Queen Anne of Denmark, Consort to James I decided that she needed a new hunting lodge in the latest style. The Queen’s House was built in the midst of the great Tudor palace of Greenwich. Nowadays it is the centre piece of the UNESCO World Heritage site in Greenwich.
COVID 19 UPDATE: The Queen's House will reopen on 10 August 2020. Entry remains free but tickets for entry must be prebooked.
Queen’s House – the first Palladian Building in England
Imagine, if you will, that Prince Philip took it into his head to build somewhere to rest and entertain friends whilst hunting. Not only that he wants the building to be in a brand new never seen before in England style. That is exactly what Anne of Denmark, consort of James I did. She commissioned Inigo Jones to build the first Palladian structure in England. Well it was the first to be started but construction stalled when the Queen died before even the first floor was complete making way for the Banqueting House in Whitehall to be the first completed English Palladian building. The completion of the Queen’s House was left to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.
Tulip Staircase – not only an Instagram sensation
Take a look at Instagram and pretty soon you will come across a shot of the Tulip Staircase at the Queen’s House. Looking up or looking down it doesn’t matter as it looks pretty spectacular either way. The staircase is not just just pretty set of steps it was the first geometric self supporting spiral staircase in Britain. That deep blue that the tulips are painted in is called Smalt.
Grand Hall – a perfect cube
At the heart of the Queen’s House is the Great Hall a perfect cube. Whilst you might not look and say wow a cube you will look and say wow what a fantastic floor. Those swirling black and white tiles are quite something.
Look up in the Great Hall and you will see shimmering golden shapes, these are the work of Turner Prize winner Richard Wright. Back when the Queen’s House was home to Queens the ceiling was painted by Orazio Gentileschi. Queen Anne decided to give it to her favourite the Duchess of Marlborough who cut it down and installed it in Marlborough House on the Mall.
A road runs through the Queen’s House
Imagine the Old Kent Road running through the middle of Buckingham Palace. In the middle of the Queen’s House is a curious bridge like structure. Back when the Queens lived here the main Woolwich – Depford road went through here. Anybody could walk or ride through the middle of the Royal home.
A rather fine art gallery
Nowadays the Queen’s House no longer lived in by the Royal family or anybody else it is home to a rather fine collection of paintings. 300 of them ranging from Lowry to Rubens by way of Turner, with a Canaletto thrown in for good measure.
Open any school text book about the Tudors and you will see the Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. In fact there are three of them and one of them lives at the Queen’s House. 2020 is special because all three Armada Paintings are together in the same room on public display for the first time ever! Go now whilst you can to see this historic sight.
What else to do in Greenwich
You could happily spend a few days seeing all that Greenwich has to offer. Up the hill the Royal Observatory and the line of the Greenwich Meridian. From outside the Observatory you can take in what is one of the best views of London. Next door to the Queen’s House is the National Maritime Museum. Over the road is the Old Royal Naval College with the splendid Painted Hall at its heart. Down on the riverside is the Cutty Sark once the fastest tea clipper in the world.
- Queen’s House, Romney Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NF
- Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
- Admission: Free
- Armada Portraits are all together until 31 August 2020
The Queen’s House features in my list of Free things to do in London with Teens and of Cultural Wedding Venues, why not pop along for more inspiration. If you are in Greenwich for the day how about visiting the Painted Hall or stepping onboard the Cutty Sark?