- Palace of Whitehall
The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the English monarchs in
Londonfrom 1530 until 1698 when all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting Housewas destroyed by fire. Before the fire it had grown to be the largest palace in Europe, with over 1,500 rooms (at one time it was the largest building in the world).
The palace gives its name—
Whitehall—to the road on which many of the current administrative buildings of the UK government are situated, and hence metonymically to the central government itself.
At its most expansive, the palace extended over much of the area currently bordered by
Northumberland Avenuein the north; to Downing Streetand nearly to Derby Gate in the south; and from roughly the elevations of the current buildings facing Horse Guards Road in the west, to the then banks of the river Thamesin the east (the construction of Victoria Embankmenthas since reclaimed more land from the Thames) — a total of about convert|23|acre|1|lk=on.
By the 13th century, the
Palace of Westminsterhad become the centre of governmentin England, and had been the main London residence of the king since 1049. The surrounding area became a very popular—and expensive—location. Walter de Grey, the Archbishop of Yorkbought a property in the area soon after 1240, calling it York Place. Edward I of Englandstayed at the property on several occasions while work was carried out at Westminster, and enlarged the building to accommodate his entourage. York Place was rebuilt during the 15th century and expanded so much by Cardinal Wolsey that it was rivalled by only Lambeth Palaceas the greatest house in London, the King's London palaces included. Consequently when King Henry VIII removed the cardinal from power in 1530, he acquired York Place to replace Westminster as his main London residence. He inspected its treasures in the company of his young fiancée, Lady Anne Boleyn.Henry VIII subsequently redesigned York Place, and further extended and rebuilt the palace during his lifetime. Inspired by Richmond Palace, he also included a recreation centre with a bowlinggreen, tenniscourts, a pit for cock fighting (now the site of 70 Whitehall) and a tiltyard for jousting. It is estimated that over £30,000 (approaching £11m in 2007 values) [ [http://www.measuringworth.com/aboutus.html Measuring Worth calculator] ] were spent during the 1540s, 50% more than the construction of the entire Bridewell Palace. Henry VIII married two of his wives at the palace — Anne Boleynin 1533 and Jane Seymourin 1536. It was also at the palace that the King died in January 1547. In 1611 the palace hosted the first known performance of William Shakespeare's play " The Tempest".
James I made a few significant changes to the buildings, notably the construction in 1622 of a new Banqueting House built to a design by
Inigo Jonesto replace a series of previous banqueting houses dating from the time of Elizabeth I. Its decoration was finished in 1634 with the completion of a ceiling by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, commissioned by Charles I (who was to be executed in front of the building in 1649). By 1650 the Palace was the largest complex of secular buildings in England, with over 1,500 rooms. The layout was extremely irregular and the constituent parts were of many different sizes and in several different architectural styles. The palace looked more like a small town than a single building.
Charles II commissioned minor works. Like his father, he died at the Palace—though from a
stroke, not execution. James II ordered various changes by Sir Christopher Wren, including a new chapel finished in 1687, rebuilding of the queen's apartments (1688?), and the queen's private lodgings (1689).
In 1691, when the palace was the largest palace, and the most complex in Europe—and a jumble of buildings—a fire destroyed much of the older palace structures. This actually gave a greater cohesiveness to the complex. However a further fire on
January 4, 1698destroyed most of the other residential and government buildings. Despite some rebuilding, financial constraints prevented large scale reconstruction. In the second half of the eighteenth century, much of the site was leased for the construction of town houses.
The palace today
Banqueting House is the only integral building of the complex now standing, although it has been somewhat modified. Various other parts of the old palace still exist, often incorporated into new buildings in the Whitehall government complex. These include parts of the former covered tennis courts from the time of Henry VIII built into the Old Treasury and
Cabinet Officeat 70 Whitehall.
Beginning in 1938, the east side of the site was redeveloped with the building now housing the Ministry of Defence. An undercroft from Wolsey's Great Chamber, now known as "Henry VIII's Wine Cellar", a fine example of a Tudor brick-vaulted roof some convert|70|ft|m|1 long and convert|30|ft|m|1 wide, was found to interfere not just with the plan for the new building but also with the proposed route for Horse Guards Avenue. Following a request from Queen Mary in 1938 and a promise in Parliament, provision was made for the preservation of the cellar. Accordingly it was encased in steel and concrete and relocated nine feet to the west and nearly convert|19|ft|m deeper in 1949, when building was resumed at the site after
World War II. This major operation was carried out without any significant damage to the structure and it now rests safe within the basement of the building.
A number of marble carvings from the former chapel at Whitehall (which was built for James II), can now be seen in the church at
Burnham on Seain Somerset, to where they were moved in 1820 after having originally been removed to Westminster Abbeyin 1706.
*List of Palaces
Palace of Westminster— Main London royal residence from 1049 until 1530
** Palace of Whitehall — Main London royal residence from 1530 to 1698
St. James's Palace— Main London royal residence from 1702 until 1837
Buckingham Palace— Main London royal residence since 1837
* Information about the Palace of Whitehall from the "
Survey of London": [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=67775 History] ; [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=67776 Buildings] ; [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=67777 Banqueting House]
* [http://www.hrp.org.uk/webcode/timeline.asp?ID=73 Palace of Whitehall Timeline]
* [http://www.londonancestor.com/maps/whitehall-palace.htm Enlarged 1680 Plan of Whitehall, showing the location of the tennis courts, cockpit, tiltyard on the St James's Park side, and the configuration of buildings on the river side]
* [http://www.buildinghistory.org/Primary/Magalotti/Whitehall.htm View of Whitehall in 1669 showing the
Banqueting Houseand Holbein Gateway]
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