James I commissioned Inigo Jones, one of England's great architects, to undertake a grand building on the site of the original Tudor Palace of Whitehall, which was (according to one foreign visitor) "ill-built, and nothing but a heap of houses." Jones's Banqueting House, finished in 1622 and the first building in England to be completed in the neoclassical style, bears all the hallmarks of the Palladian sophistication and purity which so influenced Jones during his time in Italy. James's son, Charles I, enhanced the interior by employing the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens to glorify his father and himself (naturally) in a series of vibrant painted ceiling panels called "The Apotheosis of James I." As it turned out, these allegorical paintings, depicting a wise monarch being received into heaven, were the last thing Charles saw before stepped through the open first floor window onto the scaffold which had been erected directly outside for his execution by Cromwell's Parliamentarians in 1649. Yet 20 years later his son, Charles II, would celebrate the restoration of the monarchy in the exact same place.
Apr 2, 2008
You get to see a short and helpful video presentation on the ground floor, then head upstairs with a self guided handset. The architecture and Rubens ceiling paintings upstairs are extraordinary, and the handset commentary is very thorough and enlightening. Maybe a little expensive, but not a disappointment. Hours can be capricious, so check ahead.