'Gilt and Gorgeousness': George IV's Private Apartments at Windsor Open to the Public

Release date: 
Wednesday, 7 August 2002

The magnificent private apartments created by King George IV at Windsor Castle re-open to the public on 28 September.  Considered to be the among the greatest royal commissions and the finest late Georgian interiors in the country, these rooms (known as the Semi-State Rooms) are now used by The Queen for official entertaining and are added to the Castle's visitor route during the autumn and winter months.  

George IV (1762-1830) had a well-developed love of fine objects and taste for the theatrical.  After building Brighton Pavilion and planning the transformation of Buckingham House into Buckingham Palace, he turned his attention to Windsor Castle.  The king, with his architect Jeffry Wyatville, completely remodelled the Castle's exterior during the 1820s, giving it the romantic and picturesque appearance seen today.  He also decided not to live in the north range of royal apartments, but to create a new suite of private rooms on the sunnier east and south sides of the Castle.  This was George IV's last and greatest commission, and one of the most lavish and costly interior decoration schemes ever carried out in England.

George IV's private apartments at Windsor blend the Classical, Gothic and Rococo styles in a dazzling suite of interiors, complete with specially designed furniture and furnishings.  Always over budget, the project was only just completed at the time of king's death in 1830.  Among  the  many  designers  and  craftsmen who worked on the scheme was the 15-year-old A.W.N. Pugin, who was employed by the principal furniture suppliers, Morel and Seddon.  The Semi-State Rooms also contain some of the finest surviving 18th-century English and French works of art from Carlton House, the king's former London residence.  

The private apartments were severely damaged in the devastating fire of 1992, although, by good fortune, their contents had been removed.  Four thousand gallons of water a minute were used against the blaze at the fire's height, the equivalent of the entire weight of Niagara Falls descending on the Castle for two seconds.  One of the major benefits to arise from the restoration work was the return of George IV's scheme to its original splendour.  Textiles  were  re-woven,  intricate  marquetry  floors  remade  and  spectacular chandeliers re-assembled from thousands of tiny glass drops.  Some 1,500 m² of gold leaf were used in this award-winning refurbishment, so that the apartments' famous 'gilt and gorgeousness', as described in the 19th century, can now be enjoyed by today's visitors.

The Semi-State Rooms are open from 28 September 2002 until 23 March 2003.  Windsor Castle is open all year.  Details of admission are available fromwww.royal.gov.uk or 020-7321 2233.  Further information and photographs are available  from  Public  Relations  and  Marketing,  the  Royal  Collection,  telephone: 020-7839 1377, e-mail: press@royalcollection.org.uk.