Queen’s House was commissioned by James I in 1616 as a summer residence for his wife, the Anne of Denmark.
It was built by the famous architect Inigo Jones in the new Palladian style, and caused an utter sensation as nothing had been seen like this in England before.
Along with Banqueting House it is one of the few buildings by Jones to survive to modern times, and can rightly be labelled his piece de resistance. “Solid, proportionable to the rules, masculine and unaffected.”
Unfortunately Anne of Denmark died before it was completed, so Charles I carried on the work for his queen: Henrietta Maria.
Queen’s House later became a home for aristocrats, and then a school, before the government finally turned it over to the National Maritime Museum for use as a gallery. It now houses a collection of naval paintings.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
Nowadays Queen’s House is nothing more than an adjunct for the National Maritime Museum, but guidebook describes it as one of the most important buildings in the country.
When it was originally built by Inigo Jones it was genuinely revolutionary, but is it any good these days? Answer: er… it’s okay, I suppose.
I accept that it must have been amazing back in the day, but when you look at it now it’s just a big white shoebox. I visited Banqueting House the other day and when you step inside your eyes open wide to take it all in. There’s nothing like that here. There’s no big painting on the ceiling.
The main hall is just two stories tall with a checkerboard floor, and a balcony running round the inside. Think ‘posh hotel foyer’, and that you will have some idea of what it looks like.
There are lots of pokey little rooms off to the side containing paintings from the National Maritime Museum. They all show big boats, boats in battle, and portraits of famous sailors. Some of them are by famous painters like Gainsborough and Reynolds.
If you like boats then you’ll probably get a kick out of it, but for the rest of us it’s the kind of place that you’ll only visit… once.
> Read Craig’s latest review of Queen’s House “Queen’s House is one of those buildings that gets eulogised in all the guidebooks, but when you actually come and see it you’ll think… huh, okay. Is that it?. If you weren’t told it was famous beforehand then you wouldn’t have a clue it was. Can you see the Old Royal Naval College on the other side of the road? That’s where the Tudor Palace used to be. Whenever you read about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I staying at Greenwich Palace then that’s where it was. James I added Queen’s… continued.”
> Read Craig’s review of the National Maritime Museum “I do like the National Maritime Museum, but given Britain’s rich history of war on the waves, and the fact that we won just about every battle we ever fought, it always seems a bit sparse on content to me. Where’s the rest of it? I suppose we must have sunk it all. All you’ll find downstairs are some ship’s figureheads, a titchy model of Nelson’s Column, a gilded barge from Georgian times, two old industrial engines, a few scale models and a silver speedboat. That is practically it. That is downstairs done unless you like looking at old paintings of the River Thames. Luckily I do… continued.”
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The other attractions worth visiting in Greenwich are the Old Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory on top of Greenwich Hill. You might like to explore the Cutty Sark ship as well. Or how about catching a sightseeing boat from Westminster to Greenwich? The best boat companies are City Cruises and Thames River Services.
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