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I was told that going to the Royal Pavilion was the best seven pounds you can spend in Brighton. It cost me 8.50. Maybe it would have been more impressive at seven pounds. It’s the tackiest place I’ve ever been in my life.
In 1786 Prince Regent George IV came to Brighton to get up to some mischief (as would any young person with free time, a free spirit and a reliable line of credit). Buying a farm by the beach, he built the palace over the property’s existing buildings with wire, iron beams, plaster and rock. It seems more thought went into the faux Oriental design than reliable construction – almost immediately after it was built the abundant rain and sea air started to corrode the building.
Conserving the palace has been an uphill battle ever since, and it shows. Pieces of the exterior moldings are flaking off everywhere. Over the past 200 years the building has suffered from dry rot, rising damp, severe structural problems, arson attacks and even a piece of ornamental roofing coming loose in a hurricane and becoming embedded in the floor. The condition of the building is so bad it is said that palace is cursed, either due to the intertwining of snakes and dragons in the décor throughout (considered unlucky in Chinese tradition) or the debauched life the prince led here.
(Unfortunately it is not permitted to take pictures inside the palace – just imagine Disneyland crossed with the interior of a Chinese restaurant run by someone who’s never been out of Essex. Actually, that’s probably quite close to the design brief George came up with.)
George (king from 1820 onwards) became more reclusive as his weight ballooned and he developed dropsy and gout. I had thought that Dropsy was one of Beatrix Potter’s rabbits, but actually it’s a condition where one’s organs retain interstitial fluid and swell beyond normal size. Just as fluffy, not as cute. Next door at the museum and gallery there is a pair of the king’s trousers on display. They are magnificently large. Gout could hardly have a more stately home.
Even in his diseased old age he frequently spent time at the palace (although resigned to a more subdued and secluded existence) and took frequent baths in restorative Brighton waters pumped up from the beach. I’m not sure if Brighton’s waters still have many beneficial effects. Unless standing soap foam is any good for you:
There is something very fitting about the most famous building in Brighton being essentially a themed nightclub built by a bored and sleazy monarch. George kept the palace excessively warm to encourage guests to remove clothing, and installed excessively plush carpets to make guests unsteady on their feet. It’s no wonder Queen Victoria swiftly sold the palace to the Brighton and Hove city council soon after she became queen.
Here is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while:
Damien Hirst, conceptual artist (and White Cube YBA like Emin), responds to a bad review from Australian art critic Robert Hughes:
“He probably cried when Queen Victoria died.”
He may not know how to pickle a shark, but he’s at least got a handle on defensive retorts.