18 September 2019

Brighton and George

Brighton is a seaside town on the south coast of England. Originally a small decaying fishing town it rapidly turned into an established seaside resort for the rich and famous thanks to the Prince of Wales and its proximity to London.
In the mid 1780's George, Prince of Wales, rented a small lodging house overlooking a fashionable promenade. He had been advised by his physicians that his health would benefit from Brighton’s mild climate and sea water treatments, which included ‘dipping’ (total body immersion into the salt sea water).

George was vain, extravagant and irresponsible, Brighton suited him, here he could rebel against his strict upbringing and indulge his passion for the arts, fashion and good living. He threw himself into a life of drinking, womanising and gambling, like many before and after him! This decadent lifestyle combined with his love of architecture and fine and decorative arts – his residences in London and Windsor were like immaculate sets to show off his superb collections – resulted in his incurring heavy personal debts.
In 1787, after much pleading and many promises, the House of Commons agreed to clear his debts and increase his income.

So with the taxpayers having cleared his debts and increased his income George set about spending even more money. He hired architect Henry Holland to transform his Brighton lodging house into a modest villa which became known as the Marine Pavilion. He set about lavishly furnishing and decorating his seaside home, choosing Indian and Chinese furniture and objects, and hand-painted Chinese wallpapers. In 1808 a new stable complex was completed with an impressive lead and glass-domed roof, providing stabling for 62 horses, mmm - for cantering along the soft unsullied beaches with gay abandon maybe.

In 1811 George was sworn in as Prince Regent because his father, George III, had been deemed incapable of acting as monarch. At that time the Marine Pavilion was a modest building in size, not suitable for the large social events and entertaining that George loved to host. So, yes here we go again more spending. In 1815 George commissioned John Nash to begin the transformation from modest villa into the magnificent oriental palace that it is today. No expense was spared with minarets, domes and pinnacles on the exterior and opulent decoration, exquisite furnishings and magnificent chandeliers for the interior. George was determined that the palace should be the ultimate in comfort and convenience. Particular attention was paid to lighting, heating and sanitation, as well as to the provision of the most modern equipment of the day for the Great Kitchen.
Photography wasn't allowed but I did manage to sneak this photo of a menu for a dinner served to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent and Grand Duke Nicolas of Russia by Chef Antonin Caréme on the 18th January 1817, hosted to symbolise British supremacy in Europe. The mind boggling courses were: Eight Soups; Eight Removes of Fish; Forty Entrées served around the Fish;  Platters after the Fish; Eight Great Pieces; Eight Centrepieces Patisserie; Eight Roasts; Thirty two Desserts and Savoury Entrements; Twelve Great Rounds!!! Needless to say George's lavish dining habits and excessive drinking led to him becoming morbidly obese and crippled with gout.  

This is not just a dining room, it's a splendid banqueting room.
However because of his irresponsible lifestyle George’s presence had an enormous impact on the prosperity and social development of Brighton. From the 1780s the population grew and the rebuilding of the his home provided employment for local tradesmen. Also the presence in the town of the court, George’s guests, members of society and the Royal Household provided invaluable business for local builders and the service industries. Many of the handsome seafront squares and crescents that stand today are attributable to the arrival of George IV and the fashionable Regency era.

Music room.  How opulent is that chandelier

George became king in 1820 and due to increased responsibilities and ill-health, once the interior of the Royal Pavilion was finally finished in 1823 he made only two further visits in 1824 and 1827 prior to his death in 1830.


He was succeeded by his younger brother, William IV who, with his wife Queen Adelaide, continued the custom of visiting Brighton and staying at what was now known as the Royal Pavillion. Their visits were much less formal than the glamour and extravagance of former decades though. William IV died in 1837 and was succeeded by his niece Victoria.
Queen Victoria made her first visit to the Royal Pavilion in 1837 and this gesture of royal approval thrilled the people of Brighton. However the lack of space and its association with her extravagant uncle, made her feel uncomfortable. She adopted a policy of financial stringency during her residence in Brighton.
As her family grew and the Royal Pavilion failed to provide her with the space and privacy she needed, she finally sold her uncle’s pleasure palace to the town of Brighton for over £50,000 in 1850. As it was thought the building would be demolished, she ordered it to be stripped of all its interior decorations, fittings and furnishings, for use in other royal homes.
The town took over ownership and the Royal Pavilion was opened to the public.  
The Royal Pavillion has also served as a civic building, First World War hospital, and has become an icon of Brighton.

George may have been an irresponsible hedonist but the Royal Pavilion is a living testament to his Regency dream. He was a major influence on Brighton’s growth and prosperity, and he is inextricably linked with the modern and vibrant city that Brighton is today.

After savouring the delights of the Royal Pavilion, and my lunch I set off to explore more of what Brighton had to offer.... coming soon.

Be well ~
Polly x


  1. What a gorgeous place! I can't even imagine living in such opulence, can you, Polly? Lovely pics!

  2. It is years since I last visited the Brighton Pavilion so this was a lovely reminder.
    We have a lovely house here in the Cotswolds that was based on the Pavilion called Sezincote - it is well worth a visit.

    1. Thank you Rosemary, Sezincote looks lovely, another one on my list of Places to visit.

  3. What a feast for the eyes, such opulence in all its guises. I can't imagine all that food in one setting, my goodness sheer extravagance.

    1. Hi mama, I feel uncomfortable if I've had too many roast potatoes and Yorkshire puds with my Sunday roast!


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