Monday, 14 December 2009

The Robing Room

Last week I attended a Hansard Society meeting held in the Robing Room of the House of Lords. This magnificant room is where the Queen is robed before she walks through the Royal Gallery, the Princes' Chamber, and into the Chamber of the House of Lords. There she delivers the 'Queen's Speech' which marks the start of a new session.

We were asked to arrive early, which gave me an opportunity to enjoy a longer appreciation of the room than I usually have when escorting visitors to the Palace.

At the eastern end of the room is the throne upon which the Queen sits whilst the Imperial State Crown is placed on her head. A fireplace adorns the western end.

The paintings (in fact 'frescos') dominate the otherwise wood panelled room. William Dyce was responsible for these. They show scenes from the legend of King Arthur to illustrate the Christian virtues (hospitality, generosity, mercy, religion and courtesy). The scheme to fill three sides of the room (the fourth has windows looking towards Victoria Tower Gardens) with such frescoes was never completed. It is said that due to the dampness in the winter (the Palace lies alongside the Thames) Dyce was only able to paint directly onto the walls in the summer months. As a result the frescoes of fidelity and courage were never done - Dyce died! The panels are instead filled by framed paintings of Victoria and Albert. Below the frescoes are dark wooden panels, again illustating events from the Arthurian legends.

After the House of Commons was destroyed by bombing in 1941, the Chamber of the House of Lords was used by MPs. Their Lordships moved into the Robing Room until the new Commons Chamber was opened in 1950.