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Greenwich is a favourite destination for visitors who come to admire its many delights. One treasure that is often overlooked is the Queen’s House located near the National Maritime Museum.
The House’s has recently been closed to allow the Royal Museums Greenwich the opportunity to refurbish galleries and introduce new displays and colour schemes, bespoke lighting and new interpretation. It will be reopened on October 11th 2016 to celebrate its 400th anniversary featuring paintings that illustrate its Royal connections and work from the National Maritime Museum’s outstanding art collection.
The Queen’s House has a remarkable history and is considered one of the most important buildings architecturally in the country. The famous architect Inigo Jones was commissioned to design the building in 1616 by King James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark , although she never saw Inigo Jones’s Classical design completed because she died in 1619 when only the first floor had been built. In 1629, James’s son Charles I gave Greenwich to his wife Henrietta Maria and work on the Queen’s House resumed to be finally completed around 1636. The house is considered one of the first fully Classical building in England and marked a distinct break from the traditional, red-brick Tudor style of building.
The Civil War in 1640’s meant that Henrietta Maria had little time in the house before she went into exile and her husband was executed, although she did eventually return after the restoration in 1660. The house was then used by members of the royal family and for other purposes until 1805, when George III granted the Queen’s House to a charity for the orphans of seamen, called the Royal Naval Asylum. This remained until 1933, when the charity moved to Suffolk. It was taken over by the National Maritime Museum in 1934.
As part of the new refurbishment Turner Prize winner Richard Wright has created a new artwork for the ceiling of the Great Hall which is inspired by the remarkable Tulip Stairs.
Visitors to the re-opened house will also be able to see Orazio Gentileschi’s Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife displayed in this iconic building for the first time since 1650. The painting, which is part of the Royal Collection, was one of a sequence commissioned for the Queen’s House by King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria.
The King’s Presence Chamber and Queen’s Presence Chamber have been used to house paintings illustrating the kings, queens, consorts and courtiers associated with the House and Greenwich during this period. This helps to bring the history of the Queen’s House to life and illustrates the connection with the Tudor Placentia Palace that once stood near the site.
Walking around the remarkable house provides plenty of evidence of how Greenwich was at the centre of Royal life for centuries and how little remains to remind us of its Royal connections. Rather strangely, the entrance to the house is via the colonnade and not through the front and back of the building. From the house you can enjoy great views of Greenwich Park and the Naval College.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information, visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website here
Entrance is Free to Queen’s House
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