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Must See Royal Palaces: Europe

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Today we are continuing our new series by looking to Europe. I have compiled lists from 5 continents, however some of them are not necessarily "Royal Palaces" but rather they are government buildings or they are places where royalty stays when they are in town. For today we are going to cover Europe, I have made a list of 10 different palaces. Most of these are well known palaces but there are a few that I didn't actually know much/or anything about.


Schonbrunn Palace- Vienna, Austria

In 1693 Leopold I commissioned concrete plans from Fischer for the construction of a grand hunting lodge, on which work started in 1696. The new edifice was partly built on the existing foundations of the château de plaisance occupied by the dowager empress that had been destroyed by the Turks. By the spring of 1700 the central section had been completed and was ready to be occupied. The construction of the lateral wings was delayed from 1701 as a consequence of the War of the Spanish Succession and the attendant financial constraints, coming to a complete halt after Joseph’s sudden death. Fischer von Erlach was responsible not only for designing the palace but also supervised the construction work. It was probably in connection with this huge and prestigious project that he was invested with the mark of nobility by Emperor Leopold, subsequently styling himself Fischer von Erlach.

The unfinished palace then became the dower residence of Wilhelmine Amalie. In 1728 Emperor Charles VI acquired Schönbrunn, but used the estate only for shooting pheasants. Eventually he made a gift of it to his daughter, Maria Theresa, who is documented as having always had an especial fondness for the palace and its gardens. Maria Theresa’s reign marked the opening of a brilliant epoch in Schönbrunn’s history, with the palace becoming the centre of court and political life. Under her personal influence and the supervision of the architect Nikolaus Pacassi, Joseph I’s grand hunting lodge was rebuilt and extended into a palatial summer residence.

Work commenced on the imperial apartments in the East Wing with audience rooms and residential suites for Maria Theresa and Franz Stephan, which were ready for occupation by 1746. The coronation of Franz Stephan of Lorraine as Roman-German Emperor in Frankfurt in October 1745 probably provided additional impetus to appoint what had become the imperial summer residence with particular magnificence. One year previously, in 1745, the newly-refurbished court chapel had been consecrated. In terms of its spatial structure and proportions it remained largely unaltered from Fischer von Erlach’s design. The rebuilding of the east wing included the laying out of the two inner quadrangles and the construction of the so-called Chapel Staircase which afforded access to the piano nobile and the imperial apartments in this wing.

Following Maria Theresa’s death in 1780, Schönbrunn Palace remained unoccupied and its use as a summer residence was only resumed during the reign of Emperor Franz II (I). In the intervening period Schönbrunn was occupied twice, in 1805 and 1809, by Napoleon, during which the French emperor used the memorial rooms to Franz Stephan in the East Wing as his quarters. In the run-up to the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 it had become clear that the palace at Schönbrunn urgently needed restoring and that the apartments of the imperial family would have to be refurbished in order to bring them into line with current fashions. During the course of these improvements Emperor Franz had the façade altered between 1817 and 1819 to designs by the court architect Johann Aman which considerably changed its appearance. Aman removed Pacassi’s elaborate Rococo decoration from the façade, reducing it to much plainer forms with only a small number of decorative elements, giving the palace the appearance it retains to this day.


Neuschwanstein Castle- Schwangau, Germany

The Neuschwanstein Castle looks like a fairytale castle. Neuschwanstein is a castle of the paradox, it was built in the 19th century in Bavaria, in a time when castles no longer had strategical and defensive purposes.

While Neuschwanstein’s look is that of a medieval castle, it was equipped inside with state of the art technology at that time. For example on every floor of the castle there were toilets with automatic flushing system, as well as an air heating system for the whole castle. Water was supplied by a nearby spring situated at only 200 meters above the castle.

Neuschwanstein’s positioning is also a fairytale one. It is located in the Alps in Bavaria, Germany, in a magnificent landscape, on the top of a hill. Neuschwanstein overlooks the Hohenschwangau valley. If you come to visit this castle, you will be amazed by the extremely beautiful landscape that surrounds it. Also, Neuschwanstein lies very close to the town of Fussen, which is also a popular tourist destination in Germany.

The construction of the Neuschwanstein castle began in 1869, and originally it was projected to last three years. But Ludwig II wanted the castle to be perfect, so the immense building was not finished even at Ludwig’s death in 1886 and it is not completely finished to this day.

Neuschwanstein Castle has a very beautiful inner garden surrounded by a walled courtyard. It even has an artificial cave. Neuschwanstein’s interior is as beautiful as its outside. Though only 14 rooms were finished before Ludiwg II’s sudden death in 1886, these rooms were majestically decorated. The two story throne room was designed in Byzantine style, with wall paintings depicting angels. Ironically, there is no throne in the Throne Room, as Ludwig died before it was completely finished.

This fairytale look of the Neuschwanstein castle inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Kingdom. Today, Neuschwanstein is the most visited castle in Germany, and one of the most popular tourist destination in the world. Every year over 1.300.000 people cross its gate. Neuschwanstein Castle is definitely one of the most charming castles, and there are many interesting less known facts about it


Pena National Palace- Sintra, Portugal

The history of this magical place begins in the 12th century, when there was a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Pena. In this same place, D. Manuel I ordered the construction of a Monastery, the Royal Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena, later handed over to the Order of São Jerónimo. The earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1755 left the monastery practically in ruins. Although degraded, the Monastery maintained its activity, but, almost one hundred years later, in 1834 when religious orders ended in Portugal, it was left to abandon. Parque da Pena still preserves corners that refer to this time, such as the Monge's Cave, a place where the monks practiced the recollection.

Two years later, in 1836, Queen D. Maria II married Fernando de Saxe-Coburgo and Gotha, a prince of the House of Saxe-Coburgo and Gotha, nephew of the reigning Duke of Coburg Ernesto I and King Leopoldo I from Belgium. According to the nuptial contract, D. Fernando received the dignity of king-consort. D. Fernando II was one of the most educated men in Portugal, during the 19th century. Polyglot, he spoke German, Hungarian, French, English, Spanish, Italian and, of course, Portuguese. In his childhood, the then Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had a careful education in which the arts, particularly music and drawing, played a fundamental role. Throughout his life he had a strong connection to the arts, as an author, collector and patron, having become known as King-Artist.

Shortly after his arrival in Portugal, he fell in love with Sintra, and acquired, with his personal fortune, the Monastery of São Jerónimo, in ruins, as well as all the surrounding forest. This 16th century monastery exerted an enormous fascination on the king, rooted in its German education and in the romantic imagery of the time that the mountains, and the aesthetic value of the ruins, attracted. The initial project was only the restoration of the building for the summer residence of the royal family, but his enthusiasm led him to decide to build a palace, extending the pre-existing construction, under the direction of Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, mineralogist and mining engineer then resident in Portugal. The building is surrounded by other architectural structures that appeal to the medieval imagination with the roundabouts, watchtowers, an access tunnel and even a drawbridge. The palace incorporates architectural references of Manueline and Moorish influence that produce a surprising scenario “of the thousand and one nights”

In the park, translating the expression of romantic aesthetics and combining the search for exoticism with the impetuosity of nature, the king designed winding paths that lead the visitor to discover places of reference or from which to enjoy remarkable views: the Cruz Alta, the Temple of the Columns, Alto de Sta. Catarina, Gruta do Monge, Fonte dos Passarinhos, Feteira da Rainha and Vale dos Lagos. Along the paths, with his collector's interest, he planted native forest species from all continents, which make the 85 hectares of Parque da Pena translate into the most important arboretum in Portugal. Noteworthy are the collections of Asian camellias, introduced by D. Fernando II in Parque da Pena in the 1840s and which became the ex-libris of winter in Sintra, being the reason for balls and parties.

After the death of D. Maria II, in 1853, D. Fernando remarried to Elise Hensler, opera singer and Countess of Edla. Together they built the Chalet of Condessa d'Edla, located in Parque da Pena. It is a two-story building with a strong scenic load, of alpine inspiration, which maintained an expressive visual relationship with the Palace. The second phase of the occupation of Pena by the Royal Family was marked by the presence of King D. Carlos I (1863-1908) and Queen D. Amélia de Orléans (1865-1951). These monarchs will inhabit the palace during part of the summer season, before also spending time in the Cascais Citadel. His son, D. Manuel II, also spent long periods in this palace, where he kept his former infant rooms on the noble floor of the Torreão, although using his father's old rooms on the lower floor of the cloister for official functions.

It is at the Pena Palace that D. Amélia is surprised by the Proclamation of the Republic, on October 5, 1910, from where she leaves for Mafra to join her mother-in-law, D. Maria Pia, and her son, D. Manuel, going to embark on the Ericeira on the royal yacht D. Amélia heading for Gibraltar. The Pena Palace was classified as a National Monument in 1910 and is the most important center of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1995. In 2000, Parque da Pena started to be managed by Parques de Sintra, which, in 2007, also received the management of the palace. In 2013, the Palácio Nacional da Pena became part of the European Royal Residency Network.

Over the years, Parques de Sintra has carried out a constant work of conservation, restoration and revaluation of the vast heritage that the Park and Palace of Pena encompass, highlighting the reconstruction project of the Chalet of Condessa d'Edla - distinguished, in 2013, with the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage - Europa Nostra, in the Conservation category - and the complete restoration of the Salão Nobre of Palácio da Pena.


Sanssouci Palace- Potsdam, Germany

No other palace is as connected to the personality of Frederick the Great as Sanssouci Palace. The name Sanssouci - without worry - is to be understood as the wish and leitmotif of the king, because this is where he preferred to retire with his dogs. His summer residence was his favorite place and an important refuge in difficult times. The location of the palace on the famous vineyard terraces and the original interior furnishings from the 18th century allow visitors to immerse themselves today in the world of the "Philosopher of Sanssouci". The rooms are characterized by elegance and stylish splendor. But you can also clearly feel the love of the king for the beautiful surroundings, the "Prussian Arcadia". Sanssouci Palace also includes the magnificent picture gallery and the New Chambers Palace . It is noteworthy that the king wanted to be buried in a crypt on the top vineyard terrace. Even in death he wanted to be close to his Sanssouci. His wish came true, albeit in 1991. The grave of Frederick the Great is on the upper terrace.


Château de Chambord- Loire Valley, France

A palace rises up from the heart of the Sologne marshlands. A dashing young king, François I, has ordered its construction. The château of Chambord is not designed as a permanent residence, and François only stays there for a few weeks. It is a remarkable architectural achievement that the king is proud to show to sovereigns and ambassadors as a symbol of his power engraved in stone. The plan of the castle and its decors stem from a central axis, the renowned double helix staircase, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, an ascending spiral leading to a profusion of chimneys and sculpted capitals on the terraces.

Only under the reign of Louis XIV is construction finally completed. During the same epoch the areas surrounding the château take on shape and form. Stables are set up outside while the Cosson river, which meanders through the park, is partially canalized to sanitize the site. Several times, the Sun King resides in the monument in the company of his court; the royal sojourns are occasions for grandiose hunting parties and festive entertainment; it is in Chambord, in 1670, that Moliere presents the premiere of his celebrated comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.

During the 18th century, work is finally undertaken to equip and decorate the château interior, which is used by Louis XIV first to lodge his father-in-law Stanislas Leszczynski, king of Poland in exile from 1725 to 1733 and, much later, to accommodate Maurice of Saxe as a reward for his brilliant victory in the Battle of Fontenoy (1745). The need to bring warmth and comfort to the edifice leads its different occupants to permanently furnish the château and to adorn the apartments with woodwork, parquets, dummy ceilings and the private space of petits cabinets.

Chambord is relatively spared from the ravages of the French Revolution; while the château is ransacked and much of the furniture sold off, the monument itself escapes destruction. But it then endures an extended period of neglect; only in 1809 does Napoleon hand it over to Marshal Louis-Alexandre Berthier as a token of recognition for his services. But Berthier does little more than pass through, and soon, his widow requests permission to sell off the large and indifferently maintained mansion. In 1821, the entire estate of Chambord is offered through a nationwide fund-raising campaign to the Duke of Bordeaux, grandson of King Charles X, but ensuing political events force him into exile and prevent him from inhabiting the château, which he discovers only in 1871 on the occasion of a brief sojourn during which he writes out his celebrated “White Flag Manifesto” announcing his refusal of the French flag and thereby renouncing his right to inherit the French throne. That said and in spite of his geographical remoteness, the duke – who prefers to be known as the Count of Chambord – oversees maintenance of the château and its park. He has the estate administered by a steward, undertakes major restoration projects, and officially opens the château to the public. Following his death in 1883, the estate is inherited by his nephews the princes of Bourbon-Parma. Since 1930, the château and its park have been state property.

Due to the Austrian nationality of the Bourbon-Parma princes, in 1915 the estate of Chambord is placed into receivership by the French state, which in 1930 becomes its official proprietor by preemption in return for payment of compensation to the heirs of the Count of Chambord. The new owners decide to make the monument resemble as closely as possible its Renaissance ancestor by demolishing the Louis XIV attics that cap its lower enclosure, and it is in that form that today’s château exists. Management of Chambord is then assigned to several public offices and ministries, each one of which has authority over part of the estate. Later on, a wish to reunify the domain of François I leads the state to set up, by enactment of the law of 23 February 2005, a public Establishment of an industrial and commercial nature (EPIC) with a single direction and management unit. In 1840, the château of Chambord is registered on the first list of French historical monuments, as are the forest park and the wall in 1997. And since 1981, it has been inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage list.


Alhambra- Granada, Spain

The Alhambra was a palatine city, Christian Royal House, General Captaincy of the kingdom of Granada and military fortress until it was declared a national monument in 1870. The Alhambra was a palace, citadel and fortress, residence of the Nasrid sultans and of high officials, court servants and elite soldiers; it reaches its splendor in the second half of the 14th century , coinciding with the sultanates of Yusuf I (1333-1354) and the second reign of Muhammad V (1362-1391).

Granada, capital of the Nasrid kingdom, is gradually receiving Muslim populations due to the advance of the Christian conquest. The city is growing, changing, creating new neighborhoods and expanding the fences and walls practically until its conquest at the end of the 15th century . After 1492, the Alhambra was established as a Royal House with exempt jurisdiction under the Tendilla. The Catholic Monarchs ordered extensive repairs, largely using Moorish artisans.

The Emperor Charles V decided, in 1526, to build the palace that bears his name, along with other very significant constructions of Roman Renaissance taste. The house of Austria continued from Felipe II (1556-1598) and his successors in charge of the conservation of the Alhambra, admired by humanists and artists such as Andrea Navaggiero (1524), ambassador of Venice in the Court of Carlos V. In the first decades of the 18th century , Felipe V (1700-1746) deprived the Marquis of Mondéjar, heir to the Count of Tendilla, of the mayor's office, beginning a period of abandonment practically until the reign of Carlos IV (1788-1808).


Palace of Versailles- Versailles, France

For his first hunt, the young Dauphin - future Louis XIII - was brought to Versailles on August 24, 1607. There he discovered a game-rich place where his father Henri IV liked to go. According to his doctor Héroard, who noted this first visit, he did not seem to return there before 1617. He returned there in 1621 and the one who has been king since 1610 is passionate about the perfect environment for the activity of hunting: ideally located between its main residence Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Paris, the surrounding woods are teeming with game.

It was there that he made the decision to have a small hunting lodge erected at the end of 1623 in which he could sleep from June 1624. Small country residence "whose construction was a simple gentleman would not want to be vanity "in the words of Marshal Bassompierre, Louis XIII decides to have it rebuilt from 1631. The construction extends until 1634 and is at the origin of the Castle that we know today. hui. Since 1632, the king has also bought part of the seigneury of Versailles. These two small castles, of very marked architectural style and little up to date, are simple residences of pleasure where the second act of the Day of the Dupes takes place in November 1630. The sovereign invites only companions of arms and, if the second indeed has an apartment for the queen, Anne of Austria never sleeps there because her royal husband always makes sure to put her back on the road to Saint-Germain or Paris. In addition to the pleasures of hunting, the place is also offered as a retreat where the sovereign comes to isolate himself after his break with his platonic mistress Mlle de La Fayette in 1637.


Winter Palace- St. Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Palace was built by the architect Rastrelli on the orders of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. In 1754 Empress Elizabeth Petrovna approved the design for a new winter residence in Baroque style by the architect Bartolommeo Francesco Rastrelli. Construction of the new palace took over eight years, covering the last years of Elizabeth's reign and the short rule of Peter III. In autumn 1763, Empress Catherine II returned to St Petersburg after her coronation in Moscow and became the royal mistress of the Winter Palace.

Empress Elizabeth wished the beauty of her sumptuous new palace to eclipse that of the leading European royal palaces. Construction required an enormous sum of money and involved vast numbers of labourers. Over 4,000 people, including Russia's greatest specialists, worked on the creation of the Winter Palace. Contemporaries describe the luxurious decoration of the state and other rooms (over 460 in all). But the architect was unable to complete the work as originally intended, for the new monarch, Catherine the Great, was an admirer of the new architectural fashion, Neoclassicism. She was to seek new designers and architects to carry out her plans.


Rundale Palace- Pilsrundāle, Latvia

The name Rundāle is derived from the German place name Ruhenthal (Valley of Peace). 16th century Rundāle Castle was built on the northern side of the pond. In Francesco Rastrelli's design, it is seen as a small square with towers in the corners. Rundāle manor was established in the 15th century. and belonged to the Grothus family from 1505 to 1681. The old castle is mentioned in the 1555 list of Livonian castles. The façade decoration objects found in its territory - a fragment of cast iron and fragments of coats of arms carved in stone - date back to the 17th century. in the middle. In 1735, Ernst Johann Biron bought the property of Rundāle for 42,000 dallers. The old castle was demolished so that stones, bricks and even mortar could be used in the construction of the new castle. Duke Ernst Johann died in 1772. The castle was inherited by the widow, Duchess Benign Gottliga. During her time, orchards were cultivated around the castle. Duke Pēteris rarely came to Rundāle, because he mainly lived in Vircava Castle near Jelgava.

In 1795, the Duchy of Courland-Zemgale was annexed to the Russian Empire, and Duke Peter had to abdicate. The Empress Catherine II of Russia presented the manor to Rundāle to Count Valery Zubov, who died in 1804. Rundale became the property of his brother, Prince Plato Zubov , the last favorite of Catherine II. During the Zubov era, the castle was re-furnished, but the building was preserved without alterations. Only the central building was equipped with entrance portals and several fireplaces were built into the premises. In 1812, during the Franco-Russian War, the castle was demolished - mirrors were broken, silk wallpaper was torn off, and the library donated by Catherine II was destroyed. Plato Zubov died in Rundāle Castle on April 7, 1822. His widow married Count Andrei Shuvalov . The Rundāle manor belonged to the Shuvalov family until the agrarian reform of the Republic of Latvia in 1920. Shuvalov rarely stayed in the castle, except from 1864 to 1866, when Count Pyotr Shuvalov was the Governor-General of the Baltics and Rundale Castle was his official summer residence. Unsuccessful renovation of the castle premises took place, but in the 19th century. In the 80s, a thorough renovation of the interior was carried out. 19th century At the end of the 19th century, some of the castle's equipment and works of art were taken to St. Petersburg. From 1915 to 1918, a German army command post and hospital were established in the castle. In 1919, the castle was destroyed by soldiers of the Bermont-Avalov army.

In 1923, the castle was renovated, part of the premises were equipped with Rundāle Parish Primary School. In 1924 the castle was handed over to the Latvian War Disabled Union, but in 1933 it was taken over by the Board of Monuments. Renovation of the building and restoration of some rooms began. The western building was built for the needs of the primary school. In 1938, the castle was taken over by the State Historical Museum, which intended to establish a museum of church art and decorative art. The castle was also open to visitors during World War II. In 1945, a grain storage room was established in the halls of the castle, after which it was closed to visitors. In 1963, part of the castle was transferred to the Bauska Museum of Local Lore and Art. In 1972, an independent Rundāle Castle Museum was established, the main task of which was to restore the castle ensemble, focusing on the state of the castle in the 18th century. on the other side. The first renovated premises in the eastern building were opened for viewing in 1981. Gradually, new interiors joined them. The restoration of the castle was completed in 2014.


Miramare Castle- Trieste, Italy

The Miramare Castle and its Park were built by the will of the Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg who decided, around 1855, to have a residence suited to his rank built on the outskirts of Trieste, overlooking the sea and surrounded by an extensive garden.Fascinated by the impervious beauty of the promontory of Grignano, a karst spur overlooking the sea, almost devoid of vegetation, Massimiliano buys several plots of land towards the end of 1855. The foundation stone of the Castle was laid on 1 March 1856. On Christmas Eve 1860, Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, take up residence on the ground floor of the building, which on that date has the exteriors completely completed, while the interiors are only partially completed, as the first floor is still in preparation phase. The palace, designed by the Austrian engineer Carl Junker, is presented in an eclectic style as professed by the architectural fashion of the time: models taken from the Gothic, medieval and Renaissance periods, combine in a surprising fusion, finding different comparisons in the residences that at the the nobles were built in alpine landscapes on the banks of lakes and rivers.

In Miramare Castle Massimiliano implements a perfect synthesis between nature and art, Mediterranean scents and austere European forms, recreating an absolutely unique scenario thanks to the presence of the sea, which dictates the blue color of the tapestries on the ground floor of the Castle, and inspires the names and furnishings of different environments.The creation of the interiors bears the signature of the artisans Franz and Julius Hofmann: the ground floor, intended for the private apartments of Massimiliano and Carlotta, has an intimate and familiar character, the first floor is instead that of representation, reserved for guests who could not fail to stay dazzled by the sumptuous decorated historiated coats of arms and by the red tapestries with the imperial symbols.


Hope you enjoyed today's post. There are obviously many more castles around Europe and I could go on forever and hit every single one but that would mean I would be in the 25,000 range. Have you heard of the castles mentioned above? Do you have a favourite castle? I know that I do.


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