Monday, 1 April 2013

(3) Carlton House London - A Virtual Tour of the State Apartments on the Principal Floor

An enlargement of part of a watercolour of the
Circular Dining Room by Charles Wild, 1819.
The full image appears further down this page.
[Source : Wikipedia Commons]

This is a continuation of our fully guided 'virtual tour' of Carlton House, London. Should you not have read the earlier instalments in this series, please commence from HERE.

Should you reference this Blog elsewhere, please cite

Marked plans of each floor will show your location as you progress through each room.

Before we view the magnificent State Rooms, a point worth noting is that we might be quite considerably surprised at the brightness of the colours and of the flashy bright gilding found in most of the rooms we shall visit. We are accustomed to viewing faded fabrics, tapestries and carpets, and dull or worn gilding, all exhibiting a suitably old 'aura of age'. While we may think this is how they should appear we need to remember that Carlton House was relatively newly remodelled or furnished. We would thus be confronted by bright colours and dazzling gold gilding. The light from the large windows reflected off the gilding and highlighted the bright colours while the effect at night by candlelight from the sparkling chandeliers with their multitude of cut prisms created a wonderfully warm and convivial atmosphere. This is all exactly how it was designed to look.

WH Pyne, the English writer, illustrator and painter, and additionally Publisher of "Royal Residences" in 1819 which contained these engravings, considered the Carlton House Staterooms to be amongst the finest in Europe.

And even if you had visited before there was invariably always something new to see. The Prince was "...continually improving his collections, selling items, acquiring others, exchanging pictures that he no longer liked for ones he preferred, bringing out of store or down from the attics works which he had not yet displayed or deserved a reappraisal." [Hibbert]

Lady Sarah Spencer wistfully commented that, "He changes the furniture so very often, that one can scarcely find time to catch a glimpse at each transient arrangement before it is all turned out for some other."

So, to refresh our memory, we are now in the 'First Ante-Chamber' facing Carlton House Gardens.

Location of the First Ante-Chamber

In this room the visitor would either turn right to enter the State Apartments or left were they invited to enter the Prince's Private Apartments. We shall view the Prince's Private Apartments in a later blog in this series.

The First Ante-Chamber looking south
 towards Carlton House Gardens

So, turning to our right to tour the State Apartments, we enter the delightfully named 'Rose Satin Room', also known (for obvious reasons) as the Bow Room, through the far double doors on the right and next to the window. The 'Rose Satin Room' was also previously known as the Second Ante-Chamber or Presence Chamber.

Location of the Rose Satin Room

State Rooms were designed to impress and the Rose Satin Room is no exception. It immediately proclaimed, here was power, wealth and magnificence befitting a Royal personage. Proceeding through State Rooms one normally encountered more magnificent rooms than the last, or equally so, and leading to the ultimate Royal sanctum, the Throne Room.

The Rose Satin Room is "fitted up in the Chinese style" with some furnishings being transferred from the old Chinese Drawing Room on the Basement Floor in 1811. This included a delightful mantle clock in the Chinese style by Manière and dating from 1785. 

Chinese style Clock by
Charles-Guillaume Manière,
Paris, 1785
[The Royal Collection

The walls are covered with rose-coloured damask fringed with gold tassels, and gilt plaster mouldings. The chimney-piece is in the Chinese style. A large looking-glass hung above the chimney-piece reflects the light from the windows opposite.  The hangings and furniture are all English but many beautiful Chinese ornaments and valuable stones decorate the room.   

The Rose Satin Drawing Room, looking north.
A large looking- glass reflects the chandelier. 

In May 1817 the Prince Regent received the gift of a round table from King Kouis XVIII of France which he then placed in the bow of this room. At a later date it was recorded in the Bow Room on the Lower Floor. Being of exceedingly fine Sèvres porcelain manufacture, it included painted profiles of all the great heroes of antiquity with Alexander the Great in the centre. The whole table included rich gold mountings. Originally commissioned by the Emperor Napoleon in 1806, and reflecting the then popular French "Empire style", it had taken a whole six years to complete. So highly did George IV regard this gift that it became part of the ceremonial backdrop for all his subsequent state portraits. This table is still in the Royal Collection and would be considered irreplaceable and now quite priceless.

The Sèvres Table which was placed in the Rose Satin Room.
[Source : The Royal Collection]

The view from the bow window of the Rose Satin Room below afforded a delightful view of Carlton House Gardens from the 'Piano Nobile' (ie, upper level of the house). The large and glittering cut glass chandelier we can see has, since 1924, been located in the Guard Chamber of Buckingham Palace. When this engraving was made the above Sèvres table had obviously not yet arrived. 

The Rose Satin Drawing Room -
showing the "Bow" in the window. 

The Rose Satin Room contained, as at 1821, two three-quarter portraits of Henrietta Maria, Queen of King Charles I by Van Dyke; two large landscapes by Cuyp; three cabinet pictures by the same artist; A Hawking Scene by Van der Velde ["Brilliant in effect, and painted with a bold pencil"]; "The Manteau Bleu" by Metz; "Sportsmen Regaling" by Petter; "The Coup de Pistolet" by Wouvermans; "Children with a Guinea Pig and a Kitten" by Van der Werf ["An elaborate work, and a superior specimen of the master"]; "Interior of a Kitchen" by Mieris; "Cavaliers Preparing for Riding" by Cuyp; "Crossing the Brook" by Van de Velde; "The Terrified Boy" by Potter; an interior by Van Slingelandt; portrait of King George I. by Kneller; also one of King George II. by an unknown artist ["both very inferior pictures"]; "The Village Festival" [Peasants Dancing outside a Tavern] by Teniers [painted with great vigour, the grouping admirable, ... the figures are finely drawn and full of character]; "A Herdsman and Cattle" by Van der Velde; "The Hay Field" by Wouvermans [Wouwermans]; and several more cabinet pictures.

A Hawking Party Setting Out
by Van der Velde,
[The Royal Collection]

A Boy & Girl with a
Guinea-Pig & a Kitten
by Van der Werf,
[The Royal Collection]

Peasants Dancing outside a
Tavern by Teniers, c.1641
 [The Royal Collection]

And below we see a satirical cartoon of a dance at Carlton House dated 1825-26, being taken from the same angle in this room. This engraving gives us an impression of the crowds of guests that would attend functions at Carlton House. I fancy that the 'crush' alluded to may in fact have been very true to life - hence the cartoon.

Entitled "A Squeeze at Carlton Palace"
A Satirical Cartoon drawn by Bernard Blackmantle and
published by Sherwood, Jones & Co. in 1825-26
[Source : The Regency World of Author Lesley-Anne McLeod

We now enter the 'Old Throne Room' or Ante-Chamber to the Throne Room. 

Location of the Old Throne Room adjoining the Throne Room 

The 'Old Throne Room' (marked on this engraving as an "Ante-Chamber Leading to the Throne Room") was, according to our 1795 plan, indeed once used as the Throne Room, but was also confusingly called the State Room. As previously mentioned, rebuilding and expansion at Carlton House, together with the Prince's increased Royal duties under the Regency meant that many rooms changed their original purpose. The view below is looking south towards the windows facing Carlton House Gardens. 

The draperies are blue velvet, the walls being covered with the same but including gold Spitalfields lace and fringes. The matching blue fabric also appears on the gilded sofas and chairs. The carpet is a rich crimson colour, the centre of which is embellished with the Royal arms. 

This room includes a chimney-piece "decorated in the most superior style", being of white marble and ormolu, enriched with termini, sphinxes, foliated ornaments, and a bust of Minerva, all finely carved and of the most exquisite design. Beautiful ormolu vases have been placed on antique rosa marble pedestals, on each of which is the head of Medusa, with subjects on the body representing nymphs dancing around the altar of love.    

Large framed looking-glasses above the mantle-piece and pier glasses opposite reflect each other. Carved gilt panels above the doors represent the Orders of the Garter, Bath, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick. 

The Ante-Chamber

Paintings include full-length portraits of King George III in his coronation robes and a companion painting of the late Queen Charlotte by Ramsay [distinguished for their close resemblance to the originals, but are also marked by the cold elaborate style of the artist"]; and two "fine pictures similar in style" of His Majesty King George IV [then Prince of Wales] wearing his robes of the Order of the Garter by Hoppner [visible at far left on the above engraving]; and a companion painting of the Duke of York by Reynolds [visible at far right on the above engraving]. George in fact always delighted in having his portrait painted.    

King George III in
Coronation Robes
by Allan Ramsay,
[The Royal Collection]
Queen Charlotte in
Coronation Robes
by Allan Ramsay,
[The Royal Collection]

[The Then] Prince of
Wales wearing the
 Order of the Garter
by Hoppner, c.1796
[The Royal Collection]
Duke of York
by Reynolds, 1788
[The Royal Collection]

We now pass though to the new Throne Room, previously known as the' Great Drawing Room', being located on the south-west side of Carlton House but still fronting Carlton House Gardens.    

Location of the Throne Room 

The 'Throne Room' provided an impressive setting for the Prince Regent (later to be King George IV) to preside 'in majesty' over official ceremonies, to hold council, to grant audiences, to receive homage, to award high honours and offices, and to perform other ceremonial functions, simply the "ne plus ultra" [the ultimate] of splendour. Above the throne can be observed the 'Canopy of State'. The long table and chairs in this room would have been used by the Prince's Regency Council who met in this room. Overall, the decoration in the Throne Room at once "conveys the magnificence of Royalty". 

The Throne Room

The throne room is in fact the largest room on this floor and thus required structural support from below as we shall note later. Corinthian pilasters, all richly gilded, with an entablature of white and gold, decorate the walls. Initially used as the [main] 'Great Drawing Room' until 1811, George's Regency necessitated a new and enlarged Throne Room. The decoration is however reported to have stayed much the same, including the 'Moorfields' carpet. The wall hangings were however changed from blue to crimson velvet, including the upholstery on the chairs. One of two gilt-wood and red velvet Council chairs fitted with a cushion and gold coloured valance may be seen at the end of the table. The backs are in the style of a Roman Chariot with padded velvet armrests supported on the wings and heads of two carved sphinxes.

Front view of one of the two Council Chairs
purchased from Tatham & Co, 1812
[Source : The Royal Collection]

Placed in the arch over the fireplace is a fine mantle-clock by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, representing Apollo in ormolu leaning on a pedestal, holding a laurel crown and supported by a shield, with fame in the centre in bas-relief. 

Mantle-Clock by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, 1810
  [Source : The Royal Collection]

The draperies of crimson velvet are additionally fringed and ornamented with a Spitalfields gold lace fringe. The two chimney pieces in this room are late 18th century French, one being obscured behind the Canopy of State. Note the eight gilt-wood pedestals supporting gilt bronze candelabra which again were original to this room.

"The Ne Plus Ultra of Life in London - Kate, Sue, Tom, Jerry 
and Logic Viewing the Throne Room at Carlton House".
A hand-coloured aqua-tint published in "Life in London", 1821

The large carpet referred to above, being made by William Foskett and Thomas Moore Foskett (also known as Thomas Moore) at the Moorfields Carpet Manufactory in London, had been made in one piece to the Prince's own design in 1790 at a cost of £400. This carpet is characterised by "a mustard-coloured field, with a red and white zigzag border enclosing foliage, interrupted at corners and in the centre by medallions containing animals. The carpet has a crimson border, divided into four semi-circular lunettes." [The Royal Collection]

Weighing more than a ton it was, when new, an inch in thickness. Little wonder then that the Throne Room needed such support from below! All the carpets in Carlton House were of English manufacture as "The King will not suffer anything else to remain here, except presents."

A close-up of the Moorfields carpet of 1790
[The Royal Collection]

We now pass through to the west-facing Circular Dining Room.

Location of The Circular Dining Room

The Circular Dining Room may have been multi-use, being simply known in 1795 as the 'Music Room'. Built in the form of a rotunda and having four recesses, Ionic style pillars of scagliola in imitation of porphyry, and with silvered capitals, surround the room. One recess contains a large window, the only one in the room, also a recess for a sideboard, and two more contain doors. In the inter-columns between the recesses are two fireplaces and two pier tables of exactly the same style as the chimney pieces, all with large pier-glasses above. Placed in front of the looking-glasses are bronze Termini, with heads of Hercules. 

"Inserted in Arabesque style panelling  are also some beautiful candelabras of bronze, consisting of groups of genii nearing patarae [saucer-like vessels], surrounded by blossoms of the lotus as sockets for lights, and standing on pedestals of bronze and enriched with chasings of ox sculls and festoons of the vine. On the doors are beautiful designs, executed in arabesque and bronze on a silver ground, of the triumph of harvest and vintage. Above them are bassi relievi in imitation of sculpture, after designs from the Vatican." [C.M. Westmacott, 1824]  

An elegant and slender central hanging chandelier "of immense length" is suspended from a blue sky breaking through clouds giving the illusion of height. 

The Circular Dining Room

Another period observer also wrote that, "The Circular-Room... [has] a tent-like appearance, from the suspension of Roman drapery of light blue silk, with which the walls are in part covered. The ornaments are numerous; and the ceiling is painted to represent a sky. A very large glass chandelier is reflected in four pier-glasses opposite; added to which magical effect, the pier-glasses also reflect each other. The sensation it has upon the visitor is not to be described." [Pierce Egan, 1821] 

The reflective nature of the pier glasses were also described as giving the room the appearance of "endless continuity". With the circular, and presumably flat or slightly convex ceiling, and a reasonable amount of hard wall surface, including the looking-glasses, the acoustics for playing music in this delightful room must have been excellent. 

Behind the east wall (opposite the window) lay two service rooms, the 'Pages Room' and the 'Plate Room'. The Prince in fact held an exceedingly large and valuable collection of plate.

The Circular Dining Room as portrayed by Charles Wild
in a watercolour painting dated 1819. This image gives
 us a much more detailed view of the very
interesting wall decoration.
[Source : Wikipedia Commons]  

Our tour now progresses through to the opulent Crimson Drawing Room.

"A brilliant apartment, in which the most splendid materials of art are happily blended with the purest taste, a combination of elegance, that astonishes the eye, and excites the admiration of every beholder." [C.M. Westmacott, 1824]

Location of the Crimson Drawing Room

The Crimson Drawing Room was, according to our 1795 plan, formerly known as the 'Great Eating Room'. With a gilded plaster stucco ceiling, the windows and walls covered with an abundance of crimson draperies embellished with gold tasselled fringes (all supplied about 1810), elegant gilded furniture upholstered in matching crimson fabric, and an amazing cut glass chandelier which "cannot be equalled in Europe", along with two smaller corner chandeliers, the design of this room presents a most imposing sight. One period commentator observed in 1821 that this room was "...undoubtedly a proud trophy of the superiority of the manufactures of Great Britain."

"One of the most splendid apartments in the palace was the crimson drawing-room, in which the Princess Charlotte [The Prince Regent's only Daughter] was married, in 1816, to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg [the popular Princess Charlotte died in 1817 after a stillbirth]. This apartment was embellished with the most valuable pictures of the ancient and modern schools, bronzes, ormolu furniture, &c." ["Old & New London", 1878, Vol IV]

The Crimson Drawing Room
The carpet was apparently a light blue velvet pile 

The carpet is of a "light bluish" velvet, and included the crest and coronet of King George IV when Prince of Wales [ie, prior to 1811 when he became Prince Regent]. On the marble pier tables are placed bronze groups of the Laocoon and his sons, the Rape of Proserpine, as well as some splendid vases. 

Surprisingly, this room was also distinguished by a superb font of Rosa Antigua marble "with splendid chasings in ormolu", being a present from his Holiness the Pope. This was placed in a one of the window recesses. George had a good relationship with the Pope. Due to the excessive expense to the Papacy of having some statues in the Louvre returned to Rome which Napoleon had 'purloined', the Pope generously offered them to the Prince. But as the Prince Regent could not "...take advantage of the owner's necessity he offered to pay for their return to Rome himself." In gratitude George did in fact receive a number of casts of marbles from the Pope which he donated to the Royal Academy. 

Below is shown a handsome Mantle Clock by Claude Galle and made in 1809 which adorned a mantle-piece in the Crimson Drawing Room. It depicts the Horatii vowing mutual fidelity at the altar, previous to the conflict with the Curiatii; and the interference of the Sabine women between the Romans and their countrymen, upon the eve of a general battle. Adorning the opposite mantle-piece was a clock made by Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy in 1810 depicting Apollo in his chariot riding his four horses over the arc of heaven; one wheel of the chariot incorporates the clock mechanism.   

Mantle Clock
by Benjamin Vulliamy,
[The Royal Collection]
Mantle Clock
 by Claude Galle,
[The Royal Collection]

Paintings in this room included portraits of the Prince's early friends including the late Dr Markham, Archbishop of York and Tutor to the Prince by Hoppner and placed over the door; "Lord Erskine" by Reynolds; "Lord Thurlow" [then Lord Chancellor of England] by Lawrence; "The Marquis of Granby in Uniform , with his Charger" by Reynolds, ["A noble martial-looking composition, finely drawn, with great breadth of effect"]. Additionally adorning this room were "The Jewish Bride" by Rembrandt; and "St. George Interviewing the Princess after having killed the Dragon" by Rubens

The Marquis of Granby
by Reynolds,
[The Royal Collection]

St George speaking with the
by Rubens, 1635
[The Royal Collection]

We now enter the afore-mentioned small 'West Ante-Chamber' which exits into the First Hall or foyer.

Location of the West Ante-Chamber

The 'West Ante-Chamber' served as an attractive and imposing waiting room "for persons of distinction", being adorned with full-length Royal portraits. 

Most unfortunately, on the 8th June 1824, a fire destroyed this room, all the furniture, and some of the great paintings in it. But it would appear that Carlton House itself was only narrowly saved and we can be thankful that the fire, although serious, appears to have been confined to this one room. King George IV witnessed this event, having at that moment just arrived from Windsor. His reaction is not recorded but he would no doubt have been deeply shocked and particularly distressed by the loss of a number of then irreplaceable royal portraits. 

"Carlton House narrowly escaped destruction in 1824, for on the 8th of June a fire broke out in one of the sitting-rooms, which was entirely destroyed, and with it some of the valuable pictures. Three years after this the whole place was pulled down". ["Round about Piccadilly and Pall Mall" by H.B. Wheatley, 1870].

Our engraving from pre 1819 shows the view looking towards the doorway to the First Hall (where we originally entered Carlton House) and through the enfilade of doorways to the East Ante-Chamber.  

The West Ante-Chamber

Paintings displayed in this room included the Duke of Cumberland (Uncle of King George III) in his Garter robes; and Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland (Brother of King George III) in his garter robes; both being by Reynolds; the Duke of Orleans by Reynolds; the Duke of Clarence [later King William IV] in naval uniform by Hoppner; also King Louis XV [placed above the chimney piece] and inscribed "Louis le Bien Aime, 1760", but with "...all the frigid character and elaborate smoothness of the French school about it"; and lastly, above the doors next to the hall are three-quarter pictures in oval frames of King George II. and Queen Caroline but "...not superlatively great in style of execution".  

The paintings of the Duke of Orléans by Reynolds (as shown below) and of the Duke of Clarence [later King William IV] in his garter robes by John Hoppner survive but were very seriously damaged in the fire. While both paintings have been 'restored' on more than one occasion this has been of little benefit. The Royal Collection describe the latter as "... a wreck of what might once have been an imposing full-length portrait". Other paintings destroyed are recorded as being the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds. While two newspaper reports record the seat of the fire as being the "Blue Room", the Royal Collection gives the location as "the west-ante-room" and knowing that the painting by Reynolds [below] hung in the latter room I believe their own records would be correct. The actual cause of the fire is not recorded nor can I confirm if the room was fully restored thereafter.

If anyone can provide further information concerning this fire, such as a period newspaper report, I would be delighted to hear from you so that I can update this Blog.  

The fire damaged painting of the
Duke of Orléans by Reynolds,
[The Royal Collection]

Walking through the doorway pictured above we now arrive back in the 'First Hall' or foyer.  

Location of the 'First Hall' or Foyer.

The next Blog in this series, being a virtual tour of the Prince's Private Apartments, may be viewed HERE.

Comments or corrections of any unintentional errors are appreciated however please cite your source.

Should you reference this Blog elsewhere, please cite

Bibliography :

- Unless otherwise stated all images are from Wikipedia Commons and are in the Public Domain.
- Please refer to the first instalment in this series for the full bibliography.

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