Banqueting House

Banqueting House exterior
The Banqueting House, designed by Inigo Jones with ceilings painted by Peter Paul Rubens, is the only remaining bit of the Palace of Whitehall, which was the main London residence of the kings and queens of England from 1530 to 1698. On 4 January 1698, some drying laundry caught fire and within a few hours the entire sprawling palace save for the Banqueting House and a couple of gates was destroyed.
Because I had studied the Stuart monarchs and I’m a huge fan of Baroque anything, the Banqueting House was on my London must-see list. I got goosebumps knowing all the people I’d spent so much time studying had walked across the very same room. Well, the decorations that were up for a cancer fundraiser weren’t there when Charles I was touching for scrofula,* but you get the idea. Poor Charles I. Those dastardly Parliamentarians executed him right out in front of the Banqueting House in 1649. When his son, Charles II, returned from exile in 1660, the triumphal procession ended at the Banqueting House, where both houses of Parliament professed their loyalty to the newly-restored monarch. Charles knew how to make a point.
Banqueting House interiorBanqueting House Dais
When we visited the Banqueting House, they were closing early for an event. Even with all the plastic-and-metal chairs and tables being moved in, the building is magnificent. The photos above are of each end of the room. It’s quite long and there’s lots of light from windows down both of the long sides. It’s not difficult to imagine courtiers dressed to the nines but still failing to outshine the Rubens ceiling!
Banqueting House ceilingBanqueting House James I Rubens painting
The photo on the right is The Apotheosis of James I. Essentially, he’s being elevated to divinity. The Stuarts took their divine right seriously, but it didn’t always work out so well for them. Charles I was executed and his son, James II, was deposed and had to spend the rest of his life in exile when his daughter and Dutch son-in-law/nephew invaded and took over. The moral? Don’t paint your dad as a god. It’s really a bit much. Lovely painting, though.
Meanwhile, across the street at the Horse Guards…
Horse Guards

Beware: Horses May Kick or Bite! Thank you.

*Scrofula, known as the King’s Evil, could supposedly be cured by the mere touch of the true monarch of Great Britain. The Stuarts were big on touching for scrofula because it was an opportunity to show off their divine right to the throne. The practice ended with the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

If you want more info, check out the Banqueting House website. The Historic Royal Palaces membership is worth it, by the way.

7 thoughts on “Banqueting House

  1. hannah cornish

    So interesting to read! Beautiful photographs too
    Hannas’ UK Beauty | Lifestyle blog @ hannatalks

    1. Lauren Hairston

      Thanks! I only took my iPhone on that trip and the photos turned out pretty well.

  2. sunday taylor

    Oh good, another place to visit in London. I have never been and will now add it to my list for next time. Thanks so much for all the great information about it. And loved the photos. Love all the history in London. Awe-inspiring!

    1. Lauren Hairston

      Oh you definitely need to visit! It’s beautiful and such a nice tranquil spot in the middle of London. If you get the pass, you’ll get into the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, and Hampton Court Palace, as well.

  3. Lori

    We need to get your daddy to London! He would love this. It would take an AWFUL LOT to outshine that ceiling. Your pictures are wonderful!

    1. Lauren Hairston

      There’s definitely an entire trip’s worth (at least!) of amazing 17th- and early 18th-centry architecture in London alone. Absolutely recommended!

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