Your Palace Awaits!

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To celebrate the completion of the refurbishment of the Frederik VIII?Palace in the Amalienborg Palace complex, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary opened the doors of their future home to the press and public. The Frederik VIII?Palace is one of the Amalienborg’s four palaces, which make up the Royal Family’s winter residence. All four are known after Danish kings – Christian VII, Christian VIII, Frederik VIII? and Christian IX – but they were actually built in the mid-eighteenth century by noble families. The Frederik VIII?Palace was built for Count Joachim Brocksdorff by the royal builder Niels Eigtved. Brockdorff died in 1763 and Lord High Steward Adam Gottlob Moltke acquired the palace. Two years later he sold it to King Frederik V (1746-1766), after which it was used as a boarding school for army and navy cadets. It became a royal residence following the destruction of the Christianborg Palace in a fire in 1794, which forced the Royal Family to move into the other three palaces at Amalienborg. The palace underwent its first refurbishment in 1827-1828 in French Empire style under the guidance of architect Jørgen Hansen Koch, in preparation as residence for Prince Frederik (later Frederik VII) and Princess Vilhelmine. The couple were divorced ten years later and the palace then became home to Princess Charlotte, sister of Christian VIII and her husband, Prince Vilhelm of Hessen. In 1869 new residents moved in – Frederik VIII and Queen Louise, who lived at the palace until 1926. When Frederik became king in 1906 the palace was renamed in his honour. Its last royal residents were Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid. Frederik passed away in 1972 and Ingrid continued to live in the palace until her death in 2000. POLFOTO - Amalienborg Palace The latest refurbishment has been ongoing since 2004, the year of Crown Prince Frederik’s wedding to Mary Donaldson. Prior to the wedding, the ‘Finance Committee of the Danish Parliament’ had approved the commencement of an interior and exterior refurbishment in order to prepare the palace as a residence for the crown couple and as a functioning royal palace. The project that emerged was a mixture of a heritage project, an official residence and the creation a family home for the crown couple and their two children. A large project with the total cost of the refurbishment estimated at around £20 million. The exterior refurbishment required renovation of all windows, a new roof, the rendering of facades facing the garden and minor sandstone repairs. The renovation of the roof, in particular, was considerably more comprehensive than originally estimated due to extensive dry rot. A great deal of work, but by the end of September 2008, the exterior refurbishment was in the main completed. High priority was given to the preservation of the windows, most of which were the original windows from the 18th and 19th centuries. The quality of windows dating from this era is fantastic and with the proper treatment and maintenance they can last for an unlimited period of time. The glass was replaced with old glass or newly made blown glass. There was also opportunity to create a new feature – the patio established on the existing butler’s kitchen at the east end of the palace. Much of the refurbishment was dictated by the palace’s history but the interior refurbishment brought an opportunity for Frederik and Mary to have a personal input; although even here, as this is such an historic building, TRH were not entirely free to choose their own styles. The Realdania Foundation was called upon. PalaceAwaits1 It is a Danish organisation which was founded in 2000 with the aim of “contributing to development and change within the built environment, seeking to improve the quality of life, for the benefit of Denmark and its inhabitants.” An approach the Prince of Wales would certainly approve his Danish counterparts taking to the architectural heritage! For the Frederik VIII?Palace the foundation commissioned an art project where new Danish art for the palace would be created. Ten Danish artists were agreed upon: Olafur Eliasson; Signe Guttormsen; Morten Schelde; John Kørner; Eske Kat; Katrine Aertebjerg; Kasper Bonnén; Tal R; Erik A. Frandsen and Jesper Christiansen. It was clearly quite a process: the artists were selected by the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess with advice from Poul Erik Tøjner, Museum Director of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Mikael Andersen; architect Poul Schülein and Per Thornit, Chief of the Court. After this was agreed, the list of artists and the concept for the works of art were presented to and accepted by the Heritage Agency of Denmark and the Palaces and Properties Agency. The final result is an eclectic mix of themes and styles. Kathrine Aertebjerg decorated the serving kitchen with a nursery like hunting theme complete with deer, squirrels and owls. A lively and inviting mix that will no doubt appeal to royal parents and children alike. The vestibule reception room makes a personal statement, dominated by an imaginative reinterpretation of the world by Jesper Christiansen, with the countries and continents in unusual locations. In keeping with the personal theme, Princess Mary’s birthplace, Tasmania, is shown much larger than its actual size, dwarfing the rest of Australia. A colourful way to draw attention to the Crown Princess’ homeland and, perhaps, a nice comment on her Tasmanian pride! But the inclusion of album artwork from rock bands Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin and Powderfinger in the world mural did puzzle some. A royal spokesman cleared the mystery up – the bands are favourites of the crown couple. If the rooms orientated toward family activities are modern in their styling but traditional in their themes, mixing fun with a nod toward the educational, Frederik and Mary’s personal touches are still something rather unusual for a royal palace. All in all, the 18th-century palace has been radically overhauled over the last five years with a host of new tapestries, works of art, paintings and chandeliers. From its classically inspired original decorations to the brasher modern era of popular culture, it is something of a magical mystery tour, but none the worse for it. This is a home and a working palace, not a museum. So, although some of TRH’s choices will be a little bit controversial, they were understandably determined to make it to their liking. Future generations will no doubt add their own touches but, for the current generation, the public have been given a glimpse into how 21st century royalty combines its cultural inheritance with the everyday business of being, well, rather like the rest of us! (Royalty Magazine Vol. 21/10)