Just before Christmas I went visiting friends in Brighton and used my art fund card to go to the pavilion. Before then I had driven past it and seen it on the snowman so I was quite excited to go and see it. There is something quite exotic and magical about this former royal palace in the middle of urban Brighton.
Even walking though the gardens to the entrance makes you feel as if you are visiting the Indian viceroy 100 years ago in the days of Empire. The interior is a strange mixture of different influences from the east, some Chinese, some Indian and some Japanese. And all very “Britain has done the East” if you know what I mean.
Some of the rooms could have been straight from the early 20th century v elegant and decadent, others were v eastern. The music room was spectacular and dripping with opulence. Although the massive gilded snakes weren’t a favourite feature! I can also recommend the tea rooms up stairs the coffee was good (better than chain coffee shops) and the coffee and walnut cake was just like your granny made it.
The queens bedroom with it stunning carpet and wallpaper and a magnificent mattress that was taller than me almost (a step ladder would have been needed to get into bed!) were delightful and the maids room off the queens bedroom was quaint and a glimpse of the life of a lady in waiting.
Queen Victoria sold the pavilion to the people of Brighton during her reign. The palace wasn’t very secure for a young royal family and at that point she and albert had already made Osborne house there favourite costal retreat.
However it was an exhibition about the pavilions roll in the First World War that made the biggest impact on my visit. When war broke out in Europe in 1914, it wasn’t restricted to Europe when Britain got involved, as she commanded troops from around her world empire. When these amazing and exotic and brave soldiers were injured in cold wet Europe, miles away from their warm homes in different continents, the British military thought these men would feel happy recovering in Britain’s taste of the east, the Brighton Pavilion.
I found the paintings and photographs of in the exhibition moving. In some ways it could be seen as condescending to send troops from places like India to a bizarre Anglo-eastern former royal palace but on the other hand it was an attempt to make them feel at home.
The biggest and most important thing that made me think was how important the empire was to the first world war; without troops from our Empire we would have been a weaker side and we owe those men who came so far and many of them never saw their homeland again to give us a free country and for that I will be forever grateful.