The State Apartments and private rooms of William III (1689-1702)
The grand staircase leads to William III’s State Apartments. On the wall is ‘Victory of Alexander over the Caesars’, by Italian artist Verrio. The 12 Caesars represent the Catholic forces that William has ousted in the Glorious Revolution. William is the hero Alexander.
The Guard Chamber displays a remarkable collection of weapons on the walls. Yeomen of the Guard would have been stationed at the door, checking courtiers were suitably dressed and behaved before allowing them into the Presence Chamber. This is the official throne room, with the chair of estate under its formal canopy. Usually empty, visitors would still have had to bow to the throne as they passed through. The State Apartments look empty to modern eyes but they would have been filled with beautifully dressed courtiers, meeting, gossiping and playing politics.
Next comes the Privy Chamber where only statesmen and courtiers close to the king are allowed entry. You can see the spectacular Privy Garden from the windows.
Don’t miss the ornate wood-carvings throughout William’s apartments. These incredibly delicate, virtuoso carvings are the work of Grinling Gibbons, a master-craftsman of the seventeenth century.
The spectacular Great Bedchamber wasn’t for sleeping in but for the King to be dressed in public. Next door, the Little Bedroom has a painted ceiling by Verrio with a bed-time theme; here Mars, the God of War, lies snoozing in the arms of Venus, Goddess of Love. Only the King’s most personal staff and close courtiers come in here.
Downstairs the rooms are on a more human scale – this is where William III really lived, displaying his prized possessions and entertaining his favourite people. The closets contain paintings hung on ropes. It’s a clever device – which allowed the King to re-hang them whenever the fancy took him. They’re all pictures he particularly liked and give us a good idea of his taste. The amazing centrepiece is by Steinwich, the Flemish artist, of his liberation of Saint Peter.
In the Orangery William’s orange and bay trees are stored during the winter months. In the summer, the doors open on to his Privy Garden.
William’s private dining room is laid out as it would have been in seventeen hundred, towards the end of his life, when he sat surrounded by the famous Hampton Court Beauties paintings. In the alcove at the far end is a marble-topped table designed for a display of gold plate. Wine was served from this alcove, and dirty plates removed to it, then after dinner the shutter would be dropped, leaving the king and his companions in complete privacy.
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