The Royal Pavilion: a peculiar architectural construction or the epitome of Brighton?

Although the Pier might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Brighton, the Royal Pavilion is a significant part of the heritage of the city. Having lived in Brighton for three years, the Pavilion had become a familiar landscape in my daily commute to university. I would see many tourists stop in front of it to take the traditional picture from the gardens with the palace in the background. Strangely enough, I had passed in front many times and even took some pictures of the architecture but it is only recently that I finally got to discover what was hiding inside such a peculiar building. I did not know what to expect and I was in for quite a surprise when I discovered the exotic and extravagant decoration and pieces of art. Unfortunately, pictures are forbidden inside, which could also explain the mysterious character of the edifice. I would really recommend taking the audio guide as it gives such an insightful take on the decadent lifestyle of George IV at the palace.

Indeed, the Pavilion is intimately linked with the monarch. The 21-year-old Prince of Wales took residence in Brighton after being advised to stay in the seaside for his health. Rapidly, Brighton became the perfect location for the young prince to lead his extravagant and indulgent lifestyle. From the modest lodging house George had purchased, he transformed it into the exotic palace that we know today. He threw lavish receptions and parties and the building became to be known as the pleasure palace.

The architect John Nash was hired in 1815 to transform this elegant villa into the sumptuous architectural vision. It took 8 years to be completed. George was a lover of French decorative arts and oriental style, which characterise the palace. The decoration of the Pavilion is a perfect example of a Western view of Chinese art. The entrance hall is surprisingly but purposely the less extravagant room of the palace as it prepares its visitors to be amazed by what follows next.

The key features to look for are firstly the clever decorative techniques displayed in the Long Gallery such as cast iron used to imitate bamboo as well as all the wonderful Chinese pieces which often are Western reproduction. Secondly, the Royal Pavilion’s centrepiece is most certainly the jaw-dropping dragon chandelier at the centre of The Banqueting Room. This room in itself is truly spectacular with the imposing dining table and the rich decorations surrounding it. Thirdly, the walls are decorated in many trompe-l’oeil tapestries and paintings that give it a particular charm and fun atmosphere. Towards the end of your visit, do not miss the Tearoom, which offers a beautiful view of the gardens from the balcony. It is the perfect spot to take a memorable picture of the Pavilion from a different perspective.

Not only the interior decoration captures the eyes of the visitors but also the Indian inspired exterior architecture of the building creates a one of a kind wonder. The gardens have been left in a natural and bucolic state in order to give it this countryside essence. By sitting in the grass areas and enjoying the view from the gardens, you can experience the city like a local.

I have always asked myself how this exotic building could possibly be related to the history of Brighton. But in fact, after visiting it I came to understand that it captures the character of Brighton as an eccentric, indulgent and unique city. The Royal Pavilion is truly a vestige of the fashionable Regency era. George’s influence is noticeable everywhere in the city from the Crescents to the seafront squares. It is not a coincidence that the royal palace belongs to the city itself, which was purchased from Queen Victoria for only £53,000 in 1850. Indeed, the ‘people’s palace’ has been used and converted for different purposes. Nowadays, you can even hire the palace as a venue for your wedding and celebrate it in the extravagantly decorated Music Room.

If you ever visit Brighton, I would strongly suggest you to stop to take a look at the original and opulent oriental palace.