The Drottningholm Palace: The Residence of The Swedish Royal Family

In the vicinity of Stockholm, the magnificent Drottningholm Palace, with its various pavilions and gardens, forms a unique ensemble of beautiful grandeur in Sweden. Among its pavilions are considered of universal interest the Palace Theater, a true baroque stage still in use, and the Chinese Pavilion, wherewith great imagination the oriental inspiration is combined with the rococo.

Drottningholm Palace was originally a royal residence and since 1982 has been the home of the Swedish Royal Family. Originally, the main body was connected to the corner pavilions by single-story wings; but in the mid-18th century a height was added and the palace acquired its present appearance. The interiors were decorated from 1670 to the end of the 19th century and are considered the most important in Sweden in their respective styles.

It was begun in 1662 under Queen Dowager Hedvig Eleonora, according to the plans of the architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder. All the works were practically carried out from 1665 to 1703, at first in a very ornate and extravagant baroque style. Later, the palace acquired elegance and harmony more akin to French aesthetics, when Nicodemus Tessin the Younger succeeded his father. From this period date the royal bedroom and the hall from which the main staircase starts. 

In 1744, Queen Lovisa Ulrika commissioned the architect C. Hårleman to raise the four lateral wings that arise from the main body. The resulting ensemble, of a conservative character, is clad in simplicity and at the same time with a colossal vigor accentuated by the first floor of cushioned ashlars. Of the interior works of this third period, the library, by the Frenchman Jean Eric Rehn, stands out. In 1760 new rooms and additions were added under the direction of Carl Frederick Adelcrantz. During the reign of Gustav III, new rooms were renovated and added to the palace, and, later, extensive renovations were undertaken in the throne room. During the reign of Oscar II of the Bernadotte dynasty, a number of rococo alterations and pastiches were carried out. The last of the renovations took place from 1907 to 1911, but it was of little importance. Today, Drottningholm has regained its former splendor, albeit with a simpler majesty, in keeping with the current Swedish monarchy.

The Palace Theater. 

One of the pavilions scattered throughout the island's parks is the Palace Theater or Royal Theater, surely the best preserved of the Baroque stages in Europe. It was built from 1764 to 1766, on the initiative of Queen Lovisa Ulrika and with Adelcrantz as an architect, on the remains of a smaller theater destroyed by fire two years earlier.  In 1791 the famous Luncheon Hall was added, so called because the Royal family once had lunch there. The theater's stalls, which seat more than 400 people and designed by Masreliez, form a play of inverted images with the stage as if they reflected each other in a mirror. Its exterior, of great simplicity, blends French rococo with neoclassical style. The interior, with the auditorium, stage, dressing rooms, and storerooms is almost unchanged since the 18th century. The stage and theatrical machinery, by the Italian Donato Stopani, in perfect working order, are capable of producing all the variety and richness of special effects of the time and allow changes of scenery without the need to lower the curtain. There is even a unique collection of more than 30 sets by Carlo Bibiena, half of them in perfect condition, some of which have been copied for use in current performances.

The Palace Theater

The Chinese Pavilion. 

This delightful pavilion perfectly reflects the taste for Chinese decoration so in vogue in Europe during the 18th century. The first Chinese pavilion was begun in 1753 in wood as a birthday gift from Lovisa Ulrika, and King Adolf Frederik collaborated with Carl Hårleman on the plans. A decade later, it was replaced by the present one, in wood, under the direction of Adelcrantz.

The Chinese Pavilion in Drottningholm

The pavilion comprises a two-story main body with curved corridors linking it to two lower buildings. The roof resembles a tent and exotic decorative details abound with trees and dragons. Four other smaller naves, a combination of French rococo with oriental ornaments, as well as a Chinese-inspired garden, surround the main building. This small orchard emanates a great intimacy and is very integrated into the environment. The interior is the work of Jean Erik Rehn and some of its rooms are considered the best of Swedish rococo. Some are embellished in the traditional European manner, others are mixed with oriental decoration and a third group is deeply immersed in Chinese aesthetics. 

In 1777, only a decade after its completion, the pavilion underwent a detailed inventory; most of the aforementioned collections are still there. The Chinese Pavilion has undergone four restorations, the first from 1943 to 1955. The interior, with the auditorium, stage, dressing rooms, and storerooms is almost unchanged since the 18th century. The stage machinery and theatrical machinery, by the Italian Donato Stopani, in perfect working order, are capable of producing all the variety and richness of special effects of the time and allow changes of scenery without the need to lower the curtain. There is even a unique collection of more than 30 sets by Carlo Bibiena, half of them in perfect condition, some of which have been copied for use in current performances.

This delightful pavilion perfectly reflects the taste for Chinese decoration so in vogue in Europe during the 18th century. The first Chinese pavilion was begun in 1753 in wood as a birthday gift from Lovisa Ulrika, and King Adolf Frederik collaborated with Carl Hårleman on the plans. A decade later, it was replaced by the present one, in wood, under the direction of Adelcrantz. 

The pavilion comprises a two-story main body with curved corridors linking it to two lower buildings. The roof resembles a tent and exotic decorative details abound with trees and dragons. Four other smaller naves, a combination of French rococo with oriental ornaments, as well as a Chinese-inspired garden, surround the main building. This small orchard emanates a great intimacy and is very integrated into the environment. The interior is the work of Jean Erik Rehn and some of its rooms are considered the best of Swedish rococo. Some are embellished in the traditional European manner, others are mixed with oriental decoration and a third group is deeply immersed in Chinese aesthetics. 

Inside of the Chinese Pavilion

In 1777, only a decade after its completion, the pavilion underwent a detailed inventory; most of the aforementioned collections are still there. The Chinese pavilion has undergone four restorations, the first from 1943 to 1955. However, it has not been modified with any major changes, as the work has always tried to preserve the building without modernizing it.

Exquisite Gardens. 

Drottningholm's Splendid Gardens

The French Garden, also called Baroque Garden, which surrounds the palace complex, was planned and planted in 1681 with the drawings of Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. It has a harmonious network of flowerbeds and hedges of original drawings, ponds, and fountains, waterfalls, and groves, all of them carefully cared for. Inside is an interesting group of bronze sculptures by Adrian DeVries, brought to Sweden from Prague in 1648 and from Frederiksborg, Denmark, in 1660. The Baroque Garden is the first and most important example of the influence that the Frenchman André Le Nôtre had in the Nordic countries. For its part, the so-called English Garden was begun in 1778 to the north of the French Garden, according to joint plans by King Gustav III and Adelcrantz. A little later, Fredrik Magnus Piper redesigned it and drew the current canal that meanders between lakes, archipelagos, and meadows. Of all the buildings planned to adorn it, only the Gothic Tower was erected between 1792 and 1793. During the 19th century, the era of Drottningholm's decline, the waterfalls and flowerbeds were removed. This romantic little park reflects the new trends coming from Great Britain at the end of the 18th century.

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