BUCKINGHAM PALACE is known the wide world over to be the London residence of the most powerful monarch, the wisest ruler, and the most universally respected personage that has ever occupied a throne, Queen Victoria.
To many the exterior is fairly familiar; being, indeed, one of the "sights" alike to City and country born. Do our "dailies" announce that Her Majesty is coming to London for a few days, a number of us immediately wend our way in the direction the Palace, happy if we get but a passing glimpse of the first lady in the land.
Martial sounds, flashing swords, and all the pomp of State pageantry are dear to the hearts of all; but the centre of attraction is the quiet, black-robed figure, whose face ever lights up as the unrestrained cheers of the populace fall upon her ear with no uncertain sound. Right up to the gates we stand, often for hours; but when the Queen has passed in, our day is over and we turn away, fancy only following inside — reality outside.
On looking into the historical associations of this place, I find the site was originally known as the Mulberry Gardens; but such gardens being a failure as a public resort, a house was built, and certain of the grounds inclosed. One incident is worthy of record connected with this house: here the first cup of tea drank in this country was made; brought here in the year of the Great Plague by the Earl of Arlington, he having paid £60-per lb. for its purchase in Holland. This residence was known as Arlington House, but in 1703 the Duke of Buckingham built another — whence it derives its name. George III. evidently took a fancy to it, for he purchased it for a sum of £21,000, quickly removing to it from St. James's Palace.
In 1775 it was settled on Queen Charlotte by Act of Parliament; and here for the future she held her Drawing Rooms.
A short time previous to 1820 the building commenced to show signs of decay, so repair was talked of and finally commenced in 1825. Doubtless it would have been better to have erected an entirely new one, but there was some question of a grant from Parliament, so the former dimensions and plan remained. William IV. did not appear to be at all enchanted with it, inasmuch as he never occupied it, and it was not until after the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria that it became once more a Royal residence. Then some enlargements and improvements — on the south side — were carried out; the private chapel being a special added feature. Three or four years later the east front was greatly enlarged and improved at a cost of £150,000, and the Palace as it now appears is, if not beautiful, stately and grand in its solidity.
It is not my purpose, however, to give you a description of the building: enter with me, and glance at its interior.
The grand entrance through the central arch is very fine; the gates are supposed to be the largest and most beautiful in Europe, costing 3,000 guineas.
Now we cross the quadrangle and approach a portico supported by Doric columns, with Corinthian columns on top supporting a pediment head; on either side being an immense bas-relief representing warfare. Right round the building runs a terra-cotta frieze of flowers in relief.
Entering here, we are at once in a magnificent Marble Hall, 50ft. by 30ft. It is surrounded with double columns of pure Carrara marble 13ft. high on an elevated continuous basement, every column formed of a single piece, Corinthian in character, with gilded bases and capitals. The roof is finely painted with armorial devices and floral wreaths, done in royal blue, crimson, green, and gold; a frieze running round of crimson and green, with burnished metal chainwork hanging over all. The walls are imitation marble, and four alcoves contain statues. Four massive burnished lamps, each containing twelve inside lights, diffuse soft rays of light around. But the sun is shining now, and we note the floors of variegated marble, the chairs and settees of mahogany and gold, emblazoned with the Royal Arms, and even catch a glimpse of some sumptuous apartment across the Sculpture Gallery and of a beautiful pleasance through a bay window.
On the side of the hall to the right from the entrance a few steps lead up to an elevation where is situated a fireplace worth "a close inspection. Over the mantelpiece is a massive brass clock by Vulliamy, recessed in a square of marble, surmounted with a crown and the Royal Arms, winged figures on either side, and a carving of fruit underneath; the whole supported by recumbent figures at the corners, with the Royal Arms and mottoes in the centre. On either side of the mantel is the same rich carving, and at the base rampant lions in support; the interior having a fine ormolu frieze.
The entrance to the grand staircase is on our left, but first we will view some apartments on this floor. Opposite the grand entrance the hall is open to and communicating with (by the broad steps that run right round) the Sculpture Gallery. This is much used as a promenade, and as it is about 152ft. long, is well adapted for the purpose. It has imitation marble walls, and is supported by forty marble Corinthian columns. A number of pedestals support handsome bronze busts of the classics, while two hold eagles with outspread wings.
Some massive and beautiful side-tables have on them white marble vases of graceful design. The fireplaces are richly chased in ormolu, while over the marble mantels are massive mirrors in cream and gold. At one end is the "Ministers' Staircase"; and by this the Royal Family ascend on Drawing Room days, their special entrance from the quadrangle, being quite close to it. At the opposite end is the lower corridor, running under the grand staircase and down one side of the quadrangle. Opening from this gallery is a beautiful suite of rooms, the first one we enter being the Carnarvon Room.
It has a fine painted ceiling, and is hung and carpeted in electric blue and drab. The walls have slightly recessed pilasters of gold, with carved serpents climbing palms. The suite of furniture is mahogany and leather, ordinary dining-tables in the centre, two very beautiful side-tables of buhl and tortoise-shell, and here and there pedestals of inlaid wood with ormolu mounts, supporting busts of Roman conquerors.
On the marble mantel stands a Diana clock— a figure of Diana under a dome, Cupid on top indicating time with an arrow. On either side of the clock is some Sevres china. The marble chimney-piece has jambs of draped Egyptian figures, with carvings of flowers over the top, and an inside frieze of ormolu. There are some choice paintings in the room, the masters being Van Somer, Huysmans, P. de Champaigne, and Taylor.
Opening from here is an apartment known as the "'44 Room". It derived its name from the visit of the Emperor Nicholas in the year 1844, having been specially decorated and fitted in honour of His Majesty. It has a painted ceiling of white ground, with gold and royal blue decoration, coats of arms embellishing the four corners, with the date wrought on the side centres; twenty marble Corinthian columns stand in solid support. The curtains are rich crimson silk, the carpet crimson velvet pile, all the furniture being upholstered in the same colour, and having frames of burnished gold.
There is a very massive marble mantel containing some fine Sevres china and a handsome timepiece. In various directions you note pedestals holding some hand-painted china vases, with ormolu mounts, side-tables containing china of almost fabulous worth, while here and there for convenience of its Royal occupants are writing-tables of buhl, with legs and bases of ormolu. Handsome ormolu chandeliers light the apartment, and on the walls are some life-sized portraits of notabilities, amongst whom I noticed the Emperor Nicholas, by Coxton, after Kriiger; Leopold King of the Belgians, by Winterhalter; Louise Queen of the Belgians; the Duke of Wiirtemberg, the first Duke of Saxe-Coburg; Frederick King of Saxony; and Louis-Philippe.
Now we come to the "Bow Library," or "Council Room." This is occasionally used for banquets; the last time, however, being Jubilee year, when the guests were over-numerous even for a place of such dimensions as Buckingham Palace. Being the centre room in this suite, and right opposite the grand entrance, it is convenient for a cloak-room on Drawing Room days, for which purpose it is always used. It bears the date 1853 on the ceiling, having been re-decorated in that year. It has five recessed windows, and is lighted at night by massive ormolu chandeliers. The ceiling is beautifully painted, has an elaborate frieze, and is supported by twelve Ionic granite columns.
There are two fireplaces with scagliola columns on either side; a suite of leather-covered furniture and a Brussels carpet of lovely design, jessamine, lily, and orange blossoms, connected with a flowing ribbon. Now I will ask your attention to two cupboards, with concave glass fronts; each one containing china of such immense value, and of such exceeding rarity and elegance, as could not possibly be equalled. I much doubt if any correct estimate could be given. But here you will see Sevres, Dresden, and Chelsea, priceless and matchless, much of it indeed being actually jewelled; and some being rare specimens of "Bleu du roi," "Vert Pomme," "Bleu de Vincennes," and "Rose du Barry." Just note this one tureen, with concave perforated cover. A similar one — but having flaws from which this is guiltless — fetched £10,000 in a public auction room a few years back! Bear in mind this is only one of scores of pieces, and then you will better understand me when I repeat that this collection is absolutely priceless. We must not linger here, however; there is so much to see. Here is a beautiful Roman mosaic table that calls for prolonged attention. The centre is illustrative of the desertion of the founders of that Empire, and their adoption by a she-wolf.
Around are inlaid views of Roman palaces and public buildings, with connecting links of flowers; the base of the table is of black marble. An inscription sets forth that "This table was presented to Queen Victoria, in 1859, by Pope Pius the IX., in commemoration of the visit of the Prince of Wales."
On a pedestal between two of the windows stands a large clock of curious construction — it is very beautifully enriched with silver chasing, and denotes the time, day, date, and month, having also an astronomic dial.
There are also some immense Oriental vases, three of them being Japanese, and a fine terra-cotta one presented by the Emperor Napoleon in commemoration of the '51 Exhibition. It is handsomely painted, picturing processions of all nations. The vase is supported by four figures representative of the four quarters of the globe, and stands on a marble pedestal.
On a side-table stands a model of a mortar of unique construction and beautiful workmanship, the base being carried by four tortoises, and a dragon to carry the mortar; this was presented to the Prince Regent by the Spanish nation, to commemorate the raising of the Siege of Cadiz, on 22nd July, 1812. Some fine Genoa green marble vases and other artistic things are noticeable; and in addition several life-sized paintings and painted busts of distinguished personages, amongst whom you will note the Duke of Brabant, H.I.H. the Duchess of Brabant, H.R.H. the Princess of Prussia, Ernest Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and Prince Leopold at the age of three months, bearing such a remarkable likeness to his mother, our Queen, on his baby face as to be quite startling. All these pictures represent sponsors or people present at Prince Leopold's christening.
From the windows of this room is a first-rate view of the terrace and gardens; the terrace has some fine statuary, leading on to a beautiful and extensive lawn; in the background a lake of five acres, shady and secluded walks, and giant trees, just now in leaf and bloom, with the birds making sweet music in the branches. All else of life that you will see just now is represented by the blue-coated guardians of peace and property, who stand watchful and alert; and the red coats of our country's defenders as they pace to and fro with martial tread. So quiet and so secluded are these forty acres of park-like ground, that you might well imagine yourself many miles from the bustling traffic outside the Palace gates, instead of only separated by a few hundred yards.
Next to this is the "'55 Room" used as a sitting-room, and also as an additional cloak-room when the Drawing Room is more than usually large. The ceiling is artistically painted, the curtains are crimson silk, with a rose, shamrock, and thistle border worked in gold. The furniture is rosewood and gilt, with crimson silk rep upholstery.
On the marble chimney-piece is a timepiece of black marble and gold — Father Time clipping the wings of Cupid; while on the opposite side of the room, standing on a massive carved pedestal, is an ancient music-box and clock combined, composed of tortoiseshell and buhl, with silver mounts and twisted glass pillars.
The paintings in this room are superb, and all appertaining to the period named, the military subjects of C. H. Thomas being truly wonderful examples. The "Distribution of Medals" on the Horse Guards' Parade is one that can be gazed upon for an almost indefinite period: the Royal dais with its occupants; the group of officers near, each one being a distinct likeness; the massed bands; the men drawn up under arms; the heroes as they advance in single file, some minus an arm, some a leg, bandaged and damaged, one in particular being wheeled up, having lost both his legs; but all with a look of pride and exultation that their services are being thus acknowledged by the Queen for whom they had fought. And on Her Majesty's face is an unmistakable look of sympathy with suffering, mingled with pride in the sufferers' achievements.
In the background are stands crowded with onlookers, while on the top of all the buildings around people swarm like bees. Over all hangs a London haze, through which the sunlight is flashing and gleaming on arms and accoutrements.
There are three others by the same artist: "A Review of Troops on Woolwich Common before the King of Sardinia," "A Naval Review at Spithead," and one depicting an event during the visit of Her Majesty to the Emperor Napoleon, namely: "The Review of French Troops on the Champs de Mars." Then there are portraits of Victor Emmanuel II.; Prince Victor of Hohenlohe; Prince Frederick William of Prussia; Louis Duke of Oporto; and Philip Count of Flanders; also a fine painting showing the investiture of Napoleon with the Garter, in the Throne Room of this Palace.
From here we enter the "Ladies' Breakfast Room"; the walls are concealed with metal trellis panels, lined with silk, leaving little doubt but that it was originally intended for a small library. The furniture of this room is plain and solid, use rather than ornament being evident. The marble chimney-piece shows a fine ormolu frieze edging it, a specimen of egg-and-tongue moulding. Near the window stands what may be either an ancient marble font or a vessel to contain flowers; it is supported by a marble pedestal of red granite, with white base and cap; the whole being of such solidity that it is too ponderous a task to move it, so the carpet is nailed round.
Just now (although not its permanent resting-place) there is to be seen here the celebrated family picture after Winterhalter, portraying Her Majesty, the Prince Consort, and their five eldest children. It is a beautiful painting of an ideal family group, the likeness to each being especially good.
The "Household Dining Room" is the next one we enter, a fine capacious apartment, not much used for dinners now; indeed, I think not at all since Jubilee year. On Drawing Room days it is the cloak-room for the Corps Diplomatique. It is supported with silicon marble columns of the Ionic order, the walls being covered with flock paper. The curtains are rich crimson silk with gold borders, the floor having a carpet of Turkish design. The furniture is the ordinary leather-covered peculiar to dining-rooms; the sideboards being very massive — of Spanish mahogany and gold decorative work. On the mantel is one of Vulliamy's clocks in tortoise-shell and bronze, and on either side some ormolu candelabra. There is a fine collection of busts, some standing in recesses enriched with Spanish mahogany and gold bolection moulding. Amongst these busts may be noted William IV., the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of York, and one— a Chantrey — of George IV., which was to have been presented to his brother the Duke of York, but was given to Sir Herbert Taylor.
The paintings are: "The Opening of London Bridge," "Her Majesty's First Council at Kensington Palace" (a copy), "The Pantheon" and "The Colosseum" (both by P. Pamini), and portraits of Edward Duke of York — after Pompeo Batoni — Princess Sophia Matilda Duchess of Gloucester, Frederick William I. of Prussia, in armour and robes, Queen Anne (in 1714) and George II., both by Kneller, and Caroline Queen of George II., after Seeman.
I may here mention that Her Majesty is often most kind in lending valuable paintings and other works of art for the various exhibitions in all parts of the country. In fact, the first painting I mentioned in this room was about to undergo some little repair necessary after its journey to and from the County of Potteries.
You will have noticed that the suite of rooms through which we have passed is continuous. Having commenced with the "Carnarvon Room," it finishes with the one we are now entering, known as the "Chapel Ante Room." The rare old paintings are a study that would be a delight to any connoisseur; some are as much as fourteen hundred years old, but are still in splendid preservation.
H.R.H. the Princess Louise — herself an artist of repute — is immensely interested in this selection, and, indeed, used some of them in the chapel for the marriage of H.R.H. the Princess Louise of Wales to the Duke of Fife; on which occasion Her Royal Highness had the whole of the decorations under her personal supervision. A large picture of much interest has a temporary resting-place here; it is an immense group representing the New South Wales Contingent that took part in the Soudan Campaign, being the first assistance sent from the colonies to the help of the mother country. Services volunteered and given free of expense are well worthy of record, and doubtless Her Majesty the Queen values this fine portraiture of these valiant soldiers.
We now pass through a corridor diverging to the right, and find ourselves in the "Private Chapel." This was consecrated in 1843. It's quite of moderate size, but is beautifully enriched and decorated in the German style. The supporting pillars were brought from Carlton House; the roof is artistically painted in pale colourings blended with rare skill and merit. The walls are panelled in crimson velvet, a few choice old paintings being noticeable, one, you will observe, bearing date 1330. The altar is simplicity itself, speaking eloquently, as does the entire interior, of the quiet yet truly artistic taste — blended with the deep religious convictions, which delighted in quiet worship rather than pomp and pageant — characteristic of H.R.H. the Prince Consort; for he it was who personally superintended the entire arrangements of this charming edifice.
The altar, then, is quite plain: just covered with crimson velvet edged with bullion fringe and letters worked in gold. On it reposes the gold plate of George IV. Above hangs a fine piece of Gobelin tapestry, the subject being "John Baptizing Christ."
On the right, as you face the altar, is a pure white alabaster pulpit, and on the other side the organ and choir. The Royal pew is upstairs, facing the altar, and is beautifully fitted in crimson and gold. On either side of it are pews for the ladies and gentlemen of the household.
We will now retrace our steps through the chapel ante-room, and cross to the lower corridor. It is long, narrow, and winding, passing under the grand staircase, and has dove marble walls, on which are several good portraits, chief of which are Augusta Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Richmond, Prince George, Prince Edward, the Duke of Brunswick, and the five paintings showing the Coronation procession of William IV. Also you must notice in a recess a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh.
This finishes the suite of what is termed the "Lower State Apartments," and we start again from the Marble Hall in order to view those on the next floor. It is the morning of a "Drawing Room" day, so you will see the rooms as they are arranged for that occasion; and in order that you may the better understand the ceremony, I will conduct you the exact route taken by the debutantes, only diverging now and again to view rooms through which you would not otherwise pass, which deviation I will point out as we proceed.
Have you ever inquired of any youthful friend who has been through the rooms for presentation as to what they are like? I have; and I must honestly say I have never been much the wiser for their answers — "Beautiful!" "Charming!" "Lovely!" etc., but that is about all; for the fact is, the majority of them are too frightened at the ordeal before them when they go up, and too full of relief that it is over when they come down, to look about them. They have a general idea of grandeur and glitter — nothing more! If there is an exception, it is your American girl: she seldom loses the calm coolness characteristic of her nationality, but placidly looks about her, taking mental notes of dresses, jewels, and faces; and as near as she can, appraises the furniture and fittings.
But here we are at the bottom of the Grand Staircase: the rich crimson curtains at the foot are drawn back, and the view is simply magnificent. Stairs lift. 6in. wide, each stair being a solid mass of white marble, and richly carpeted in crimson, the hand-rail on either side of mosaic gold, the walls imitation marble. The roof — which is supported by marble Corinthian columns — is simply superb. Gold and cream, interspersed with hand-painted wreaths of fruit and flowers: the perspective — especially of the alcove — is wonderful: the pattern gradually receding to the smallest minuteness. Note, too, the exquisite light and shade, and I think you will agree with me that nothing more perfect of its kind could be seen.
The wells of the staircase contain bronzes, replete with iced glass fittings for electric light; while for concert and ball occasions the recesses you see on either side of the hand-rails are filled with zinc fittings, to carry palms, ferns, and choice exotics.
When we have proceeded up the first broad flight, we find ourselves on a landing, from which stairs diverge in exactly opposite directions, with a flight facing us. We take this one, and mounting upwards, find ourselves in the "East" or "Promenade Gallery." A splendid place for promenade this — about 105ft. in length, lighted by electricity, richly carpeted in crimson, and provided with luxurious settees and chairs. The ceiling is beautifully painted, the walls are imitation marble, having painted panels of baskets of flowers. Costly marble chimney-pieces have medallions of the masters in the centre (in one I noticed Rubens) and a continuation of figures, flowers, etc.
On the mantels is some priceless porcelain, most of it Sevres. Ancient cabinets of tortoise-shell, buhl, and inlaid ivory — one of them, at any rate, a "Boule" (whose best work was executed about 1700). Pedestals and busts, mythological and French, all call for prolonged examination. Here hangs Frith's famous picture of the marriage of the Prince of Wales. Sometimes you may miss it, though, for this is one the public like the loan of, and not long ago it journeyed to Melbourne and back, for the benefit of our Australian friends.
Sir F. Leighton is also represented by his "Cimabue's Madonna Carried Through the Streets of Florence," and Sir M. A. Shee with his portrait of the first Marquis of Wellesley. The doors leading from this gallery are worthy of notice. They are a pair of three-fold folding doors, each one inclosed within revolving doors, so that they really open nearly the width of the promenade. They have massive plate-glass panels, with Spanish mahogany frames and metal mounts. Through these doors, then, we enter the State ball-room — also doing duty as a concert-room. This was only finished in 1856, and cost £300,000. Most of the decoration was by Gruner. It is a truly noble apartment, measuring 109ft. by 58ft. and 45ft. in height. It has a magnificently painted roof, with twenty-one sunlights answering for gas and ventilation, the shafts running right through. Running round beneath the frieze are copies of Raphael's "Twelve Hours."
The walls are panelled in crimson silk of rose, shamrock, and thistle pattern, having thereon some pictures of the Muses; the settees are upholstered in the same colour, watered silk and satin stripe pattern. On the elevation on either side of the room are some chased ormolu candelabra by Barbedienne, the floor itself being satinwood and mahogany.
At one end is the fine organ that formerly stood in the Brighton Pavilion; the orchestra being erected immediately in front for State concerts.
On the front of the inclosure, the costly - looking hanging of crimson velvet and gold was at one time the tent of Tippoo Sahib, taken at Vellore.
Be the occasion concert or ball, it is a grand sight to witness, and one that cannot be equalled; rendered doubly impressive when the company — generally about three hundred — rise to their feet upon the entrance of the Royal Family. The rich costumes of the ladies; the Court, military, naval, and Ambassadors' dress; the flashing jewels and the artistic surroundings; the exquisite strains of music rising and falling — once you witness this, it is a picture that never fades from your memory.
At the opposite end of the room is an alcove decorated in character with all the rest, and in front of this is situated the dais. Here the Royal Family sit for the performance, and at this end of the room space is kept for the Royal quadrilles. Some enjoyable dances the youthful members have had, too, entering into the spirit of it as much as anyone there.
On the left of the ball-room is a promenade known as the "Annexe Gallery"; this was built some time back at the suggestion of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, and is useful not only for the purpose I have named, but it also improves the atmosphere of the ball-room; it is 72ft. in length, fitted with electric light, decorated in cream and gold, and furnished in crimson and gold. There are two mythological busts on pedestals, and also pedestals to carry plants and flowers.
This has been out of our route, but we return to it now by crossing the upper end of the ball-room in front of the dais. Now we are faced by the "crush barriers," the first of a series at the entrance to each room until we reach the Throne. These are only placed for Drawing Rooms, and will presently be guarded by " Gentlemen-at-Arms." The rails are burnished brass, with plush-covered hand-rail, and through the gate it is only possible for one at a time to pass. Ourselves passing through, we are now in the "West" or "Approach Gallery."
This has ceiling and walls each painted, the latter having floral centres to panels framed in gold; the carved gold-framed furniture is upholstered in rich crimson, the doors being imitation satinwood with glass panels, and over them some excellent statuary carving. About half-way down are doors leading into the "Cross Gallery," the other end opening into the "East Gallery." It is only a slight deviation, so we will just take a brief survey.
It is handsomely decorated in cream and gold, with hand-painted enrichments of Indian corn-stalk. There are some beautiful mirrors in massive panelled gold settings, and hangings and furniture of crimson and gold.
Returning to the West Gallery we are again in the order of procession, and presently find ourselves in the "State Dining Room." This is capable of seating a large number, being 75 ft. by 34ft. It was in this room that the wedding breakfast was laid for the Duke and Duchess of Fife; and it may, ere long, be used for another event of even greater interest — one that will celebrate the nuptials of a future king and. queen.
Each room as we enter it now seems more beautiful than the last, the decorations of this being really superb. Cream and gold are predominant on the ceiling, arms and orders being interspersed with brilliant effect. Over the doors "W.R." and " V.R." show the different periods of decorative work, these letters being surmounted with prosceniums of gold carved fruit and flowers. The walls are covered with salmon flock-paper, the floor carpeted in crimson "Wilton," showing a parquetry bordering of satin and rosewood. The doors are panelled in plate glass, with metal mouldings and ormolu mounts.
Even the shutters to the windows are an interesting study. They are circular, showing some of the finest joinery known, and have ormolu "money" mouldings. The curtains are heavy crimson silk with gold border and fringe. The chimney-pieces are choice carved marble, with friezes of ormolu, rose, shamrock, and thistle design. On one is a Vulliamy "Zodiacic" timepiece in marble and ormolu; also some beautiful Sevres in turquoise and "Bleu de roi." Other specimens are scattered about the room on side-tables. The sideboards are massive mahogany with ormolu mounted backs. On the walls are the following portraits, life-sized, and in costly massive frames: Duke of Cumberland (Gainsborough), George III., Queen Charlotte, and Anne Duchess of Cumberland, each painted by the same master hand. Also there are Augusta Princess of Wales and Frederick Prince of Wales, by Van Loo; George II., by Shackleton, and Caroline, his Queen, by Seeman.
Before leaving this room I must not forget to say that it was here the wedding breakfast was laid for Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince Consort; the entire decoration being in pure white.
We pass on to the "Blue Drawing Room." Notice the handsome plate-glass panelled doors with rich ormolu mounts, each surmounted with a crown, as you pass through. Then pause and gaze on the general effect of the grandly beautiful interior. The ceiling is a fine specimen of elliptical carving: bressummers support arches in which are carved reliefs representing the apotheosis of the poets. The carpet of this room is a feature: it is a beautiful Axminster, woven in one piece (the room is 60ft. 6in. long and 28ft. wide), and the colours are so rich, the design so perfect, that it looks like a painting. The roof is supported by imitation marble columns with gilded Corinthian cap and base, the walls panelled in blue silk, the furniture carved and burnished gold, the coverings to match walls and curtains. Two massive side-tables are worthy of your attention; they are 8ft. long, have massive ormolu mounts, and are inlaid with pebbles in Genoa green marble. On one is a soap-stone bowl, taken from the Emperor's Palace at Pekin, in October, i860, and presented to the Queen by Sir Hope Grant, Commander of the British Forces in China. Marble and ormolu candelabra, Sevres china, and antique timepieces are plentiful. One clock in particular deserves special mention; it is marble, has three dials, denoting hour, day, and month, surmounted by an ivory globe.
The paintings are Charles I. and Henrietta Maria (Van Dyck), Her Majesty Queen Victoria and H.R.H. Prince Albert (F. Winterhalter), Princesses Royal, Augusta, and Elizabeth (Gainsborough), and Duke of Buckingham and family (Houthorst).
Now we proceed to the "Bow Saloon." This room has a most superbly decorated dome roof; rose, shamrock, and thistle, interspersed with feathers, done in cream and gold relief, and all radiating from the centre. From it depend some of the most graceful and wondrous crystal chandeliers that have ever been made. Above the lights depends and droops the most perfect representation of "colours trooping," the very fold of the silken banners being here produced. There is some beautiful sculpture in relief just beneath the "dome"; that on the side facing the bow represents "Eloquence," that on the north, "Harmony," that on the south, "Pleasure." There are sixteen supporting columns of scagliola, resembling lapis lazuli, with gilded bases and capitals. There are two marble chimney-pieces, one depicting the "Birth of Venus," and beautiful shell-work surrounding the sculptured figures.
On one mantel stands a malachite and ormolu thermometer, on the other a timepiece of the same composition. There are two malachite and ormolu candelabra on burnished gold pedestals, and others of carved and burnished lions on tripods. Also examine some more of the priceless Sevres china in this room, and especially note an inimitable cameo revolving Roman table. In the centre is the Emperor Alexandra, a circle round denoting a procession of warriors, the outer edge depicting trophies and arms; the base is a shield with spears for pedestal. This room is hung with rich crimson velvet curtains, with furniture of burnished gold and crimson silk. The floor is carpeted in rich Saxony, leaving an ample border of inlaid satinwood of pattern to match ceiling. The proportions of the saloon are 50ft. by 29ft, and it, of course, takes its name from the shape.
The next room, called the "White Drawing Room," is the most beautiful of all. Not long since it was redecorated at enormous cost, and presents an appearance so grand, so imposing, yet so graceful and artistic, that words cannot adequately describe or portray it, and unfortunately no photograph has been taken since these renovation. A number of syenite pilasters, with gilded bases and capitals, support a ceiling exquisitely decorated in relief; the rose, shamrock, and thistle, in pure white and gold, having an especially brilliant appearance. Under it are some sculptured reliefs illustrative of pleasure. Magnificent ormolu chandeliers diffuse electric light; the curtains are gold silk; the walls panelled in gold with gold frames, and an abundance of plate glass; the furniture upholstered in gold with burnished frames showing splendidly carved lions and crowns on backs and supports. The floor, richly carpeted in gold and white Brussels, has a costly bordering of satin and holly wood, with inlaid devices of tulip and rose wood. The marble chimneys are rare examples of sculptured figures and borderings, and on the mantels are French clocks, Sevres china, and ormolu "horns of plenty" candelabra; while in the fireplaces are some fine ormolu fire-dogs, with gold screens standing near.
There are some costly cabinets (16th century), one having inlaid doors of ebony, ormolu, and pebbles in relief; the drawers of tulip-wood, the back surmounted with some exquisitely chased ormolu figures. On one or two cabinets stand Roman candelabra, and inside, seen through glass, is Sevres china, some of it jewelled. An Italian-case grand piano is a special feature, showing hand-painted flowers and grotesque figures; the interior is an Erard, and very sweet is its tone.
Now note these two immense Indian vases on gilded pedestals; they have hand-painted battle-scenes upon them, not named, but one looking to me very much like the field of Waterloo; a tree, a farm, and the uniforms giving colour to this idea. These vases were presented to Her Majesty on her marriage by the Emperor of Germany. They are at opposite ends of the room, and between them stands a marble pedestal supporting a costly French timepiece. There are three full length paintings: Peter the Great (Sir Godfrey Kneller), Archbishop Fenelon (Rigaud), and Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (Sir P. Lely).
There is something that you would not think of looking for in the top left-hand corner of the room. It is faced by a cabinet, and above it is a massive mirror; one touch, however, with the hand of the initiated, and mirror and cabinet open intact into the room, and you have immediate entrance to the "Royal Closet."
Concert, Ball Room, and Drawing Room frequenters come not here: it is for the sole and exclusive use of Her Majesty and those of her family who are going into the Throne Room with her to receive any of her faithful subjects or foreign ambassadors. Your way would have been through a door from the White Drawing Room, leading into the Picture Gallery, along the top of which you would cross, so entering the Throne Room by a door exactly opposite. This Royal Closet contains some very choice and rare art treasures, of which the lovely collection of enamels is not the least: the one you will observe over the doorway leading to the vestibule is the largest known. The subject of it is "The Holy Family."
Here may be seen cabinets, the most costly and beautiful in the Palace. One you will notice standing on the left is of inlaid pebbles, with ormolu carvings, and has pearl jardinieres of fruit in the centre; the panels surrounded with birds and floral designs. In another part of the room is a fine inlaid table with a Phoenix in the centre of real lapis lazuli. On an elaborate ormolu stand is an ivory inlaid cabinet mounted on pillars; and still another shows pebbles of every shade in relief, and of great variety of design. The chimney-piece is supported by carved satyrs, a frieze of ormolu running round the fireplace. On the mantel is one of Vulliamy's best timepieces in marble and ormolu.
Walls and furniture are all clad in crimson silk, the latter having richly designed frames overlaid with burnished gold.
Of course, you will readily understand that it is quite impossible for me to point out to you the whole of the treasures, either in this or any other of the rooms. Were I to do so it would literally fill a volume, so I am compelled to content myself with selecting just a few as we go along. From here, then, Her Majesty and the other members of the family proceed via the vestibule to the Throne Room, so we will just take a brief glance at this vestibule before returning to the route proper. The Ministers' staircase, the entrance to which I pointed out to you at one end of the Sculpture Gallery, terminates here; so you will at once see how much less distance has to be covered by those coming this way and those who have to go through the entire suite we have traversed.
The ceiling is decorated in royal blue, gold and green, with ornamental chandeliers burning oil; and I may here remark that though electric light is carried into a number of the rooms, and gas is by no means left out, yet candles of wax, and chandeliers carrying oil lamps, are in much favour. Note the very handsome French clock, and then turn your attention to the two canvas portraits on the staircase. One is of Her Majesty the Queen, and the other H.R.H. the Prince-Consort, both by Francis Xaver Winterhalter.
Now we return to the line of procession again. Crossing the top of the Picture Gallery, which place we shall see later on, and taking the door pointed out before, we emerge by it direct into the Throne Room, not facing the Throne, but on the right of that as it faces us. This room is of magnificent proportions, 60ft. by 35ft., and as we stand for one or two minutes and look around, it naturally occurs to us to picture the brilliant scenes that have been enacted therein. Picturesque and splendid indeed it is when beauty, wealth, and valour are gathered together; all aided and intensified by the artistic and solidly grand surroundings. Even now as we stand here military music in the distance tells us that the time for one of the brilliant functions of the season is drawing nigh. Presently the Gentlemen-at-Arms will be here on guard, the Diplomatic Corps will assemble, together with the high officials of the State and Household; Royalty will take up their position about the Throne; and then the long line of debutantes will slowly advance for presentation, resplendent in feathers, jewels, and rich laces and silks.
The first thing to inspect here is obviously the Throne; it, of course, stands on a dais of massive carving and burnished gold, and is covered with crimson velvet. The chair is capacious and well cushioned, but, somehow, does not look particularly comfortable; neither do I think it proves itself so, for Her Majesty prefers to occupy a smaller and more easy-looking chair in the font. The canopy is exceedingly handsome, rich crimson velvet with the Royal Arms wrought in gold. A large bressummer, with angle trusses beneath, extending nearly the width of the room, forms an alcove in which the Throne stands. The ceiling is richly emblazoned with shields and armorial bearings, emblematic of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and annexation of Hanover; the frieze below is adorned with bassi-rillevi illustrative of the Wars of the Roses.
There are two fireplaces with chimney-pieces of marble, having sculptured figures holding wreaths of laurel in the centre, and continuations of trophies emblematical of the Army; the fire-dogs are ormolu dragons. On the mantels you will see some Sevres in turquoise blue, and other specimens of a variety of painting in colours.
Opposite notice a fine clock, by Pinchbeck; it is of tortoiseshell, having columns surmounted by a dome. It has four dials — time, day and date, wind and tide, and an astronomical dial.
The curtains are of crimson silk, edged with gold lace, the furniture to match; but as people do not go to the Throne Room to sit as a general rule, the furniture is a small item. The floor is carpeted with Brussels. I believe Her Majesty prefers this make, as, though Axminster and velvet-pile look uncommonly effective and rich, yet there is a sort of rotary motion when walking upon them that is a deal more tiring than when it is of a firm texture. Chandeliers and candelabra diffuse electric and candle light, throwing a brilliant radiance around, bringing the rich colours into relief, and lighting up the painted portraiture consisting of Queen Charlotte and George III., both by Ramsay; Charlotte Princess Royal, and William Duke of Clarence. George Prince of Wales, and Frederick Duke of York, both by Zoffany.
Passing through the handsome doors facing the Throne, we enter the "Green Drawing Room," not quite so large a room as the former, but only a little decrease in the length.
Here you see every shade of the colour from which the room takes its name, the whole relieved with borders of burnish and gilt, together with mounts of ormolu. This room is used on ball and concert nights for light refreshments, such as tea and coffee, fruit and champagne. The roof is decorated in white and gold, the walls panelled in striped green silk in frames of gold. This apartment is carpeted in Axminster with a parquetry border of satin and rose wood, the furniture green and gold to match.
There are several good portraits of members of the Royal Families of former reigns, also of the children of Philip II. of Spain; the artists being Gainsborough, Ramsay, Wright, Copley, and Dance. Now pass through these handsome doors, and you are in the "Guard Chamber." Before looking at anything here, though, turn round for one moment, and you will find that from here you have a clear view of the Throne; consequently, those immediately near the Throne have a clear view of you: not only that, but you can be seen when you first come in, for as you mount the staircase, which you can view now by crossing the room, you find plate glass reflects a back view of each of you — so, as a matter of fact, Her Majesty can watch you, if she chooses to do so, long before you are in the presence.
There are two or three other rooms of interest, but in order to see them we had better descend to the landing where the "double exit" terminates; then turn round, and go up the same staircase as when we first commenced the "Upper State Rooms." By this means, if you remember, we arrived first in the Promenade Gallery.
We now take a door on the left of that, and are at once in the "Supper Room." This is of splendid proportions, very lofty, and sixty feet square. There are immense sideboards of mahogany and ormolu, the supper-tables being arranged round three sides of the room; these being fully set before the guests come in. Very beautiful is the effect; the costly and matchless plate, the glass, flowers, and china having an appearance simply indescribable. In the midst of all is the beautiful fountain designed by H.R.H. the Prince Consort; a piece of plate of such magnificence and artistic beauty, that it is worth a special journey to the Palace to see it.
I may here say that every dish that is put on is prepared in the Royal kitchens — fine apartments these, which I shall not be able to describe to you for want of space. There are two sets of doors into the room, each opening from the Promenade Gallery, and enter by which you may, you are confronted by the most magnificent display of plate in Europe. This is kept at Windsor, and brought here for special occasions; then mounted on three immense buffets, facing the doors, one in the centre and one at each corner. When I say that its beauty dazzles and bewilders, I only very faintly convey to your minds the real effect. To-day, being a "Drawing Room," it is not en évidence, so I cannot do more than point out to you its location when present, and give the faintest description of it as I have seen it on the occasion of a "State Concert."
Now we will recross the Promenade, and so enter the "Wilkie" Room: so named from the number of works of that master hung there. From here we can walk direct into the "Picture Gallery." You have already crossed the top of this, but had not time for other than a brief glance. Here a lover of art could very easily spend an entire day, so beauteous and so varied are the studies. Suffice it to say that there are some of the finest examples of Flemish and Dutch, Italian and English masters. George IV really founded the collection, purchasing a large number from Sir J. Baring, and Queen Victoria has increased the number to a considerable extent. Some good examples of Titian, 1477-1576, must be mentioned: of Teniers, 1610-1690; of Rembrandt, 1607-1669 (the "Adoration of the Magi" needs no words); of Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640; of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1723-1792; of Van Dyck, 1599-1641; of Cornells Janssens, 1590-1665, and many others which cannot now be noticed.
In order to secure a good light, the roof has a treble range of skylights, having a floral coved centre, with circular side-lights; all of cut glass decorated with Orders of the Garter, etc., and side continuations of festooned architecture. Electric light sheds its rays from five massive ormolu chandeliers. The door-heads are supported by figures, and have marble jambs with ormolu mounts; those at either end having a clock in the centre of medallions surmounted with crowns and urns of fruit. There are four fireplaces with marble chimney-pieces, having medallions in the centre containing sculptured busts of some of the great masters, on either side being figures supporting wreaths. The walls have a flock-paper, the furniture is covered in crimson floral-traced silk, having carved frames of burnished gold, and the floor is also carpeted in the same colour.
At either end is some beautiful pure white marble statuary: "A Sea Nymph" in the act of spearing a fish, "Mars and Venus," "The Siren," with harp of gold wires, and "Venus and Cupid," Venus reposing on a lion-skin, height of 30ft., you will understand the truly grand effect of the whole.
You will be much interested in seeing the photos of two or three of the private rooms of Her Majesty and the late Prince Consort. Crowded as they are with the rarest of paintings, enamels, cabinets, and every variety of artistic treasure, it is quite impossible to do more than call your attention to the views.
But now the regimental music is emitting the sweetest of strains in court-yard and quadrangle: "Yeomen of the Guard" and "Gentlemen-at-Arms" are taking up their positions in the rooms at the word of command, with clatter of sword and rattle of halberds; State footmen in white knee-breeches, with coats of blue and heavy gold facings, are taking their places as guides, here and there forming a thin avenue through which visitors must pass; and as we descend the grand staircase we find the doors are open, and the procession is filing across the Marble Hall to the Bow Library — their cloak-room that is so exquisitely sculptured as to present the appearance of velvety softness peculiar to that animal's covering.
Come with me to the Sculpture Gallery, and there watch awhile. See the stately dowagers and matrons in velvet, silk, and diamonds as they sweep across; they have been before, and seem quite comfortable, laugh and talk, look around them, and claim acquaintance with others equally at home; but turn from them and gaze upon those who have come for presentation, and you cannot fail to notice the difference of demeanour. Anxiety — nay, absolute fright — is depicted on some faces, traces of want of sleep on others; trains are carried first on one arm, then on the other, and the majority look as though they wish it was all over and they away. Certainly the scene is brilliant, for it is not only the dresses of the ladies one sees, but also the military, naval, and Court; and the most magnificent display of orchids, roses, lilies, Malmaison carnations, and Victoria showers of mingled foliage it is possible to imagine; all made up in such a pretty, natural way, with their trailing creepers and hanging ribbons, that they heighten the effect of the costumes considerably. Now some of the "Corps Diplomatique" appear in their State dress, two Royal pages pass in scarlet and plumes, and the company are rapidly passing from the cloak-room up the grand staircase, and so on to the State Dining Room; where they can sit and compare notes until such time as the Royal party have entered the Throne Room, when they will advance in single file through the crush barriers on to the doors of the room, when, the Lord Chamberlain calling their names in stentorian tones, they advance with all the grace and courage they can muster; make their curtsy, and retire as speedily as etiquette will permit.
But now the National Anthem is heard in the quadrangle, and if we hurry to the end of the gallery near the "Ministers' Stairs," we shall witness the entrance into the gallery and the passage up the staircase.
It is the Marlborough House party that has just arrived, and pass close to us, the equerries in advance making their way upwards with faces to Royalty. The Princess Christian and her daughter (who have been taking luncheon in the Carnarvon Room opposite) also wend their way upwards with the same state, and as the clock strikes three — the hour of commencement — the last of Royalty have assembled in the Throne Room.
Once again the strains of the National Anthem fall on our ears, as some of the family leave the Palace. Can I find better words to close this than those that are sung throughout the length and breadth of the land — "God Save the Queen"?
The Strand Magazine, No. 31, Edited by George Newnes, Vol. VI., July to December, 1893, By Mary Spencer-Warren.
[Permission has been most graciously accorded to the writer of the following article by Her Majesty the Queen to have access to the inside of Buckingham Palace, and to be at liberty to examine the interior - an opportunity now given for the first time — in order to furnish the readers of The Strand Magazine with a descriptive account of its contents and decorations. We are quite sure our readers, as well as ourselves, will much appreciate the opportunity afforded.]