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Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Brimstone Butterfly’s Hampton Court: The Tudor Musicians.




As it was such a hot day on Sunday I decided to wend my way to my summer palace at Hampton Court. Henry VIII and Katherine Howard were in residence. I have to say they both looked remarkably different from how they appeared in January 2011. It was almost as if they were two different people. I suppose that is what marriage can do to you.



I unexpectedly came across the royal couple as they descended the stone steps from the Great Hall to make their way across to the wine fountain in Clock Court. I was not sure as to the exact size of their entourage which seemed at first, apart from the two musicians, to consist of a solitary lady-in-waiting. Later I espied the court chamberlain. More of the court is in attendance on the king during high holidays such as during the New Year festivities and Christmas. I did not have the chance to address them personally but I was able to establish from the lady-in-waiting which of his many queens was now at Henry’s side

For some reason the wine fountain has been moved from Base Court to Clock Court which seems more than a little bizarre. An archaeological dig in the courtyard, prior to the recent laying of the white cobblestones, had unearthed the lead pipes and brick foundations of Cardinal Wolsey’s original fountain underneath Base Court.



Left behind in Base Court and in homage to the painting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the original of which can be found within the palace and  upon which the modern day replica of a wine fountain is based, there is a wooden effigy of a Tudor courtier, who has been clearly overdoing the carousing. The same painting has inspired the statue of a seated woman holding out a flagon of wine on the steps of the wine fountain. Out of view of the camera, the lady in the straw hat is holding out a Tudor goblet and asking passers-by if they could spare a groat so she can buy herself a pint of mead.

Although I only popped in to Hampton Court to while away an hour or so, I ended up with a great deal of images, including some taken within the Stuart and Georgian rooms. I shall return to the subject of these rooms anon. In this post I shall concentrate on the three musicians who played Tudor music under the hammer beamed roof of Henry’s magnificent Great Hall.



Between pieces, I commiserated with the musicians for having to wear clothes designed more for a draughty Tudor castle in winter than a blazingly hot summer’s day. But they looked and sounded the part and they remained cheerful despite any personal discomfort. It seems they are not part of a regular trio or quartet (another musician with a lute later joined them) but they do know one another from previous performances. They asked if I was a fellow musician. I decided that playing a concert-level grand piano on BBC television did not quite make me a professional musician. Nonetheless, I said I had played the recorder at school, both the descant and the larger alto. (The thought has just struck me: what on earth happened to my two recorders?)  I was unable to ascertain the musicians’ own names as I did not want to monopolise their time.


I do not know whether or not Henry VIII employed women as musicians, although some of his wives and both his daughters were highly accomplished in music. However I do know he employed one John Blanke, who is described in the official documents of the time (now held at the National Archive) as being “the blacke trumpeter.” John had originally been in the service of Henry’s father, King Henry VII. When the old king died John became part of the household of the young King Henry. The records for 8th November (a day forever celebrated as the birthday of both the Brimstone Butterfly and Mandip) tell us that John was paid the princely sum of 20 shillings a month for his troubles. He would also have received his board and lodgings and the king’s livery to wear. He must have been very gifted  because Henry regarded himself as a superb musician and composer in his own right and would have insisted on surrounding himself with the finest musicians in Europe. I like to imagine John as being not that much older than Henry. If that were the case he too might well have performed in the Great Hall at Hampton Court.
 We know little more about John Blanke. But thanks to his distinctive appearance, he alone of his fellow trumpeters can be clearly identified on the Westminster Tournament Roll dating from 1511. Early in that year, ecstatic at the birth of a son by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, the delighted Henry commanded an extravagant two day long tournament to be held. Such momentous celebrations needed to be recorded for posterity. Hence the 60 feet long Westminster Tournament Roll of 1511. John is shown, along with his fellow trumpeters, mounted on horseback.  In fact there are two images of the trumpeters showing them both arriving at and departing from the Tournament. Had Henry’s baby son, also called Henry, lived into adulthood the whole course of English history would have been changed forever. King Henry would not have needed to divorce his son’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, in order to sire an heir by Anne Boleyn. Nor would he have broken with the Church of Rome. But the younger Henry died within a matter of weeks of the glorious courtly ceremonies held in his name.  
Phillip the Handsome

Self portrait by Albrecht Dürer
The modern musicians did have time to tell me that the music on my second video is by one Alexander Agricola, who had been a court composer to the Castilian king, Phillip the Handsome. Such a singular epithet piqued my curiosity. The Hapsburgs were notorious for inbreeding, insanity and a distinctly over large jaw. As a consequence, I suspect any relatively lucid monarch who was fairly easy on the eye would pass for handsome. Lest anyone claim ideals of pulchritude vary over time, Phillip the Handsome’s looks are put firmly in the shade by his contemporary, the great German artist Albrecht Durer.
At one point the Tudor musicians’ playing was marred by a 21st century brat complaining about the volume on his headphones. He was quickly hushed by his mortified parent. Even the errant child failed to damped the high spirits of the musicians, one of whom could not help giggling as she realised they had all come slightly adrift at the very end of the movement. I wonder how John Blanke would have responded to the child’s interruption. Perhaps he would simply have got up on his high horse and blown his own trumpet.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Love is like a butterfly


I spent a good part of Tuesday afternoon cleaning the communal rubbish area. It was a far from salubrious task. The split rubbish bags, which had become sodden with rain water had to be drained and placed into new bin liners and heaped up on the lawn to be collected the following day by the Council’s contractors. The heavy bins had to be drained of the fetid and foul smelling contents lurking at the bottom and then washed out. I placed the recycling in the special containers as opposed to around it. Such is the glamorous fun-filled private life of the Brimstone Butterfly.

During my stint as a manual labourer I struck up a conversation with a new neighbour and ended up inviting her around for supper. I had defrosted a Gresham duck as the Filmmaker had originally planned to come around for lunch on Monday but had taken ill. The little indie film we had made a few months ago is doing rather well and has appeared at a number of art house venues abroad and in the UK. Sadly we missed the opportunity to go along to a viewing in the UK as the screening date was brought forward at the last moment. The duck I proposed serving my neighbour was not the star of our film. That had been a lone duck breast fillet, which I had covered in honey and fresh rosemary and fried after filming was complete. The late Elizabeth Taylor demanded diamonds from off her film producers. I demand duck meat. My recipe of yesterday called for the duck to be roasted for almost 2 hours before being smeared in a mixture of 1 tablespoon Seville orange marmalade and 2 tablespoons of Cointreau for a further 15 minutes. I then made gravy from the strained cooking juices and a stock I had made the previous day from the giblets. I served the duck with watercress and boiled new potatoes. I was relieved when my neighbour arrived on my doorstep clutching a bottle of Pinot Grigio as it had occurred to me that she might be averse to all alcohol.

I can’t say I was too keen on how the duck had turned out. I should not have added corn flour to the gravy to thicken it and the duck itself was a tad too fatty for my tastes. I have had far greater success in the past with Barbary Duck. I remember once serving a roast Barbary Duck Morello cherries. At the end of the meal the guests literally tore the carcass to pieces to get at the remaining flesh. It was both flattering and somewhat alarming. Still, my neighbour seemed to enjoy her duck and asked if she could take some home with her.

The puddings were a great success. I offered her a choice of either my Chocolate and Vanilla semifreddo I had made using a recipe by Angela Harnett or my baked apricot cheesecake, immortalised by the Filmmaker. She chose to sample both and asked me if I would make a semi freddo for her young sons when they next came over for a visit.  As the semifreddo contains generous tablespoons of Cointreau (my motto for any recipe calling for alcohol is to double the quantity specified) I was suitably impressed that she considers their young palates mature enough to appreciate the relatively sophisticated taste of the frozen dessert.

Between courses I gave her a copy of my Guardian newspaper article to read and then played back the segment of the live BBC Radio 4 podcast I had taken part in. (35 minutes in). It gave her an added frisson to be in the precise location of the calamity as she read the article and then listened to the studio recording. I had never had the chance to talk to her about the arson attack before so it all came as a shock to her and she gasped at certain points in the telling of the story.     

The more we talked the more it seemed we had a great deal in common, eerily so when we discovered we both suffered from the same medical condition. Like me, she has a great love of history and to my surprise was extremely well versed in 20th century Finnish history. Most non-Finns I encounter have very little knowledge of Finland let alone its turbulent past. My neighbour and I are also both enduring a very turbulent present. I seem to be engaged in a number of battles of attrition with little prospect of emerging victorious. My neighbour is more sanguine. In many ways her troubles overshadow mine but her fierce love for her children gives her the resilience to soldier on.      

On a more frivolous level we enjoy vintage clothes. She particularly admired my 1950s Miami playsuit with the hieroglyphic print and boned bodice. I said if it fitted it she could keep it as a present. She insists on paying for it so I said I would find the receipt. It is beautiful but my embonpoint is somewhat too generous for me to be able to fit into it. She also admired my 1920s black and white silk shawl and 19th century wedding kimono. These have already been earmarked as bequests in my will. My silk and brocade steel boned corsets made my neighbour determined to buy her own. But it was my collection of vintage hats that provided the greatest surprise. As I raised the lid of my large Victorian hat box a lemon coloured butterfly flew out. We were both momentarily stunned. The lemon colour made me fancy for an instant that a real brimstone butterfly had found its way in to the Brimstone Butterfly’s London mansion. Then it struck me that the butterfly was more likely to have been a Cabbage White than a Brimstone Butterfly. They both come from the same Pieridae butterfly family leading to the momentary confusion. After I had let the butterfly out the window we returned to the millinery. My neighbour declared that she just did not suit hats. She soon changed her mind once she had tried on a few of mine. I was impressed that she immediately thought of Anne Boleyn when she tried on my 1950s bumper style hat.

My neighbour was also much taken with my framed photograph on a side table of the Cad of Kensington Gardens. She thought him extremely handsome and added that he looked a bit of a rogue. Both sentiments were indubitably true. She wondered why I still kept his portrait on display. Now that I am no longer the Marquise de Merteuil to his Vicomte de Valmont, I can appreciate his masculine beauty for its own sake, even though he was far from being “a joy forever.”  Continuing the theme of the John Keats’ poem: 

“Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits”.

It would take a veritable Pantheon of handsome men to lift the pall from my dark spirits at present.  It seems my neighbour has been asked by friends how she could bear to return to Wimbledon, the scene of so much personal heartbreak for her. They fail to realise that it is also the scene of some extremely joyous memories for her too.  Thus, it is with the photograph. Despite how it ended, the memory of that  tumultuous time will remain with the Brimstone Butterfly until she takes her final flight to oblivion.  

Monday, 20 June 2011

The stately ghosts of England: Part Two.

The Ghost of the Brimstone Butterfly
One of my earliest posts was on the ghosts said to inhabit the stately homes of England. That was back in October 2009 and I promised a follow-up. This is it.
A number of years ago the Aviatrix and I went on a ghost tour of Ham House. It was as fascinating to see Ham House at night as it was to hear about the various ghosts believed to haunt the place. The hall seemed oddly smaller and more intimate with the shutters closed and the lights dimmed. We placed our bags and coats on chairs and began the tour. I was a little disappointed. The publicity material said it would be by torchlight, leading me to entertain the fanciful notion that we would be conducted around the house by the light of a blazing torch. Not surprisingly, the torch was powered by batteries and did not require being dipped in pitch and set alight to work.

I recall that the first stop on our tour was the grand staircase built by William Murray in the late 1630s. But it is not his ghost but that of his daughter, whose laboured footsteps and the tap of her walking stick can be heard making their way down from her apartments on the upper floor to the chapel below. The body of her beloved second husband, the Duke, had laid in state here for a number of days before being buried. It seems the shade of the Duchess of Lauderdale is as imperious in death as she was in life and is not above giving a good shove to anyone impertinent enough to get in her way. The guide said he had once sensed someone shoving him in the small of his back as he stood on the third tread by the Museum Room. Given that he had been rather rude about the Duchess in his talk, I cannot say I am surprised that she might have taken umbrage. Some people claim they can smell the scent of roses, her favourite perfume, in her bedchamber. If the air was heady with the aroma of roses on the night I went to Ham House, it was probably because I had drenched myself in Penhaligon’s Elizabethan Rose eau de toilette. The lingering aroma of tobacco in the Marble Dining Room has been sufficiently pronounced to draw complains from fire officers carrying out annual inspections.Yet no-one has smoked in the chamber for decades, although the first Duke of Lauderdale was known to be partial to the odd pipe or two with his chums after dinner.
The Dairy at Ham House
There are also spectral King Charles Cavalier dogs at Ham House. Let us hope they don’t leave behind spectral doggy mess as well. The 20th century has contributed its own ghostly legends. In the Stewards’ Hall can be found the wheelchair of William Tollemache, the 9th Earl of Dysart who died in 1935. He used to be wheeled around in it by his valet George Horwood. Apparently, this wheelchair seems to be able to move across the room by itself. The sound of a wheelchair has also been heard making its way from the back of the house to the dairy. The childless 9th Earl used to enjoy taking Christmas presents across to the family who lived there. His ghost now re-enacts that act of generosity, complete with a sharp rap on the dairy door to announce his presence and presents.

Other ghosts wafting around the outside of the house include the heartbroken servant girl mourning the death of her lover, who threw himself from the uppermost storey of the South façade onto the gravel below in a fit of despair.

The most poignant of the Ham House ghosts must be that of Lieutenant John Eadred Tollemache. During the First World War, a gardener at Ham House rushed indoors to tell the others that he had just seen the man in question in the Cherry Gardens, looking wistfully up at the house. The gardener was surprised to see John Tollemache because he had not been expected home on leave. It later transpired that Tollemache could not possibly have been in the Cherry Gardens. On that very day, 21st August 1916, he was killed in France whilst leading his troops in the Battle of the Somme. He was just 24 years of age.
Eastbury Manor House

 
I was told by staff at Eastbury Manor House that they had never witnessed any spooky happenings. That does not stop ghost hunters from hiring the place and solemnly claiming later that they had found evidence to the contrary, particularly in the turret containing the Tudor oak spiral staircase. Many modern ghost hunters accord a great significance to orbs on photographs, which are supposedly intimations of a ghostly presence.  If that is the case some of my photos are choc-a-bloc with them, especially those taken at Hampton Court.

Light anomalies appear in one of my photographs of the Stuart Room at Trinity College of Music at the Old Royal Naval College. However, it is the principal concert room across the way that witnessed an apparition. In recent years, a member of staff came across a stranger warming himself by the fireplace. When challenged, the stranger simply vanished through a set of locked doors at the end of the chamber. Nearby academic staff had rushed to their colleague’s aid upon hearing the commotion. They were all disconcerted to discover that the fireplace was still warm to the touch despite the fact that an open fire had never been lit in the grate for as long as Trinity College had occupied the building.

I witnessed the ghost of Kenwood House which had a penchant for slamming the door shut in the Suffolk Gallery. Unfortunately, the latter rooms are rarely if ever open these days as they lack the staff to man them. Thus, I have been unable to determine whether the ghost is still up to its old tricks.

Sutton House's “blue lady” is thought to be the shade of an eighteenth century owner, the Huguenot Mary Tooke. Apparently she does not take kindly to the menfolk. One unfortunate member of staff, who had livings quarters at the top of the house, awoke one night to find her glaring balefully down at him.

Sutton House might have a ghost in a fetching shade of blue but the Old Palace Croydon boasts its own green lady. This apparition, not thought to be related to either the Incredible Hulk or the Jolly Green Giant, haunts the passageway leading to the ancient chapel, which was restored in the 17th century. The passageway contains a small wooden staircase. Having already heard of the ghost I asked my schoolgirl guides if they could elaborate on the story further. They said a woman was supposed to have deliberately thrown her baby down the stairs to kill it. Thus, it was her remorseful ghost that had inspired the legend. But they added that they were not sure whether there was any truth in the story or whether it was simply been a way of scaring impressionable juniors.


A rather odd thing happened to me as I stood on my own in the reportedly haunted 17th century Long Gallery at Charlton House. I challenged the legendary ghosts to show themselves as I panned my camera around the room. Nothing appeared on screen but coincidentally, or otherwise, my mobile phone suddenly went on the blink despite having worked perfectly well when I had first entered the house. I was unable to switch it on again until I had returned home a good few hours later. The ghost of one 18th century owner, Sir William Langhorne, forlornly wanders the ground, doomed for eternity to seek out the woman with whom he could sire a living heir. Sir William’s chief claim to fame today is that he married a 17 year old girl when he was 84, making him the Hugh Hefner of the 18th century. Unlike  Hugh Hefner, Sir William was not jilted by his young bride but he had the good grace to render her a widow  within a few months of their wedding, whereupon she  promptly married a much younger man.

The power of suggestion can of course play its part in ghost sightings. I was convinced I had heard the voice of a Catholic martyr in the Cradle Tower, within the walls of the Tower of London. There was no-one else present yet I could clearly hear a man’s voice reciting the Lord Prayer’s in Latin. On my return to the Cradle Tower several months later, I realised that I had indeed heard a man’s voice, but it was that of a modern actor played back on a loop.

At Kensington Palace I was once mistaken for a ghost myself. I had been standing in a small closet when the door suddenly opened and a woman stepped into the room. She gave a small gasp of shock when she saw me. She later admitted that she had taken me for a ghost on account of my elaborate straw hat. I was rather tickled at the thought of being mistaken for the shade of a long dead courtier.
Caroline of Brandenburg Ansbach
Not surprisingly Hampton Court has more than its fair share of ghosts. When the Palace ran a special exhibition on grace and favour apartments and former residents, the Eagle and I made our way to the top of the building above the Queen’s apartments. The guide on duty was pleased to see us as not many people were prepared to venture up so many flights of stairs. As a consequence, we engaged in a lengthy conversation with her. Out of the blue she revealed a strange phenomenon she had bore witness to in the Georgian Rooms. It had only been a few days earlier when a thick fog had enveloped the palace. She suddenly became aware, as did her fellow colleagues and the few visitors tempted out on that inclement day, that there was the unmistakably aroma of turpentine in the air. There were no building works taking place that might have explained the smell. Perhas a nursery rhyme about a regal namesake of mine might shed light on the mystery:

Queen, Queen Caroline,
Washed her hair in turpentine,
Turpentine made it shine,
Queen, Queen Caroline

The Queen of the ditty was Caroline of Brandenburg Ansbach who married George II and came over to live in England when her father-in-law, George I,  became king in 1714. She stayed at the palace both as Princess and as Queen. During the Georgian era, turpentine was used to treat body and head lice. I do not recommend washing hair in it, or indeed bathing in it. Perhaps it was the aroma of Queen Caroline’s turpentine that had been detected at Hampton Court. I have to say, I would much rather my ghost left a trail of rose water perfume wafting in its wake, like the Duchess of Lauderdale, than  reek of Queen Caroline’s Eau du Turpentine.


I have just realised that Caroline of Ansbach, she of the eau de Turpentine, was the same Queen Caroline who attended a feast held in her honour at the Octagon (now known as the Orleans Gallery in Richmond).in 1729. Apparently details of both the seating plan and the menu have survived on into the 21st   century. The latter menu included oysters with capers and chicken with peaches. I was intrigued to discover that both dishes are still eaten today.


Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein



The tragic Tudor queen, Catherine Howard, is one of the better known shades flitting around Hampton Court Palace. Her ghost gave the Haunted Gallery its name. She had been confined to her rooms within the palace after stories of her unseemly past had reached the ears of her husband, Henry VIII in the autumn of 1541. According to legend, Catherine made a desperate bid to evade her guards and escape to the Chapel Royal where she knew Henry would be at prayer. She believed that if she could but see him he would surely forgive her everything. Alas, her attempts were thwarted at the last moment and she was dragged screaming away from the Chapel door. She would never see her husband again. A brief stay at Syon House stood between Cartherine and an appointment with the axeman on Tower Green. Catherine's ghost is said to re-enact her frantic attempts to see the king.

We were told that Henry VIII’s ghost haunts Chenies Manor House as he makes his slow way up the turret staircase to catch Catherine Howard entertaining her lover on the upper floor. Like the Duchess of Lauderdale at Ham House, the infirm Henry relied on a walking stick in his old age. Thus, the heavy footsteps of a limping man and the tap tapping of a walking stick are both attributed to him. Time Team debunked this as mere fancy. The long demolished state apartments were discovered by Time Team to be located elsewhere by the modern car-park. Consequently, Henry’s bedchamber was not on the ground floor of the current extant building, but at some distance away in another building all together and so too presumably was Catherine’s, which rather undermines the suggestion that Henry's ghost would be found on the Turret staircase chasing after his wanton wife. Whilst I was at Chenies, mention was made of another wandering spirit belonging to William, Lord Russell. The later was executed in 1683 for his alleged role in the Rye House Plot, which centred on a conspiracy to assassinate Charles II and his Catholic brother James I. William refused to flee abroad after he had been implicated in the plot, believing that his innocence would absolve him of all blame. He was mistaken and ended up being beheaded. I assume it is his headless ghost that roams the grounds of the manor house.

Some of these ghost stories only gained currency in the 19th century despite the fact that the subjects of the stories had died in early centuries.  The English writer and raconteur, Augustus Hare,  for example, recalled a visit to Ham House he had made in 1879 in Volume 5 of his “The Story of my life.":

 “There is a ghost at Ham. The old butler there had a little girl, she was then six years old. In the small hours of the morning, when dawn was making things clear, the child, waking up, saw a little old woman scratching with her finger against the wall close to the fireplace. She was not at all frightened at first but sat up to look at her. The noise she made in doing this caused the old woman to look round, and she came to the foot of the bed and, grasping the rail, stared at the child long and fixedly. So horrible was her stare, that the child was terrified and screamed and hid her face. People ran in and the child told what she had seen. The wall was examined where she had seen the figure scratching, and concealed in it were papers which proved that in that room, Elizabeth had murdered her first husband to marry the Duke of Lauderdale”

Given that Sir Lionel Tollemache, the Duchess’s first husband, had died in Paris, his lady wife would have been hard pressed to have killed him from  a room within Ham House. Moreover, the mysterious papers have never subsequently been found to corroborate Hare’s story of the supernatural. Nevertheless, there is a twist to the tale. When John Maitland, the future Duke of Lauderdale, brazenly flaunted his relationship with Elizabeth Murray, his future Duchess, Maitland’s first wife fled to Paris where she died 3 years later. So perhaps it is not so Hare-brained to speculate that the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, who were both notorious for their ruthlessness and aggressive pursuit of their own self-interests, were able to pull strings to have inconvenient spouses bumped off in Paris.

Even the home of the Brimstone Butterfly has its own resident ghost. (I still cannot explain the disembodied voice I captured on film calling for Lara whilst I lay in the bath). But then every stately home should have one. Heaven knows it has been difficult enough determining which stately home I would wish to take up residence in should the rest of the world’s population be wiped out in a catastrophe. It is even harder to decide which fortunate abode will be haunted by the Brimstone Butterfly for all eternity.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton: Part Five




Whereas the South Drawing Room has a flake white and gilt colour scheme, the North Drawing on the other side of the Saloon has a grey paint and gold leaf scheme. The North Drawing Room itself is dominated by the two canopied cast iron pillars, around which golden serpents entwine their slender bodies and from the canopies gilded bells hang. The candelabra and chairs by the window have been placed in the same position they first occupied in the early 19th century. From the North Drawing room one can access the Music Room. John Wilson Croker referred to both when he spoke if his visit to the Pavilion as a guest of the then Prince Regent in 1817.
." In the evening the new music-room was lighted and the band played, both magnificent the band rather bruyant, and the music better heard from the next room [The North Drawing Room] in my opinion”.
 The Music Room is indeed magnificent. How does one begin to describe it? Fortunately, opposite the organ, is a bench for visitors like the Brimstone Butterfly to sit upon and take in their surroundings at leisure. I shall begin in no particular order. At either end of the room, part of the lower ceiling has been designed to imitate a bamboo canopy. 

The fabulous domed ceiling itself is decorated with carved and iridescent gilded cockleshells. The glass panels in the dome feature dragons and butterflies, although I did not spot a brimstone butterfly amongst them. After the arson attack of 1975,it had taken years to restore the ceiling to its former Regency splendour. Alas, all this work was undone when a massive stone ball was blown off the roof, during the Great Storm of 1985, and plunged through the ceiling of the Music Room.

I think I prefer the delicate central waterlily chandelier, surrounded by eight smaller  chandeliers, to the equally massive chandelier in the Banqueting Hall. The Music Room chandelier with its gilded dragons crawling up its petals and the Chinese figures on the petals themselves is simply exquisite.

There were two 9 storey porcelain pagodas by the fireplace. The canopied marble fireplace was itself a riot of carved and gilded bells, dragons and serpents. 


Indeed the whole room was a mass of serpents and dragons including those on the canopies above the doors. This combination of dragons and serpents is thought by the Chinese to be an extremely unlucky mix and to which they attribute the dire catastrophes that have befallen this room alone. According to my 1970s guidebook the floor was once covered with a carpet that had once adorned a Russian palace of Catherine the Great. I imagine it was destroyed in the 1975 conflagration. It was said that the pile of George’s carpet was so thick the average’s woman’s foot would all but sink into it, which to my mind must have made dancing on it that much more difficult.

Suitably refreshed and only too aware of the passage of time, I left the Music Room and made my way to the King’s Apartments. As I did so I walked along narrow passageways with plain tiled floors and passed by a very cramped flight of stone steps next to the Vestibule to the King’s Apartments. The staircase, leading down to the basement, was normally concealed behind a closed door. These were for the servants’ exclusive use and as such did not warrant unnecessary expense in their construction. I have to confess that the only thing that caught my eye in the Vestibule was the 18th century mahogany, rosewood and satinwood House organ. According to the 1970s guidebook there is a strong suggestion that this might have belonged to Mrs Fitzherbert as it was made by the royal organ makers and ended up in a Roman Catholic Church in Brighton. Mrs Fitzhebert’s Roman Catholic faith had  ruled out the possibility of a marriage with the then Prince of Wales, which would have been recognised in the eyes of the law.  

The King’s Apartments are to be found on the ground floor, reflecting the increasing physical decline of his last years, when he was pushed around in a three wheeled Merlin chair when out of sight of the general public. I entered the apartment by way of the bedroom. George’s bed has been placed within a canopied alcove. The end of the bedstead bore a gilded roundel with his royal coat of arms. Intriguingly, this is not the ebony and gold Chinese style bed shown in the 1970s guide. Reading through the guide I see that the bed in question was thought to date from the 20th century, which would explain why it had later been bundled out of sight. Nevertheless, the pale green walls with images of dragons, birds, dolphins and flowers picked out in white remain the same, as do the beech bedsteps, fashioned to look like bamboo.

There are two concealed doors in the bedroom. One, in the alcove, led to the water-closet, of which George had 30 built for the palace. It is to be hoped that they were more skilfully constructed than the ones Queen Victoria originally had at Buckingham Palace. Her husband, Prince Albert, was shocked to discover that the contents of the water closet descended down a pipe, which ended half way up the wall outside the royal bedroom. The other concealed door is, by the green marble fireplace and would have led to George’s bathroom. Inspired by Beau Brummell, Regency men of fashion decided that it was quite the thing to bathe on a daily basis. Indeed, it was better still to bathe several times a day. I shall never understand how the West glorified Ancient Roman culture and language but refrained from following the Romans passion for personal hygiene for so many centuries. George did not just have one bath fit for a king he had a variety. Thus, he had a 16 foot by 10 foot plunge bath which was plumbed to accept either sea or freshwater. He also had vapour, steam, douche and warm baths installed in his en-suite.



I rather hurried through the King’s Library and Antechamber although my eyes did alight on an 1807 clock in the Ancient Egyptian style. There had been a huge interest in all things Ancient Egyptian following Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in the closing years of the 18th century. Despite the appealing green colour scheme, I felt there was an air of sadness about the King’s Apartments. Perhaps it was due in part to the sharp contrast with the flamboyance and exuberance of the Banqueting Hall and the Music Room.

I was something of a relief to make my way to the bedrooms on the upper floor. They have now been designated as belonging to two of the King’s brothers and to his niece, the future Queen Victoria. In the 1970s these bedrooms were staged for the King’s mother, Queen Charlotte and his daughter, Princess Charlotte as well as Queen Victoria. For good measure, one room was made into a drawing room and named after the King’s mistress and possible wife, Maria Fitzherbert.

In his journal of 1818 Croker wrote:” The Prince [George] certainly married Mrs. Fitzherbert. “By 1825 George found it expedient to insist to Croker that no such marriage had ever taken place. Maria and her Prince had reconciled after his short lived marriage to Caroline of Brunswick but they never lived together. Instead, she stayed at Steine House, which is but a short distance by foot from the Royal Pavilion. Legend had it that the two buildings were connected by a secret tunnel. In the 20th century the hidden passageway for the love birds was dismissed as being part of Brighton’s sewer system. If indeed it was a sewer then it was an apt metaphor for how their relationship descended into acrimony and discord. In 1818 Croker expressed amazement in his journal that Maria had not taken the opportunity to quit Brighton for good now that her relationship with George was well and truly over and had been since 1811:
“To her presence is attributed the Prince's never going abroad at Brighton. I have known HRH. here seven or eight years, and never saw or heard of his being on foot out of the limits of the Pavilion.”  

Perhaps it was for that reason that more recent curators of the Royal Pavilion decided to do away with Mrs FitzHerbert’s Drawing Room. In the same vein, Princess Charlotte never actually had a bedroom in the Pavilion. George’s mother is known to have visited the Pavilion three times between 1814 and 1817 but of the four women only Victoria is likely to have had a permanent bedroom there and then only after she had become Queen in her own right.

There are now two identical bedrooms with blue canopied beds set on a dais, acid yellow walls and Chinese paintings which are now attributed to George’s brothers, the Dukes of York and Clarence respectively. I realised that one room had served as  Princess Charlotte supposed bedroom in the 1970s because of the distinctive dado. There is a small servant’s room connecting the two bedrooms.
 
I loved the yellow Chinese wallpaper in Queen Victoria’s bedroom although it must be a modern reproduction. There is a small bedroom just off the Queen’s which has a canopied bed with plain white  muslin bed hangings. There is an even smaller room adjacent to it, which houses a blue and white china water closet encased in mahogany. The room also has a small fireplace so the occupant would be spared the indignity of enduring brass monkey weather. However, I could not see an aperture for ventilation. I had thought of taking  a picture of the water closet for my growing collection  but realised I did not even have the time to rummage through my bag in the gloom for the camera. It later struck me that the water closet was very similar in style to the one I had seen at Ham House and so have reproduced my photograph of that one instead.

I made my way to the tea room but decided there was insufficient time to have a cup of coffee and slice of cake and still see the remaining parts of the house. So with heroic self-denial I continued my tour. A balcony ran the length of the tearoom and I wondered if the doors to it were ever opened in good weather to allow people to sit outside.

By the tearoom, under protective glass, was original early 19th century Chinese wallpaper. I also came across a large satirical and allegorical painting of a naked and distinctly rotund King George tiptoeing up to a sleeping maiden representing Brighton. I beg to surmise it was not there during his occupation of the house.
 The bedrooms lead out onto the North Gallery. It seems the vibrant blue wallpaper had cut outs of bamboo effect trellis pasted on to it, giving a pleasing trompe l'oeil effect. At the end of the North Gallery I could see the image of one of the Chinese figures at the top of the Corridor staircase. Conscious that the building would soon be closed to visitors I quickly made my way down the double tread cast iron staircase with its mahogany handrail. Both materials had been fashioned and painted to imitate bamboo.

I cannot recall on which floor the room, containing George’s 1821 coronation robes in crimson silk velvet and gold and silver thread, was sited. All I remember is that it seemed to me that the robe looked more like a carpet given its gargantuan size.

All trips to stately homes must end in a shop selling trinkets and the Royal Pavilion at Brighton was no exception, but I had already stocked up on fridge magnets and postcards the previous week. I am glad that I had the opportunity to wander around the Royal Pavilion once more and had taken the time to perambulate the exterior at leisure. I am even more pleased that the good folk of Brighton decided to save the Pavilion from possible demolition by buying it and thereby preserving it as a local and indeed national treasure. However, in the event of the rest of the human race being wiped out in a catastrophe I will no longer be taking up permanent residence in the Royal Pavilion.