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The Banqueting House, Whitehall

December 6, 2012

I think that I am a good tourist: A. I always plan in advance what I want to see and meticulously create timetables and maps; B. most of the time I manage to squeeze something else in.

I’ll be honest, the Banqueting House wasn’t included in my plan. I read about it in a free guide the first day I stayed in London. I didn’t find out much, but I liked the provided image of some pretty hall and 5 pounds for a ticket sounded alright.

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I must warn you that 5 pounds you are paying just for a bit of history and only one spectacular hall.

First of all you should be aware that the Banqueting House and the Whitehall and Holbein gates are the only architectural structures that survived the 1698 fire – “4 January 1698, some linen left to dry by a charcoal fire caught light and within five hours almost the whole palace was destroyed”. By the way, this happened after 1662, when “new regulations were introduced in requiring that for every chimney there should be a leather bucket filled with water”.

Contemporary account of the fire records: “it is a dismal sight to behold such a glorious, famous, and much renowned palace reduced to a heap of rubbish and ashes, which the day before might justly contend with any palace in the world for riches, nobility, honour and grandeur”.

While visiting this House you will be invited to view a short video that shows the history of the building. It starts with the Tudors and covers the ideas of the great architect Inigo Jones, the installation of ceiling canvasses painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, the execution of Charles I and many more significant events leading up to our present day. (If you would like to find out more please click here for the official Historic Royal Palaces website.)

The vaulted undercroft of that was designed as a drinking den for James I and his friends.

The Vaulted Undercroft (it was designed as a drinking den for James I and his friends)

After watching the video you’ll have to climb some stairs and enter the hall…

Soaring columns (calculated in accordance with the Roman idea of perfection)

Soaring columns (calculated in accordance with the Roman idea of perfection)

 

This ceiling was one of Charles I’s last sights before he lost his head (executed on a scaffold outside in 1649)

This ceiling was one of Charles I’s last sights before he lost his head (executed on a scaffold outside in 1649)

 

The only surviving in-situ ceiling painting of Peter Paul Rubens (detail)

The only surviving in-situ ceiling painting of Peter Paul Rubens (detail)

 

The famous canvasses and chandeliers, now lit using electricity

The famous canvasses and chandeliers, now lit using electricity

If you do get a chance, visit the Banqueting House. It’s a great building with even greater history and that ceiling, painted by Peter Paul Rubens, is really hard to forget!

P.S. The Banqueting House is located on the corner of Horse Guards Avenue and Whitehall – immediately opposite Horse Guards Parade, so if you time it right you could also see the changing of the guard. We were lucky as we reached Horse Guards Parade just before 12 o’clock…

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

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Information for this post was found on: hrp.org.uk

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2012 12:26 pm

    Nice post Kristina – I have been there too. I found it really interesting that King Charles was executed there (I don’t think it was a regular site for that) Apparently there used to be a big window half way up the stairs (there is a big painting there now) and they put up the scaffold outside it. So, his final steps would have been up those stairs!!

    • December 7, 2012 4:50 pm

      Hello, Peter. Once again thank you for your comment – any feedback is always appreciated, I guess it makes me feel better as now I know that I’m not the only one out there… with my ramblings… 🙂

      It’s really fascinating that we can retrace the last steps someone made and very hard to take in that now we can climb these same stairs, after nearly 400 years! It also makes me realise how insignificant we are… One moment we are here and the other we are just a line in some historical document… It seems architecture and art are much more hmm… resilient? K.

  2. December 17, 2012 2:19 pm

    After Zurich I might consider London the city I like most. I have been visiting your wonderful capital sooo many times (lost track really). And I’m looking forward to the next visit, when ever that might be 😉 But I will certainly add the Banqueting House to my plan then 🙂

    • December 17, 2012 6:27 pm

      Thank you for leaving this comment, I’m so glad that I have managed to show something that you might want to see when you visit London. I think that the saying that “a man is tired of life, when he is tired of London” is very true – there’s really lots to see there!

      I have never been to Zurich, but after seeing some photos on the internet, I’d love to go there as soon as possible. If I ever do go, I will ask you to let me know some things about the most interesting places to visit, if it’s ok of course?

      • December 17, 2012 8:03 pm

        That’s fine with me Kristina 🙂 If you let me know early enough I might be able to take one or two days off and show you my favourite places – would be a pleasure! 😀

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