Readers may recall my previous moans about not being able to get into the Banqueting House in Whitehall at a time of my choosing. Well, last night I cracked it, thanks to a Save the Children Christmas Fair that was held there. The magnificent interior with its Rubens ceiling did not disappoint, as you can see from the pictures below. I also bumped into a London Historians member whom I hadn’t met. Always a pleasure.
The story of this building is well-known, but just to re-cap. It was commissioned by James I, designed by Inigo Jones, and built in 1621/2. Charles I subsequently commissioned Rubens to decorate the ceiling. The central panel shows James I being crowned by a heavenly host, a clear propaganda message about the divine rule of the monarch, which was the hot topic of the day, an argument Charles ultimately lost. He was fittingly (from the Parliament point of view) executed outside this very building on 30 January 1649.
The Banqueting House was part of the massive Palace of Whitehall complex, originally developed as York Place by Cardinal Wolsey and known as White Hall after Henry VIII took it over in 1539, becoming a royal palace thereafter. The whole of royal Whitehall was destroyed by fire in the 1690s, the only surviving parts being the Banqueting House and the Tudor wine cellar, now situated underneath the Ministry of Defence.