A Prince’s Passion: The Life of the Royal Pavilion by Jessica Rutherford, published by the Royal Pavilion, Libraries & Museums. ISBN 0948723548 £14.99hb and available only from the Royal Pavilion shop in Brighton on 01273 292792.
THIS is a delicious new history of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, a monument of staggering self-indulgence built by George IV, the first son of the 15 children born to King George III and Queen Charlotte.
The life of the vain, cultured and well-educated George revolved around banquets, horse racing, hunting, gambling, boxing, theatre and his many love affairs. But the Prince’s patronage of the small resort town of Brighton lasted from 1783 to his final visit in 1827. The transformation of Henry Holland’s modest Marine Pavilion in 1827 to John Nash’s extraordinary Xanadu-like structure of capricious oriental splendour (1815-1822), with its Empire theme of domes and minarets, was stuffed full of exquisite French, English, and Chinese export furniture and objects, created for an individual who had supreme confidence in his own taste and was mostly indifferent to the opinions of others.
Written by the Royal Pavilion’s director, A Prince’s Passion offers up some marvellous, mad insights into this large, throbbing, domestic machine, with its revolutionary steam-heating system, which kept the pavilion unbearably hot, and its great steam table in the kitchen used for keeping 40 dishes hot at once.
There was gas lighting outside the building which illuminated the painted glass windows for the benefit of people inside and, while it was usual for men at dinner to relieve their bladders in chamber pots without leaving the dining room, the regent’s architects provided nearby lavatories. The prince’s orchestra played loudly throughout dinner, sending guests mad, and the royal household was so vast and bureaucratic that the Lord Steward’s office was responsible for laying one of the 200 fires, while the Lord Chamberlain’s office would send someone to light it.
Chapter titles include Such magnificene and luxury – the King and Nash’s New Pavilion; Managing the Pavilion: the complexities of the Royal Household; Ill-health and remedies; French chefs, dining and social etiquette; and a Controversial Palace: reviled and restored.
As was said at the time: “The King is to this town what the sun is to our hemisphere” – and for a while the Prince Regent certainly awakened the spirit of Brighton.
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