Monday, 15 July 2013

The Royal Residences of Queen Victoria - The Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh,
a chromo-lithograph from 1897
[From my own collection]

During Queen Victoria's long reign she made use a number of royal residences, including Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace in London,  Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. This series takes a look at the interiors of these royal residences during the reign of Queen Victoria. This is the last of this series, being of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse in 1880,
taken by George Washington Wilson
[Source : Edinburgh City Library]

There are unfortunately few period images available of the interiors of the ancient Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, particularly in photographic form. We do know that Queen Victoria commissioned GM Greig to paint a series of watercolours of the redecorated rooms at Holyrood after Prince Albert's death in 1861. Only two of these, being of the Evening Drawing Room and Mary, Queen of Scots bedchamber, appear to be available and are reproduced here. We are therefore primarily left with a number of sometimes grainy engravings however these will at least give an impression of the old Palace in Queen Victoria's day.

A watercolour of Queen Victoria in the
Evening Drawing Room at Holyrood Palace.
From a water colour by GM Greig, post 1861. 

Hay used imitation damask for the walls of the 'Evening Drawing Room' and a special mixture of paint and turpentine for the ceilings. The latter gave a fresco-like appearance and imparted an "aerial lightness" to the scheme. This type of decoration is however incredibly fragile but vanishes like chalk at the touch. None survive at Holyrood and only ghostly examples survive elsewhere. Queen Mary disliked David Hay's rather sombre colour schemes and had the Holyrood ceilings whitewashed.

The Evening Drawing Room, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinburgh, Vol III]

Due to the unfit state of the old palace King George IV had been unable to stay here during his one and only visit to Scotland in 1822. A levée did however take place here. After viewing and appreciating the historic rooms of Mary, Queen of Scots, King George IV decreed that these rooms should be protected from any future changes. These historic apartments, located in the north-west tower, were formally opened to the public in 1854.

The Morning Drawing Room, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinburgh, Vol III]

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first stayed in the Palace of Holyrood in 1850. Thereafter, apartments which had been taken up by various nobles were slowly repossessed. The Scottish interior designer David Hay undertook much of the the subsequent refurbishment work. Queen Victoria was then able to take up a second floor apartment in 1871.  

Queen Victoria's Private Apartment, 1850
This room is known as "The King's Closet"
[Source : The Illustrated London News, 1850]

It was not until the 1920's that the palace was formally designated as the Monarch's official residence in Scotland, becoming the venue for regular royal ceremonies and events. The Palace of Holyroodhouse remains the property of the Crown.

The Royal Review of Scottish Volunteers with
 Queen Victoria seated in her Carriage, 1881
[Source : "The Graphic" 3 Sept 1881]

The Breakfast parlour, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinburgh, Vol III]

The Throne Room, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinbugh, Vol III]

The former 'Guard Hall' was transformed into a Throne Room for the visit of King George IV in 1822. This room was subsequently redecorated in the 1920's, including it would appear, the addition of a new moulded plaster ceiling.

The Grand Staircase, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinburgh, Vol III]

In preparation for the arrival of his bride, the English Margaret Tudor in 1503, King James IV had purchased sets of tapestries including a set of six verdure tapestries for hanging on the stairs, each costing £3. Any remaining tapestries in the Palace that had not been sent to Stirling Castle would have been seized by Commonwealth troops between 1650 and in 1656 when a record exists of four tapestries being transferred to Whitehall. Large tapestries again decorate the above plain walls.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, South-East View, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinburgh, Vol III]

A view of the south side of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
This is believed to be an Edwardian era image but the view
would be virtually unchanged from earlier times.

The Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots

A tinted lithograph of Mary, Queen of Scots Bedchamber,
by SD Swarbreck, 1838
[Source : Wikipedia Commons]

Mary, Queen of Scots Bedroom, 1850
[Source : The Illustrated London News, 1850]

A tinted lithograph of Mary, Queen of Scots Bedchamber,
by RW Billings, 1852
[Source : Wikipedia Commons]

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visiting
Mary, Queen of Scots Bedchamber, 1850.
After George M. Greig, 1862
[Source : The Royal Collection]

This watercolour shows Queen Victoria and Prince Albert viewing the apartment in 1850. This is one of the series of watercolours commissioned by Queen Victoria after Prince Albert's death as a reminder of the happy times spent with him in Scotland.

Mary, Queen of Scots Bedchamber at
Holyrood Palace, as viewed in 1885
[Source : ScotlandsPlaces]

Another pre 1900 view of Mary, Queen of Scots Bedchamber
[Source :]

Mary, Queen of Scots Bedroom, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinburgh, Vol III]

Subsequent restoration work has fortunately - or unfortunately - removed the rather neglected Victorian era aura of age and general decay which pervaded this room. Restoration commenced as early as the reign of King Edward VII when tatty furniture coverings were restored then later the bed coverings. Relatively recent conservation and restoration has included the removal of historically inaccurate furniture which had been more of a misguided re-interpretation of what might have been in this room during Queen Mary's reign. The bed is however historically authentic, dating from at least 1684. Based on modern research, the room now presents a fresher appearance and portrays a more accurate representation of how it may have appeared during the Queen's occupation. Unfortunately this room no longer gives the curious impression of having being closed up after Queen Mary departed in 1567 and re-opened to curious eyes 283 years later.

Mary, Queen of Scots Supper Room, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinbugh, Vol III]

Lord Darnley's Room, 1900
[Source : Old and New Edinburgh Vol III]

The Palace of Holyroodhouse
by SD Swarbreck, 1838
[Source : Wikipedia Commons] 

Bibliography :

- "Life of Queen Victoria", T Nelson & Sons, London, 1897 (from my personal collection).
- Various written and Internet sources.
- Images are only from my own personal collection only where specifically indicated. These may be freely copied providing a link is given back to this page. All other images appear to be in the public domain.

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