Tag Archives: Banqueting House

A description of Whitehall Palace (Baron Waldstein, 1598)

The Banqueting House.JPG

On this day in 1598, the Moravian aristocrat and gentleman-traveller Baron Waldstein wrote in his diary, on a visit to London:

“We … went into the royal residence known as … White Hall.  It is truly majestic, bounded on the one side by a park which adjoins another palace called St James’s, and on the other side by the Thames, and it is a place which fills one with wonder, not so much because of its great size as because of the magnificence of its … rooms which are furnished with the most gorgeous splendour.

First you come to a vast hall which leads through into a very large walled garden where they keep deer and all kinds of other animals.  We then went to see the rooms, every one of them furnished and arranged with perfect taste and elegance, with all sorts of statues and pictures to add to their beauty …

There is … a portrait of Edward VI in 1546 at the age of nine – note the artist’s ingenuity in perspective …

Another room has … some very rich hangings.

A portrait here shows Queen Elizabeth when she was still young, in the dress which she wore when going to attend Parliament …

In another place we saw … the Queen’s couch which is woven with gold and silver thread … .  The Queen’s bed-chamber has rich tapestries all around: The adjoining room is reserved for the Queen’s bath: the water pours from oyster shells … .  In the next room there is an organ on which two persons can play duets … .

The next room to this was the one where the Queen keeps her books, some of which she wrote herself …

From here we were taken into a large and lofty banqueting hall …

In another room Henry VII and Henry VIII and their wives are painted … ”.

Whitehall Palace was substantially destroyed in a fire in 1698.

Inigo Jones's plan for the Banqueting Jouse

The  surviving  incarnation of the Banqueting House was designed by Inigo Jones for James I in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London.

 

The execution of Charles I

The execution of Charles I

On this day in 1649, Charles I was executed for treason outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall  …

It was a freezing cold day, so he put on an extra shirt,  that no-one might see him shiver, and think him scared (“the season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear [and] I would have no such imputation”).  Eventually, after what must have been a harrowing wait, at 2pm, he delivered an almost inaudible address to the crowd, and at the end proclaimed  “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world”.  He then made a silent prayer,  laid his head upon the block, and had it stricken from his body.  Whereupon, according to an eye-witness account by one Philip Henry, “there was such a Grone given by the Thousands there present, as I never heard before & desire I may never hear again”.  The usually ubiquitous John Evelyn was pointedly not among those who bore witness to the event, writing in his diary: “The Villanie of the Rebells proceeding now so far as to Trie, Condemne, & Murder our excellent King … struck me with such horror that I kept the day of his Martyrdom a fast, & would not be present, at that execrable wickednesse … ”.

 

The death of Henry VIII – and Whitehall Palace

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

January 28th –  On this day in 1547, Henry VIII “dyed at hys most princely howse at Westminster, comenly called Yorkeplace or Whytehall”  (Stow).

The house, or rather palace, was originally  built for the  Archbishops of York in the thirteenth century, circa 1240, when it was known as York Place.  It was acquired by Henry VIII from the then Archbishop of York, Cardinal Wolsey, in 1529.  This was  not long after a fire had rendered parts of the nearby Old Palace of Westminster unusable, in 1512.

The Banqueting House

The Banqueting House

 General view of the Banqueting House interior - from the entrance

General view of the Banqueting House interior – from the entrance

Under Henry,  the palace was  renamed Whitehall, and the populace was reminded “You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title’s lost.  ‘Tis now the King’s, and called Whitehall” (Shakespeare,  “King Henry the Eighth”).

The palace was extended both by Henry and by James I.  It  was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, but substantially burnt down in another fire in 1698.  Essentially only the Banqueting House, designed by the Neo-Classical or Palladian architect Inigo Jones in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London, with a ceiling by Rubens, still stands (together with: “Henry VIII’s wine cellar” in the nearby Ministry of Defence building in Horse Guards’ Avenue; the site of his tilt-yard in Horse Guards’ Parade; part of his real tennis court in the Cabinet Office building at No. 70 Whitehall; and “Queen Mary’s Stairs”, built in 1691, on the Embankment).

General view of the Banqueting House interior - looking back towards the entrance

General view of the Banqueting House interior – looking back towards the entrance

Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649.  The Holbein Gate, built in 1532 and notable as the probable place of the clandestine marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533, survived both fires (i.e., 1666 and 1698), but was demolished in 1759.

 

 

 

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens