Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Royal Pavillion

The Royal Pavilion is a former royal residence located in Brighton, England. It was built in three campaigns, beginning in 1787, as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, from 1811 Prince Regent. It is built in the Indo-Saracenic style prevalent in India for most of the 19th century, with the most extravagant chinoiserie interiors ever executed in the British Isles. 

The Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV, first visited Brighton in 1783, soon after achieving his majority. The seaside town had become fashionable through the residence of George's uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, whose tastes for cuisine, gaming, the theatre and fast living the young prince shared, and with whom he lodged in Brighton at Grove House. In addition, his physician advised him that the seawater would be beneficial for his gout. This advice proved to be rather costly to the city of Bath whose appeal as a spa destination quickly faded without the royal interest.  In 1786, he rented a modest erstwhile farmhouse facing the Steine, a grassy area of Brighton used as a promenade by visitors.

In 1787 the designer of Carlton House, Henry Holland, was employed to enlarge the existing building, which became one wing of the Marine Pavilion, flanking a central rotunda, which contained only three main rooms, a breakfast room, dining room and library, fitted out in Holland's French-influenced neoclassical style, with decorative paintings by Biagio Rebecca. In 1801-02 the Pavilion was enlarged with a new dining room and conservatory, to designs of Peter Frederick Robinson, in Holland's office. The Prince also purchased land surrounding the property, on which a grand riding school and stables were built in an Indian style in 1803-08, to designs by William Porden that dwarfed the Marine Pavilion, in providing stabling for sixty horses.

Between 1815 and 1822 the designer John Nash redesigned and greatly extended the Pavilion, and it is the work of Nash which can be seen today. The palace looks rather striking in the middle of Brighton, having a very Indian appearance on the outside. 
A Brighton Street
The purchase of the Royal Pavilion from Queen Victoria, by Brighton, marked the beginnings of the site’s tourism dominance through the Royal Pavilion’s transition from a private residence to a public attraction under civic ownership. Today, the Royal Pavilion greets around 400,000 visitors a year and is the main tourist attraction in Brighton.  This suggests that the construction of the Royal Pavilion, started by George IV, impacted the city of Brighton to an extent that its effects are still seen today. During the early 19th century, when the Royal Pavilion was given its Oriental style, the British East India Company had been established by Britain for almost 200 years.  The strong influence of Orientalism, seen in the Royal Pavilion, can be attributed to the trading enterprise British East India Company.
I found Brighton as a whole to coincide well with the gaudy and rather "over the top" style of the Royal Pavillion.  When I think of out of place beach side minarets and flying carpets and the like, it reminds me of the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.  In some ways, Brighton has that cheesy Atlantic City feel, though being English, it is certainly more clean and refined.  London-by-the-sea, as it is sometimes referred to, is after all only a one hour train ride from the big city. 
If you are looking for "action", Brighton is, and has been for 200 years, the place to be.

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