A Brighton Diary: The People’s Palace

Note: This is the fourth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 4 — June 15

The Royal Pavilion 

It’s not everyday that one gets to visit a palace once owned and lived in by the King of England. But on June 15, that’s exactly what I did.

The Royal Pavilion is different than other royal residences, past or present. From the get-go, when you first see the Pavilion, it immediately stands out.

IMG_0198
The Royal Pavilion is built in the Indo-Saracenic style. Photo by Olivia Malick

Faintly reminiscent of the Taj Mahal, the Pavilion was built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style.

This isn’t Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle — it has a special flair.

This former royal residence is no longer owned by the Crown and was sold to the Brighton & Hove City Council in 1850.

According to the Royal Pavilion page on the Brighton Museums website, the Pavilion “started as a modest 18th century lodging house. Architect Henry Holland helped George, Prince of Wales, later King George IV, transform his humble seaside retreat into a handsome neo-classical villa — known as the Marine Pavilion.”

The Pavilion has served many purposes over the past two centuries. The flamboyant bachelor’s paradise was used as a hospital during the First World War.

Now, when we entered the Pavilion, we weren’t allowed to take photos in any of the rooms. All photos of the interior are property of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

Whatever you may think the palace looks like on the inside, it doesn’t. The Indo-Saracenic styles ends with the exterior and is heavily influenced by Asian cultures for the interior.

First up are the Reception Rooms.

Royal Paviloion and Brighton Museum, website images, 2014
Right upon entering the Pavilion, one can instantly see the Chinese-inspired Long Gallery. Photo by Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

“The Long Gallery linked all the main state rooms including the Banqueting Room and the Music Room,” the website states. “Full of exotic furnishings and Chinese objets d’art, the Long Gallery uses clever decorative techniques such as iron cast to imitate bamboo, furniture in beech stimulating bamboo, and carefully placed mirrors.”

When Queen Victoria sold the Pavilion in 1850, she stripped most of the palace of its furniture and fittings, leaving a shell of former grandeur.

The Pavilion has undergone major restorations since 1864 to bring it back to its former glory.

Most of the wallpaper featured in the palace are replicas — intricate ones I might add — of original pieces.

For example, in The King’s Apartments.

 

Royal Paviloion and Brighton Museum, website images, 2014
The original green green dragon wallpaper has been replaced by a hand-painted copy, according to the museum website. Photo by Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

The restoration and conservation efforts of the Pavilion are perhaps the most extraordinary part of the Royal Pavilion tour.

Every detail has been meticulously placed, everything has been researched and you can feel it as soon as you enter the building. It’s like being transported to that time.

Another interesting part of the Pavilion’s history is its use as a hospital during World War I. For almost two years, soldiers from the Indian Corps wounded on the Western Front in France and Flanders were transferred and treated at the Royal Pavilion.

One of the stops in the tour is a gallery of the Indian Military Hospital. From the website, “paintings, archive photographs, contemporary accounts and film footage recall in vivid form a remarkable and often forgotten story from Brighton’s history.”

The Royal Pavilion is a must-visit attraction in Brighton. I guarantee it’s unlike anything else you’ve seen.

Information about tours, prices and accessibility can be found here.

Additional photos provided by Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

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