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The Brighton Museum Press Office has just announced that a new exhibition on the short life of Princes Charlotte, is to be held in the sumptuous surroundings of her father’s seaside pleasure place/folly, The Royal Pavillion at Brighton. She was, of course, George IVs only legitimate child and heir presumptive to the English throne until her premature death in childbirth in 1817. As the Press Release reminds us:

A feisty, headstrong tomboy as a child, Charlotte became very popular with the public, unlike her father, and was referred to as the Daughter of England. She married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha and the couple were happily married for just a year and a half until tragedy struck. She gave birth to a stillborn son in November 1817 and died shortly after the birth. Charlotte’s death and the death of her son changed the course of royal history. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather and Queen Victoria is unlikely to have succeeded to the throne – there would have been a ‘Charlottian’ age rather than a Victorian one.

The exhibition will be held for a year, from March 10th 2012 until March 10th 2013 in the Prince Regent Gallery. This is the Pavilion’s new exhibition space and was where some of the items in the Dress for Excess exhibit were on show( my last post on that exhibit will hopefully be published next week!). The exhibit will focus on the life and tragic death of the Princess through a range of exhibits including personal items such as two of her gowns, her handwritten music book, along with paintings, prints, ceramics, jewellery and glassware

Allow me to quote David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion:

“The exhibition is about a princess who has fallen off the radar. Most people now have no idea who Princess Charlotte is – and yet her death hit Britain like a thunderbolt, the effects were extraordinary, the country closed down for virtually a week and everything was swathed in black. The closest equivalent is the outpouring of public grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

 “The Royal Pavilion, where the Princess spent some happy times, is the perfect place to bring Charlotte’s story to life and provide an insight into the fascinating and charismatic person she was.

 “For the first time in a generation, the Royal Pavilion and Museums’ extensive collection of material relating to the Princess will be displayed, along with items on loan from the Royal Collection, museums and private collections. It will highlight a fascinating royal story during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year and enable people to learn more about the royals who stayed at the Royal Pavilion.”

We have discussed the life, wedding and death of this poor Princess and her admiration for Sense and Sensibility before, here. The press release tell us that viewing the exhibition will be an opportunity to see some of the most important surviving items of clothing associated with Princes Charlotte:

Exhibits in the new exhibition include a Russian-style dress which belonged to Princess Charlotte, on loan from the Royal Collection;(which can be seen in the portrait below-jfw),

(Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, George Dawe, 1817, copyright National Portrait Gallery, London).

Her silver and white evening gown, on loan from the Museum of London;

a bust of Princess Charlotte, from Manchester Art Gallery; a baby’s shift she wore as an infant, from the Pavilion and Museum’s own collection, plus a nightshirt made as part of a layette for the baby she was expecting.  These two gowns, above, will be on display for the first six months of the exhibition, but they will be replaced in mid September

for the second half of the exhibition with Charlotte’s wedding gown, above, on loan from the Royal Collection. 

It sounds fascinating, and you know that the Royal Pavillion, with its over-the-top Chinoiserie decoration is one of my favourite places. This new exhibition will be a powerful draw to Brighton, yet again, though I’m doubtful I will be able to get there to see it in person this year due to other commitments. If any of you do go please let us know your thoughts!

In this post, the fourth in this series, we are going to concentrate on only one room in the Pavilion at Brighton, The Banqueting Gallery.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

This was the room used by the Prince of Wales’ guests after they had finished dining in the Banqueting Room. The ladies would first withdraw to the Red Drawing Room, below…

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

marked 3 in red on the ground-plan of the rooms, below.

This room is not normally accessible to the public on the usual tour, as it is the room used for civil wedding ceremonies held at the Pavilion. The  ladies would then move back to the Banqueting Gallery, number 2 on the plan, when the gentlemen had left the Banqueting Room after their political and probably rowdy discussions. This room is marked number 1 on the plan.

Above is Nash’s View of the Gallery as it was in the 1820s, and you can see that it is very similar today, after the restoration projects of the 1950s and onwards. The Brussels weave carpet is particularly striking. If you enlarge the image ( which you can do by clicking on it-as you can for all the images in this post) you can just see the torcheres in the Banqueting Room which were made by Spode, in imitation of Servres,especially for the Prince’s quite overpowering dining room.

An interesting point is that this room, the Banqueting Gallery, encompasses the space that was all the original farmhouse , which in turn became part of the Princes’s Marine Villa and which finally and magnificently morphed into the Pavilion that we know now.

This is the first room in the Pavilion that contains clothes in the Dress for Excess exhibition. My photographs are, sadly, quite poor: the light levels in the room are understandably kept very low and there is only ambient artificial lighting. But the very kind staff at the Pavilion,  particularly Ellie Taylor, have arranged for me to use some of their professional photographs of the costumes, in order that you can see the details more clearly.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

The first costume we see is a gentleman’s suit, made of fine silk, dating from circa 1760.


Here you can see it, along with a sack dress of the same era, in the setting of the Banqueting Gallery.

The sack dress was made of delicately embroidered silk…..

Here is the reverse view , showing the back detail

This photograph shows some of the detialing on the bodice….

I am always amazed at the tiny proportions of the gentlemen’s suits of this era: this one is rather small, and you would probably need to be a British size 6 woman to fit into it…

At the other end of the Gallery were some more costumes to view

Below is a Dandy’s outfit from circa 1825

This was accompanied by a very beautiful shawl backed dress circa 1790….

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

And finally a white muslin dress with white on white embroidered detail and lace dating from 1825….

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

These pictures of the shawl backed dress show the detail of the beautiful fabric used….

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

If you click on them( and indeed any of the photographs in this post) they will open in a separate window and enlarge so you can see the detail.

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

The small sleeves are exquisitely made…..

It is interesting to be able to compare the two dress styles – only 30 years apart , but vastly different…

(©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

If you enlarge this picture , above,you can see the lace and embroidery in some detail….

Next, some more costumes and the magnificent Music Room.

You may recall that a few months ago I went to see the Dress for Excess Exhibit at the magical Brighton Royal Pavilion. This is the Chinoiserie filled and Orientally inspired seaside home of the Prince of Wales in Brighton and was the centre of the fashionable Regency world. Before we go inside to see the interiors and the clothes on display, I think it might be helpful to have a post on the Pavillion itself and its history. Today we shall look at the exteriors and the development of this most extraordinary building.

When Jane Austen published Pride and Prejudice in 1813, and had the wayward Lydia Bennet going quite wild in Brighton with all its attendant temptations, the Prince of Wales’ home there was at first a completely different, comparatively simple building than the one we know now. (Do remember all the images in this post can be enlarged, simply by clicking on them,and you can see all the delicious detail if you do…)

The building, at first, was merely a “very superior farmhouse” and consisted only of the building to the left of the illustration. In 1787 Henry Holland was commissioned to add the rotunda in the centre, which contained the Saloon, and then another extension, seen on the right,  to echo the original farmhouse. At this point it was known as the Marine Villa. The ground plan, above, shows what happened to it when it was enlarged in 1801-1802.

The exact point at which the Prince began to Orientalise the building is still a matter of debate, but it was probably after 1815. In any event John Nash, shown here, below,  painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence,

(©The Principal,Fellows and Scholars of Jesus College,Oxford)

gradually aggrandized the building and in 1821,  this, below, is how it appeared. You can see the ground plan of the pavilion, the dome shaped stable and riding school and the grounds, all  built along the Steyne in the centre of Brighton.

And here is a map of Brighton from 1823, showing the position of the pavilion:

built at right angles to the sea …

Here is the entrance front of the Pavilion as it appeared in the early 1820s

and this is the Steyne front, again in the early 1820s:

And now, having set the scene, for my photographs, taken on the darkest day in the spring!, but still….let’s look at them…

The magnificent entrance front…..

The pavilion is now painted a cream/stone colour,  but in my childhood in the 1960s it was painted a rather bright shade of aqua blue with the details picked out in white like a wedding cake…..

The onion domes are a feature of the building

and have been used on the later additions,such as this one on the gate leading  to the Steyne…

The outside of this fantastical palace gathers its inspiration from India: this is part of the entrance front, and you can clearly see the influence in the shape of the windows and their tracery….

The Stables and Riding school, can be seen from the entrance front….

and are set within the gardens that were designed by Humphrey Repton. The view back towards the Pavilion shows the jumble of domes and minarets…

Passing onto the Steyne front 

we see the magnificent, symmetrical facade with its jali screens,

dominated by the central onion dome over the saloon

This front is simply a tour de force…

and here is a short video showing you the whole of the facade

I do apologise for the traffic noise, but it was a very busy day in Brighton.

Next, the interiors and the costumes.

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