La Maison des Banquets: The Banqueting House is one of the most beautiful royal palaces in London, but its ornate façade hides perhaps the darkest chapter in the history of the British monarchy.
* An intriguing look into the palace’s dramatic history
* Ornate ceiling paintings
The last surviving section of Palace of Whitehall is steeped in history and offers a fascinating window on the past.
Before it was gutted by fire in 1698, the Palace of Whitehall had been Europe’s largest palace complex. All that remained after this devastating inferno was the Banqueting Hall, which had been built eight decades earlier by the great architect Inigo Jones. It was the first Palladian building in England and to this remains a masterpiece of neo-classicism. The hall was to be the first part of a new palace that was planned to replace the palace long before it was burned down.
The interior’s most renowned feature is perhaps the large gilt-framed ceiling paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. The three main canvasses depict The Union of the Crowns, The Apotheosis of James I and The Peaceful Reign of James I.
Little could James I have foreseen that his son, Charles I, would be beheaded before the Banqueting House on a bitterly cold winter’s day in 1649 at the end of the English Civil War. As the axe was about to fall on his head, he uttered his final words: ‘I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be. ’ The site of the scaffold is marked outside.
Meeting/pick-up point: The Banqueting House, Whitehall.
Start/opening time: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
Languages: Audio guide in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese.