ceremony. The royal apartments are in the north wing, while in the south wing is the chapel. Glimpses of the gardens (40 acres) behind the palace may be obtained from the tops of the omnibuses plying in Grosvenor Place. They contain a lake and a pavilion adorned with frescoes from Milton's 'Comus,' by early Victorian artists (1844-45), and also one of the original mulberry trees of 1609. The interior of the palace contains many magnificent and sumptuously decorated apartments, besides a very fine gallery of paintings and other works of art. The handsome Grand Staircase has frescoes by Townsend. The Throne Room, 66 feet long, has a marble frieze representing the Wars of the Roses, designed by Stothard and executed by Baily. Other fine rooms are the Green Drawing Room (50 feet by 33 feet), the State Ball Room (110 feet by 60 feet), the Grand Saloon, and the Library. In the Sculpture Gallery are busts and statues of Statesmen and royal personages. The PICTURE GALLERY (180 feet long) is especially rich in works of the Dutch and Flemish schools, chiefly collected by George IV. Among famous canvases here are those by Rembrandt ('Noli me tangere'; Shipbuilder and his Wife; Burgomaster Pancras and his Wife; Adoration of the Magi; Portraits), Rubens (Pythagoras; Falconer; Landscape; Assumption; etc.). Van Dyck (Madonna and Child; Charles I.; etc.), Terborch (Lady writing a letter, his masterpiece), Titian (Summer Storm in the Venetian Alps), Wilkie (Blind Man's Buff; etc.). Among the other masters represented are Durer, Teniers the Younger. Van der Meulen, Wouverman, Cuyp, A. and I. van Ostade, Berchem, Dou, A. and W. van de Velde, Metsu, Steen, Karel du Jardin, Paul Potter, Hobbema, Mieris; Mabuse, Mytens, Jansen, Ruysdael, Maes; Claude Lorrain, Watteau, Greuze; Gainsborough and Reynolds. To the south-west, at the corner of Buckingham Palace Road and Lower Grosvenor Place, are the Royal Mews, to which visitors are admitted from 2 to 4 on Wednesday and Saturday by ticket obtained on written application (enclosing an addressed envelope) to the Superintendent. Here may be seen the King's horses and the royal equipages, including the state carriage designed by Sir William Chambers in 1762, and painted by Cipriani. This carriage, which originally cost �7660, has figured at the coronations of all the British sovereigns since.