Today we visit the last of the rooms in George IV’s seaside folly, The Kings Private Apartments of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. His set of private apartments were originally to be found on the first or Chamber floor, as we discovered in our last post in this series. However, as he aged, the King became rather fat and infirm. Afflicted with gout, he found it increasingly difficult to negotiate climbing the stairs in the Gallery. And so, in 1819 while he was still Prince Regent, he had John Nash create a new suite of rooms for him on the ground floor.
The rooms, which overlooked the gardens to the entrance front of the Pavilion, were a quiet retreat from the hubbub of the rest of the Pavilion, filled, as it was, with servants and guests. You can see the position of the rooms on this section of the ground floor plan of the Pavilion:
There are three rooms in the suite, indicated by the three red arrows: The Kings Bedroom, his Private Library and Anteroom.
This is a photograph I took of the entrance front earlier this year,
and the King’s Apartments are to be found behind this screen, to the left of the porte-cochere:
This is a temporary screen while renovations to the stone work are being carried out.
The King’s Private Apartments are, stylistically, decorated in a somewhat restrained manner, certainly when compared to the rest of the Pavilion. All three rooms are wallpapered in the same wallpaper,and this give the rooms a unifying feeling of peace and space. This is John Nash’s water-colour of the King’s Bedroom as it appeared in the 1820s (which can be enlarged if you care to click on it).
You can see the cooling and restful effect of the wallpaper. The design is still in the Chinoiserie style but it is more restrained .It conisits of pale pink dragons on a green ground. It was designed by Robert Jones. The bedroom still had enough luxuries to keep George IV in the style of which he had become accustomed: the desk is French and was once owned by Napoleon, England’s defeated adversary. There were three gib doors concealed in the walls of the room: one led from the fireplace wall to the Kings Bathroom, an innovation in the early 19th century to have possess a room designated speifically for bathing. This room had a very large marble tub which was 16 feet long by 10 feet wide, and which was filled with salt water taken from the sea and supplied to the Pavilion by an ingenious series of pipes and pumping machinery. The two other gib doors led very different places. The first to the valet’s staircase and would have been used by the Princes’ valet. The other, more controversially, led to a small staircase which communicated directly with Lady Conynham’s apartments on the Chamber room floor, which were directly above the King’s apartments. These of course, enabled the King’s mistress to visit him in privacy…I’m sure Jane Austen,who detested the Prince of Wales for his lax morals among other matters, would not have approved of this at all!
The Private Library and Anteroom lead from the King’s Bedroom: this is the view from the bedroom into the two other rooms:
Both these rooms were decorated with a slightly different version of Robert Jones’ dragon damask wallpaper- it has a different border design across the top of the paper, as you can see from Nash’s watercolour,below, especially if you click on it and enlarge it:
You can see the pattern of the wallpaper more clearly in this picture below (and also see the delicate detail of the fan-vaulted columns):
My favourite aspect of these rooms are the beautiful sky ceilings…At this point in the early nineteenth century, libraries were used as the main living rooms in the homes of the rich. As Humphrey Repton noted in 1816, The modern custom is to use the library as the general living-room. George IV inherited his father’s love of books. He gave most of his father’s scientific and topographical books to the British Museum,but he collected, instead, many many thousands of volumes of literature. I wonder if his set of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, which she reluctantly dedicated to him, were kept in this room?
The rooms had another unifying feature: nearly all the ornaments displayed in the rooms have a colour scheme of black and gold.
My poor picture, above, shows a wall light in carved, ebonised and gilt wood, which was designed by that most influential arbiter of Regency taste in interior design, Thomas Hope (more on him next year!). The wall lamp dates from 1807. Here is a more detailed picture of it:
A similar design was in fact included in his influential book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration,which was first published in 1807. Here is the frontispiece of that book, below:
And here is his design for a Drawing-Room, again, taken from my copy of that book:
You can clearly see the wall lights, which are very similar in style to those in the King’s apartments. Here is a close up for you to compare:
And that ends our tour of the Pavilion..or nearly so. The Prince Regent Gallery is a new room in the Pavillion: an exhibition space where objects related to the King can be displayed to the public. My next two posts will deal with the current display; the first with details of some of George IV’s fascinating clothes, the second will detail some items of clothing associated with his coronation, which have not been seen in public for many, many years. Do join me.