Banqueting House, Whitehall

Banqueting House, Whitehall

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The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London, is the grandest and best known survivor of the architectural genre of banqueting house
Banqueting House
In Tudor and Early Stuart English architecture a banqueting house is a separate building reached through pleasure gardens from the main residence, whose use is purely for entertaining. It may be raised for additional air or a vista, and it may be richly decorated, but it contains no bedrooms or...

, and the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall
Palace of Whitehall
The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698 when all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire...

. The building is important in the history of English architecture as the first building to be completed in the neo-classical style which was to transform English architecture.

Begun in 1619, and designed by Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England...

 in a style influenced by Palladio
Andrea Palladio
Andrea Palladio was an architect active in the Republic of Venice. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture...

, the Banqueting House was completed in 1622 at a cost of £
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

15,618, just 27 years before King Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 was executed on a scaffold in front of it in January 1649.

The building was controversially re-faced in Portland stone
Portland stone
Portland stone is a limestone from the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic period quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. The quarries consist of beds of white-grey limestone separated by chert beds. It has been used extensively as a building stone throughout the British Isles, notably in major...

 in the 19th century, though the details of the original façade were faithfully preserved. Today, the Banqueting House is a national monument, open to the public and preserved as a Grade I listed building.
It is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces
Historic Royal Palaces
Historic Royal Palaces is an independent charity created in 1998 to manage Britain's unoccupied royal palaces. These are:* The Tower of London* Hampton Court Palace* Kensington Palace - the state rooms only.* Banqueting House* Kew Palace...

, which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown.

History


The Palace of Whitehall
Palace of Whitehall
The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698 when all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire...

 was largely the creation of King Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

, expanding an earlier mansion that had belonged to Cardinal Wolsey, originally known as York Place. The King was determined that his new palace should be the "biggest palace in Christendom", a place befitting his newly created status as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. All evidence of the disgraced Wolsey was eliminated and the building rechristened the Palace of Whitehall.

During Henry's reign, the palace had no designated banqueting house, the King preferring to banquet in a temporary structure purpose-built in the gardens. The first permanent banqueting house at Whitehall had a short life. It was built for James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 but was destroyed by fire in January 1619, when workmen, clearing up after New Year's festivities, decided to incinerate the rubbish inside the building.

An immediate replacement was commissioned from the fashionable architect Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England...

. Jones had spent time in Italy studying the architecture evolving from the Renaissance and that of Palladio
Andrea Palladio
Andrea Palladio was an architect active in the Republic of Venice. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture...

, and returned to England with what at the time were revolutionary ideas: to replace the complicated and confused style of the Jacobean
Jacobean architecture
The Jacobean style is the second phase of Renaissance architecture in England, following the Elizabethan style. It is named after King James I of England, with whose reign it is associated.-Characteristics:...

 English Renaissance with a simpler, classically inspired design. His new banqueting house at Whitehall was to be a prime example of this. Jones made no attempt to harmonise his design with the Tudor palace of which it was to be part.

Architecture


The design of the Banqueting House is classical in concept. It introduced a refined Italianate Renaissance
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

 style that was unparalleled in the free and picturesque Jacobean
Jacobean era
The Jacobean era refers to the period in English and Scottish history that coincides with the reign of King James VI of Scotland, who also inherited the crown of England in 1603 as James I...

 architecture of England, where Renaissance motifs were still filtered through the engravings of Flemish Mannerist designers. The roof is all but flat and the roofline is a balustrade. On the street façade, all the elements of two orders of engaged columns, Corinthian
Corinthian order
The Corinthian order is one of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric and Ionic. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order...

 over Ionic
Ionic order
The Ionic order forms one of the three orders or organizational systems of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian...

, above a high rusticated basement, are interlocked in a harmonious whole.

The building is on three floors. The ground floor, a warren of cellars and store rooms, is low; its small windows indicating by their size the lowly status and usage of the floor, above which is the double-height banqueting hall, which falsely appears from the outside as a first-floor piano nobile
Piano nobile
The piano nobile is the principal floor of a large house, usually built in one of the styles of classical renaissance architecture...

 with a secondary floor above. The seven bays of windows divided by Ionic
Ionic order
The Ionic order forms one of the three orders or organizational systems of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian...

 pilaster
Pilaster
A pilaster is a slightly-projecting column built into or applied to the face of a wall. Most commonly flattened or rectangular in form, pilasters can also take a half-round form or the shape of any type of column, including tortile....

s of the "first floor" are surmounted by alternating triangular and segmental pediment
Pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

s, while the windows of the "second floor" are unadorned casements. Immediately beneath the entablature
Entablature
An entablature refers to the superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave , the frieze ,...

, which projects to emphasize the central three bays, the capitals of the Corinthian
Corinthian order
The Corinthian order is one of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric and Ionic. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order...

 pilasters are linked by swags in relief
Relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

 above which the entablature, crowned by a balustrade, is supported by dental corbel table
Corbel
In architecture a corbel is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any superincumbent weight. A piece of timber projecting in the same way was called a "tassel" or a "bragger". The technique of corbelling, where rows of corbels deeply keyed inside a wall support a projecting wall or...

. Under the upper frieze
Frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

, festoon
Festoon
Festoon , a wreath or garland, and so in architecture a conventional arrangement of flowers, foliage or fruit bound together and suspended by ribbons, either from a decorated knot, or held in the mouths of lions, or suspended across the back of bulls heads as...

s and masks suggest the feasting and revelry associated with the concept of a royal banqueting hall.

Much of the work on the Banqueting House was overseen by Nicholas Stone
Nicholas Stone
Nicholas Stone was an English sculptor and architect. In 1619 he was appointed master-mason to James I, and in 1626 to Charles I....

, a Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

shire mason who had trained in Holland. It has been said that until this time English sculpture resembled that described by the Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14...

: "the figure cut in alabaster kneels at my husband's tomb." Like Inigo Jones, Stone was well aware of Florentine art, and introduced to England a more delicate classical form of sculpture inspired by Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

's Medici tombs. This is evident in his swags on the street façade of the Banqueting House, similar to that which adorns the plinth of his Francis Holles memorial. All of this was quite new to England.

In 1638, Jones drew the designs for a new and massive palace at Whitehall in which his banqueting house was to be incorporated as one wing enclosing a series of seven courtyards. However, Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, who commissioned the plans, never truly had the resources to execute them; his lack of funds and the tensions that eventually led to the Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 intervened and the plans were permanently shelved.

The plans of the new palace reveal the ideas behind Jones' concept of Palladianism, which is not obvious from viewing the Banqueting House today as one entity. The plans show that it was intended to be one small flanking wing of one bay of a monumental façade.

Architecturally, the Banqueting House was always be to be at odds with its surroundings. In January 1698, the Tudor Palace was razed by fire; fire engines pumping water from the adjacent River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 were unable to check the flames, which raged for seventeen hours, after which all that remained was the Banqueting House and the Whitehall and Holbein Gates.

Following the fire, Christopher Wren
Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren FRS is one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history.He used to be accorded responsibility for rebuilding 51 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including his masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710...

 and Nicholas Hawksmoor
Nicholas Hawksmoor
Nicholas Hawksmoor was a British architect born in Nottinghamshire, probably in East Drayton.-Life:Hawksmoor was born in Nottinghamshire in 1661, into a yeoman farming family, almost certainly in East Drayton, Nottinghamshire. On his death he was to leave property at nearby Ragnall, Dunham and a...

 were asked to design a new palace, but nothing came of the scheme. It has been said that the widowed William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 never cared for the area, but that had his wife Mary II
Mary II of England
Mary II was joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland with her husband and first cousin, William III and II, from 1689 until her death. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant, respectively, following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of...

 been alive, with her appreciation of the historical significance of Whitehall, he would have insisted on the rebuilding.

Interior


The term Banqueting House was something of a misnomer. The hall within the house was in fact used not only for banqueting but royal receptions, ceremonies, and the performance of masque
Masque
The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in 16th and early 17th century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio...

s. The entertainments given here would have been among the finest in Europe, for during this period England was considered the leading musical country of Europe. On January 5, 1617 Pochahontas and Tomocomo
Tomocomo
Uttamatomakkin, known as Tomocomo for short, was a Powhatan native shaman who accompanied Pocahontas on her visit to London in 1616.Little is known about Tomocomo's life before his visit to London. He is known to have been a shaman. He appears to have met Captain John Smith during Smith's time in...

 were brought before the King at the Banqueting House in Whitehall Palace at a performance of Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

's masque The Vision of Delight
The Vision of Delight
The Vision of Delight was a Jacobean era masque written by Ben Jonson. It was most likely performed on Twelfth Night, January 6, 1617 in the Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace, and repeated on January 19 of that year....

. According to John Smith, King James
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 was so unprepossessing neither of the natives realized whom they had met until it was explained to them afterward. Such masques were later augmented with French musicians whom Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I, brought to the court. The masques began a slow decline, however, after the death in 1625 of Orlando Gibbons
Orlando Gibbons
Orlando Gibbons was an English composer, virginalist and organist of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods...

, who ironically died on a trip to meet the newly married Henrietta Maria and her musicians.

Inside the building is a single two-storey double-cube room. The double cube room is another Palladianism
Palladian architecture
Palladian architecture is a European style of architecture derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio . The term "Palladian" normally refers to buildings in a style inspired by Palladio's own work; that which is recognised as Palladian architecture today is an evolution of...

, where all proportions are mathematically related. Thus the length of the room is twice its equal width and height. At second-floor level the room is surrounded by what is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a minstrels' gallery
Minstrels' gallery
A minstrels' gallery is a form of balcony, often inside the great hall of a castle or manor house, and used to allow musicians to perform, sometimes discreetly hidden from the guests below.-Notable minstrel's galleries:...

. While musicians may have played from this vantage point, its true purpose was to admit an audience, for at the time of the Banqueting House's construction Kings still lived in "splendour and state", or publicly. The less exalted and the general public would be permitted to crowd the gallery in order to watch the King dine. The lower status of those in the gallery was emphasised by the lack of an internal staircase, the gallery only being accessible by an external staircase. The building was, however, later extended to accommodate an internal staircase.
James I, for whom the Banqueting House was created, died in 1625 and was succeeded by his son, Charles I. The accession of Charles I heralded a new era in the cultural history of England. The new King was a great patron of the arts—he added to the Royal Collection
Royal Collection
The Royal Collection is the art collection of the British Royal Family. It is property of the monarch as sovereign, but is held in trust for her successors and the nation. It contains over 7,000 paintings, 40,000 watercolours and drawings, and about 150,000 old master prints, as well as historical...

 and encouraged the great painters of Europe to come to England. In 1623 he visited Spain where he was impressed by Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

, Rubens, and Velázquez
Diego Velázquez
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist...

. It became his ambition to find a comparable painter for his own court. Rubens was lured to England with the offer of a knighthood, and the Banqueting House ceiling was then painted in 1635. The subject, commissioned by the King, was the glorification of his father, titled The Apotheosis
Apotheosis
Apotheosis is the glorification of a subject to divine level. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre.In theology, the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature...

 of James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

,
and was an allegory of his own birth. To the King's chagrin, having finished the ceiling, Rubens took his knighthood and decamped back to Antwerp, leaving Anthony van Dyck, lured not only with a knighthood but also a pension and a house, to remain in England as the court painter. Inigo Jones was later to design another double-cube room, this one at Wilton House
Wilton House
Wilton House is an English country house situated at Wilton near Salisbury in Wiltshire. It has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years....

, to display Van Dyck's portraits of the aristocratic Pembroke
Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke
Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and 1st Earl of Montgomery KG was an English courtier and politician active during the reigns of James I and Charles I...

 family.

Given the attention and effort which were lavished by Charles I on the Banqueting House, his end was not without irony. On the afternoon of 30 January 1649 it was probably from the Banqueting House's central window that he stepped out onto the scaffold which had been erected outside for the purpose of his execution.

Legacy


Unlike the architecture of the more southern European countries, English architecture went through no period of evolution to classicism. Through Jones it arrived suddenly and fully formed. Before this, English architecture had still been based on the styles of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, if for the previous century influenced indirectly by the Italian Renaissance, which had resulted in an English renaissance style during the late Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. However, as can be seen at Hatfield House
Hatfield House
Hatfield House is a country house set in a large park, the Great Park, on the eastern side of the town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. The present Jacobean house was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I and has been the home of the Cecil...

, one of England's first purpose-built "Renaissance" houses, even during this era, English domestic architecture never quite lost its "castle air."

Thus, through Inigo Jones' work at the Queen's House
Queen's House
The Queen's House, Greenwich, is a former royal residence built between 1614-1617 in Greenwich, then a few miles downriver from London, and now a district of the city. Its architect was Inigo Jones, for whom it was a crucial early commission, for Anne of Denmark, the queen of King James I of England...

 and the Banqueting House, English architecture was transformed. The overthrow of the monarch and establishment of the puritanical Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 caused the style to be seen as Royalist
Royalist
A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of government, but not necessarily a particular monarch...

, which delayed its spread; but within a few years of the Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

 almost every English county was to have some buildings in the classical style. The Banqueting House and its features became much copied. A much-favoured motif was the placing of pediments above not only the focal point of a façade but also its windows. The use of alternating segmental and triangular pediments, an arrangement employed by Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

 as early as 1550 at the Medicis' Palazzo Uffizi
Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery , is a museum in Florence, Italy. It is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world.-History:...

 in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, was a particular favourite. Provincial architects began to recreate the motifs of the Banqueting House throughout England, with varying degrees of competence. Examples of the style's popularity can be found throughout England; the then-remote county of Somerset alone contains three 17th-century versions of the Banqueting House: Brympton d'Evercy
Brympton d'Evercy
Brympton d'Evercy is a manor house near Yeovil in the county of Somerset, England. It has been described as the most beautiful house in England, in a country of architecturally pleasing country houses; whatever the truth of that statement, in 1927 the British magazine Country Life published a set...

, Hinton House, and Ashton Court
Ashton Court
Ashton Court is a mansion house and estate to the west of Bristol in England. Although the estate lies mainly in North Somerset, it is owned by the City of Bristol. The estate has been a venue for a variety of leisure activities, including the now-defunct Ashton Court festival, Bristol...

. Following the fall of the monarchy, Jones' career was effectively ended, his style seen as royalist. He died in 1652, never having seen the popularity of the architectural concepts he introduced.

James II
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 was the last monarch to live at Whitehall; William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 and Mary II
Mary II of England
Mary II was joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland with her husband and first cousin, William III and II, from 1689 until her death. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant, respectively, following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of...

 preferred to live elsewhere and eventually reconstructed Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London; it has not been inhabited by the British royal family since the 18th century. The palace is located south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames...

. Following the fire which destroyed Whitehall Palace, the Banqueting Hall became redundant for the purpose for which it was designed, and it was converted to a chapel to replace the Chapel Royal of Whitehall, which had been destroyed in the fire and was used to host concerts. It remained a chapel before being given to the Royal United Services Institute
Royal United Services Institute
The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies , officially still known by its old name, the Royal United Services Institution, is a British defence and security think tank. It was founded in 1831 by The Duke of Wellington.RUSI describes itself asIt won Prospect Magazine's...

 by Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

in 1893. Highly controversial plans to partition the large mansion house space in the service of offices for the Institution were quickly dropped in favour of the creation of a museum which displayed personal items of famous commanders and included the skeleton of Napoleon's horse. The museum closed in 1962, and the great south window, blocked up by the RUSI, was restored.

External links