In one of the wonderful parks of the capital of Belgium, you will see a luxurious, richly decorated building. This is the Royal Palace of Brussels, which is the official residence of the monarch. The royal family does not live here, but the building performs a political (various festive royal events take place in it) as well as cultural and historical (it is an important tourist attraction in Brussels) missions.
The Royal Palace of Brussels was erected on the site of Coudenberg, the former palace of the Dukes of Brabant, which was destroyed by fire in 1731. Construction began in 1820 during the reign of King Wilhelm, and the building acquired its modern façade in 1904 under Leopold II, who rebuilt it in the style of Louis XVI.
The Belgian royal family has always loved practicality and rationality. If we compare the palace with the Gothic patterns on the Grand Place, the building would look rather ascetic: it stands out only with its gray color scheme and very restrained classical decor. Nevertheless, the interior of the palace is famous for its rich decoration and luxury.
The majestic interior of the Royal Palace of Brussels was designed by Alphonse Balat for King Leopold II. Pale walls and stone columns, white marble of the main staircase, green marble of the ramp, gilding, mirrors, bay windows and a marble statue of Minerva create a unique harmony.
The Great Hall dates from the Dutch period, when the north and south of the Netherlands were united into one kingdom after the Battle of Waterloo and the accession of King William I (1815-1830). Portraits of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (future Leopold I) and his wife Princess Charlotte of Wales were made by the English artist George Doe (1781-1829).
The Empire Room is located in the oldest part of the palace. It was the ballroom of the Austrian imperial representative. The gilding and bas-reliefs depicting dancing angels bear witness to the style of the end of the Old Regime. During the reign of William I, the hall was enlarged. The female statues above the mirrors date from this period and are the work of Jean-Louis Van Geel. The unique carpet, which cannot be constantly exposed to light, was presented to King Leopold II by the Persian Shah Mozaffar ad-Din during his state visit to Belgium in 1900.
In the Coburg Hall, the paintings depict King Leopold I and members of the Coburg family: the parents of Leopold I, Queen Victoria of England, Duke of Kent and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg.
Large and small White Hall
Together with the Empire Room, these two rooms were the apartments of the Austrian minister. The original 18th-century decorations have remained in their original form, and the Empire-style furniture, which was a wedding gift from King Louis Philippe of France to his daughter Queen Louise-Marie and King Leopold I, still has the original tapestry upholstery. The Small White Hall is decorated with portraits of Queen Louise-Marie and her parents, King Louis-Philippe and Queen Marie-Amelie de Bourbon.
Since the Royal Palace of Brussels is used for official events, it is open to the public only for a limited period of time. This usually happens when the king and queen are away on vacation – most often from late July to early September. Not all halls can be seen, but many of the most interesting and richly decorated are open, so they are definitely worth a visit.
Preview: alh1 / flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
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