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Semi-State Rooms open at Windsor Castle

Release date: Wednesday, 25 September 2013


George IV's private apartments at Windsor Castle open to visitors this Saturday for the winter months. Considered to be among the greatest royal commissions and the finest late Georgian interiors in the country, these magnificent rooms (known as the Semi-State Rooms) are now used by The Queen for official entertaining.

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.

The Semi-State Rooms blend the Classical, Gothic and Rococo styles in a dazzling series of spaces, 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 AWN 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.

This part of the Castle was severely damaged in the devastating fire of 1992, although, by good fortune, the contents of the rooms 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 decorative scheme to its original splendour, using the original designs that survive in the Royal Library. 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 the award-winning refurbishment, so that the famous ‘gilt and gorgeousness’ of the Semi-State Rooms can be enjoyed by today’s visitors.