This wonderful photographic book on the interiors of Buckingham Palace is, apart from being surprisingly up-to-date in its slender scholarship on the history of the building''s interiors, is also a supreme disappointment. That may sound oxymoronic, but the reader should...See more
This wonderful photographic book on the interiors of Buckingham Palace is, apart from being surprisingly up-to-date in its slender scholarship on the history of the building''s interiors, is also a supreme disappointment. That may sound oxymoronic, but the reader should consider what we do not get. Hicks uses the opportunity of his connections as a cousin to the Prince of Wales to take some great photographs, though angles and cut off pictures can begin to become a mannerism in his technique, but he really only gives us a glimpse of two interiors that have not been photographed for decades, like the so-called Household Corridor on the south side of the Quadrangle, and the Royal Closet just off the Minister''s Staircase. In 1931, Clifford Smith published a magisterial volume on the palace that is still useful, and bothered to get photographed or describe many rooms that have never been photographed since. In 1968 John Harris added a small number of detail photographs of areas of the palace that are rarely seen too. So what the Twenty First century reader gets is only what one suspects the RoyalCollection, Master of the Household and security officers are prepared to let us have and this is very disappointing. There are interiors that Hicks should gave photographed like the Kings Waiting Room and the corridors with Nash vaulting, the rooms that comprise the Belgian suite, the small Chinese Room behind the Chinese Luncheon Room, and bedrooms and so on that were once along the Principal Corridor. It would not have gone amiss to have included the Audience Chamber where the Queen meets her Prime Ministers, and indeed to have included perhaps glimpses of a couple of rooms that the Queen and Prince Philip occupy which were photographed for Queen Victoria and Edward VII. These all have interesting decoration, Nash ceilings etc, and deserve to be documented even if only briefly with photographs or small details. Hicks surely could have persuaded the Queen that he be allowed to photograph areas of the palace the public are never likely to visit. The other frustration with the book is the idea that Edward VII somewhat spoiled the Victorian polychrome work when he ordered a complete redecoration of the palace in 1902. No account is made of two issues with this. First the palace had barely been occupied for forty years after Prince Albert''s death, and second, the only way in which Edward VII could persuade Queen Alexandra to leave Marlborough House was to allow her to choose the new decorative schemes in the whole of Buckingham palace which was gloomy and dirty and filled with hideous tartan everywhere. Modernization was required and a new White and gold Georgian style was freshly appropriate for rooms used by a King Emperor who was sociable and had a glittering court. These changes were far less jarring than Ludwig Gruner''s Victorian polychrome, and gave a dignity and splendor to the Nash/Pennethorne rooms. The Blore wing we see today feels shoddy and inferior compared with the Nash wing and is largely only made interesting by the furniture and fittings from the Royal Pavilion in Brighton which Queen Victoria largely destroyed to save money building the East Wing; at least Hicks recognizes this and his photographs linger on some of George IV''s great treasures for that building - though again had he entered and photographed other rooms he would certainly have noted other fireplaces and decorative objects and furnishings from the Pavilion. Can we but hope that, with this criticism of the book in mind, Mr Hicks returns to the task and photographs some of the hidden and little seen areas and objects in Buckingham Palace?