The Brighton Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton was originally built in 1787 as a vacation home for King George IV. The palace, located beside the beach on the southern English coastline, was initially constructed and decorated in the neoclassical style. In 1815, the royal family commissioned architect John Nash to expand the Pavilion. Nash, one of the most influential British architects, worked almost exclusively in the neoclassical style. However, his expansion of the palace, which survives today, is boldly Indo-Indian in design. Specifically, the palace draws heavily from the Mughal style of architecture, the most famous example of which is the Taj Mahal. The palace is topped with numerous tapered bulbs, which stick out above the rest of the town. The curves, domes, and spires on the new palace would have seemed wildly out of place in comparison to any other new architectural designs of the time. In fact, only a few years after the completion of the Pavilion, Nash began his design of Buckingham Palace – one of the most recognizable neoclassically-designed buildings in England. As soon as Nash’s expansion was complete in 1822, the Pavilion became a major public attraction due to its splendor and distinct foreignness.

The interior was designed in a similarly exotic fashion. The walls and ceilings of many of the various halls are painted with murals depicting scenes from India and, especially, China. Though George IV had not visited the Far East, the British trading empire had extensive contact with the region, and it was through the return of Chinese and Indian luxuries to England that George IV developed his affinity for these cultures. Because of this indirect connection between the Far East, decorators, and George IV, Pavilion historians say that these original decorations were more Western interpretations of Eastern ideas than they were true to the actual Eastern designs.

Shortly after George IV’s death in 1830, the royal family moved away from the Pavilion in favor of a new, more isolated retreat. The Pavilion was sold to the town of Brighton and remains a public attraction to this day, with many original artworks and pieces of furniture on display.

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

1815 to 1822

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