Wednesday, 10 April 2013

(4) Carlton House London - A Virtual Tour of the Prince's Private Apartments on the Principal Floor.

A corner of the Blue Velvet Room

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.

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

To refresh our memory, we are again in the 'First Hall' or Foyer where we originally entered 'Carlton House'.

Location of the 'First Hall' or Foyer.

To now tour the Prince's Private Apartments, we must retrace our steps through the 'Great Hall', and the 'Octagon' room back to the 'First Ante Chamber' on the south range.

Retracing our steps from the First Hall to the First Ante-Chamber

The previously viewed engraving below reminds us of the view after we again exit the 'Octagon'. But instead of turning right into the State Apartments as we did previously we shall now turn left and walk through the invitingly open door to our left next to the window to view two of the enfilade of rooms on the south range of the Principal Floor which make up the Prince's Private Apartments.

The First Ante-Chamber looking south
towards Carlton House Gardens

Our first room is the 'Blue Velvet Room' or 'King's Closet' :

Location of the Blue Velvet Room

The aptly named Blue Velvet Room was used by the Prince as his Private Audience Chamber, but was also known as 'His Royal Highnesses's Personal Drawing Room', a room of more modest proportions but definitely not lacking in grandeur as befitted the Prince. Here he could either conduct the business of state, meeting the Prime Minister or other Ministers, meet with his personal advisers and friends, and conduct personal business. Based on our earlier 1795 plan, this room was created by Holland from a dressing room and a bedroom. 

The Blue Velvet Room

The decoration in this room comprises of a ceiling painted in imitation of a sky, while at the corners are representations of British naval and military triumphs. A rather large glass chandelier is suspended from the ceiling, no doubt very well anchored from above! The panels on the walls are dark blue velvet with gilt plaster and wood mouldings. Upholstery on the state chairs and sofas are of fleur-de-lis patterned light blue satin silk with a patterned blue carpet. The white marble chimney piece is by Benjamin Vulliamy, being of French manufacture, while hung in this room are some of George IV's most important Dutch paintings. Also placed against the walls between the windows are two handsome matching Boulle cabinets. The Prince's superb marquetry mahogany desk by Thomas Parker and dating from 1814 is set up in the centre of the room [One record states that the desk was by Tatham and later donated by King William IV to the 2nd Marquess Conyngham]. Numerous pier glasses reflect the sumptuous furnishings and Old Master paintings creating the most magnificent impression. 

A Magnificent Sèvres Pot-Pouri Vase which
may be seen on the cabinet by the window,
 purchased c.1812
[Source : The Royal Collection]

Old Master paintings include "The Shipwright of Antwerp" by Rembrandt; "A Boat Piece" [or 'The Passage Boat'] by Cuyp ["a pleasing picture; but without the usual glow and sparkling effect of this artist"]; "The Marriage of St. Katherine" by Van Dyke and purchased after 1818; "The Baptism of the Eunuch by [St.] Philip" by Both; and "Christ Restoring the Paralytic" by Van Dyke.    

"The Passage Boat" by Cuyp, c.1650
[Source : The Royal Collection]

We now enter the last room of this short tour of the Private Apartments, being the Prince's 'Blue Velvet Salon' or Closet, literally meaning 'a small private chamber'. 

Location of the Blue Velvet Closet

This room acts as a "corresponding appendage" to the Blue Velvet Room, being similarly furnished and decorated. 

Admittance to the Blue Velvet Closet, being a room for the Prince's personal and private use, and which directly adjoined the Prince's Bedchamber, would normally have been a privilege enjoyed only by close family and friends. 

The Blue Velvet Closet

A superb glass chandelier is suspended from the ceiling and the room is also decorated with equally attractive paintings as with the previous room. 

One of the pair of Boulle Medal Cabinets
which may be seen in the above engraving, c.1735-40
 [Source : The Royal Collection]

Paintings include "A Party Returning from Hawking" by Wouvermans; "A Camp Scene" by Cuyp; "View of a Town in Flanders" by Van der Heyden; "The Haunted Cellar" by Maas; "An Interior" by Metzell; "A View of Holland" by Van der Heyden; a Landscape by Ruysdael on the east side of the room ["painted with all the accustomed crispness of touch which distinguishes this great artist"]; and lastly a cabinet picture with portraits of King Charles I, his Queen, and the Infant prince, afterwards King Charles II by Mytens [Mijtens].  

"King Charles I"
by Mytens,
[The Royal Collection]
"Evening Landscape -
a Windmill by a Stream"
by Ruysdael, c.1650
[The Royal Collection]

The Prince Regent owned two pairs of the round ebony or Boulle-inlaid or 'loo' games-tables as shown in the engraving above, another table with subtle differences appearing in a view of the 'Corinthian Dining Room' which we are yet to visit. The first pair were supplied by Thomas Parker of Piccadilly London and delivered in 1814 while the second pair were delivered in 1817. Unfortunately only one pair of these tables are still in Royal ownership, now being in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.

A Round Boulle Table, c.1817
This is believed to be one of a pair of identical tables supplied by
Thomas Parker of London which has left the Royal collection.
[Source : Apter-Fredericks]

Unfortunately, while we have no known images of that most personal of sanctums, the Prince's Personal 'Bedchamber', the historic doors which hung between the Blue Velvet Closet and the Prince's Bedchamber do survive. This amazing discovery will be discussed in greater detail in my final blog in this series.  

The double doors in the foreground (only one
side shown) are now known to have been the
entrance doors to the [pre 1814] Prince
Regent's Bedchamber at Carlton House.
The rear door also came from Carlton House.
[Used with kind permission of Patrick Baty

The historian Hibbert amusingly writes that some favoured individuals were afforded the great privilege of visiting the Prince in his personal Bedchamber : 

"...his friends visited him of a morning as he lay in his bed rolling about from side to side in a state approaching to nudity".   

Once the necessary formalities were dispensed with the Prince could apparently be quite relaxed with his close friends, but only in private company. As long as he was initially treated with the respect he felt he deserved he would then indicate that the strict rules of Royal protocol could be relaxed. But one would of course never be over familiar with the Prince unless he were to indicate that such familiarity were to be acceptable to him.     

The plan below, and dated 1795, indicates the position of the Bedchamber until rebuilding work took place around 1814-1815. The light red rooms are (anti-clockwise from top), the Prince's en-suite  'Boudoir' and 'Toilette' with an ante-chamber separating off a corridor below leading to wardrobes, a room for an Attendant, and what appear to be other storage rooms. Prior to 1814 the corridor led directly to a Library at the north east corner of the house.

Location of the Prince's Bedchamber and
ancillary rooms prior to 1813 

The plan I have used of the principal floor is dated 1795 and at this time George's bedchamber adjoined the 'Blue Velvet Closet' as above, together with his 'Boudoir' and 'Toilette'. On a floor plan dated 1813 the Architect John Nash has extended the old bedchamber ever so slightly, also with the addition of a circular staircase at the north-east corner. This would give access to Nash's new 'Corinthian Room' below. All evidence of the adjoining 'Boudoir' and 'Toilette' have been removed and this area is now clearly marked "Temporary Room". The afore-mentioned corridor and wardrobes were also blocked off to create another staircase and unspecified rooms behind, now being included as part of the service area of the house.  

A Handsome Louis XVI style Mantle Clock by
Renacle-Nicolas Sotiau which graced the
Prince Regent's Bedchamber, circa 1782-91
  [Source : The Royal Collection]

In his work "Charlotte and Leopold" published in 2007, the historian James Chalmers states that when his daughter Charlotte was eight, which would have been 1804, the Prince decided that he wanted Carlton House to himself. As his wife Caroline had left around 1796, their daughter Charlotte must have been occupying the Queen's old suite of rooms. Charlotte was then moved, together with her household, to the adjacent Montague House. Did the Prince then move into Charlotte's quarters?

Another reference I have uncovered states that in 1814 the Prince "...took possession of the Duke of Cumberland's apartments at St James's Palace... previous to the commencement of [further] grand alterations at Carlton House." [Hibbert] 

Yet another publication, "Travels on the Continent and in England" by Dr AH Niemeyer and published in 1823 states, "The Armoury fills four rooms on the second story [on the eastern side of the house], near where the Prince himself resides." This also confirms that the Prince had his bedchamber upstairs. It would stand to reason that the Prince Regent would still have placed his bedchamber and adjoining rooms on the sunny south or south-east side facing Carlton House Gardens and thus away from the traffic noise of Pall Mall on the north side.

But regardless of where the Prince Regent's 'Bed Chamber' finally ended up once final rebuilding was completed in 1815, we can at least gain an impression of this private room. Fortuitously, the Prince's ornate four-poster tester bed, surmounted by a gilded crown, survives and may now be viewed in the State Apartments of Windsor Castle.  Although remodelled in 1855 (by what extent I have been unable to establish), the image below may give an impression of its splendour within a suitably authentic period setting. I am strongly assuming the canopy is original. 

King George IV's Bed in the King's Bed Chamber at Windsor Castle. 
[Source : 'The Anglophile']

Attributed to Georges Jacob and dating from around the 1780's, we know that the bed was re-upholstered in blue embroidered satin in 1810 with a matching blue curtain, coming to Windsor Castle in that state in 1827. Alterations to the bed took place for the visit of the Emperor Napoleon III of France in 1855, including the addition of his personal monogram on the embroidered bed end.

A Mahogany Bookcase with inlaid ebony, gilt bronze
decoration, and marble top and middle shelf, supplied for
the Prince Regent's Bedchamber in 1806
[Source : The Royal Collection]

We must now retrace our steps back to the 'First Ante-Chamber' and through to the 'Octagon' Room which we have already now passed through twice. 

Retracing our steps back to the 'Octagon' Room

The next Blog in this series, which includes a 'Virtual Tour' of the 'Great Staircase' and the unexpectedly surprising 'Upper Apartments' may be viewed HERE. We shall also meet "The Tiger of Mysore", Sultan Tipu!

Should you reference this Blog elsewhere, please cite

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

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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