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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars George's Grandiose Bachelor Pad
Despite being published by Royal Collection Publications (the Crown's publishing arm), this is not the official guidebook to Buckingham Palace; rather it is a history of the building in five colourful chronological chapters. I say `colourful' because there is often more space on a page given over to illustrations than to text, which is no bad thing since the reproductions...
Published on 12 Jun. 2012 by Nicholas Casley

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting text, let down by images.
An interesting telling of the history of Buckingham Palace, the book follows its slow and often rocky metamorphosis from a small villa to a State building. The text's fascination lies in its little details during various rebuilds, listing changes, interventions and alterations made and remade by a line of single-minded monarchs and penniless governments, put upon a series...
Published on 22 July 2011 by Patch


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting text, let down by images., 22 July 2011
This review is from: Buckingham Palace: The Official Illustrated History (Paperback)
An interesting telling of the history of Buckingham Palace, the book follows its slow and often rocky metamorphosis from a small villa to a State building. The text's fascination lies in its little details during various rebuilds, listing changes, interventions and alterations made and remade by a line of single-minded monarchs and penniless governments, put upon a series of browbeaten architects. It deals with the fabric of the building as well as the politics and the characters which drove it forwards.

My disappointment came from the illustrations - and they were real disappointments. This being the Official *Illustrated* History, I felt my expectations of many and lavish photographs of the interior rooms of the palace were not unreasonable. There are, in fact, ten photographs of interior rooms. To be fair, there are more pre-photography illustrations and watercolours, but what I would have hoped for--and where it particularly missed out, I think--was images providing clearer comparisons of individual rooms throughout history. This would have been useful if for no other reason than that even the best drawn image distorts perspective and scale, so a photograph of the same room would aid perception.

As it is, far too much page space was wasted on reproductions of the paintings on display in the palace. Whilst those which depicted its former residents were valid and useful additions, the rest were superfluous to the actual subject of the palace itself. One or two of the most relevant would have been interesting, particularly if seen in situ, to give a sense of scale and intention, but it felt like very much like the easy way out, to plaster the pages with images of art which one can find anywhere and will have seen a hundred times already. In all, there are a huge thirty-six illustrations of paintings--including the seventeen more relevant ones of occupants--most of which have no real significance in the history of the palace. They are simply there.

The same can be said of the furniture, which once again would have been interesting, had groupings of relevant and purpose-made pieces been shown in-situ, with perhaps a few detailed photographs of individual pieces. But aside from those same ten room views, they generally depict, again, a mishmash of generalised objets d'art which are scattered about the palace, often with the image cut out (ie, without a background), so that one sees only the object itself and so doesn't even gain a sense of its place in greater decorative schemes. A few have a history behind them, and I was glad to have images of these, but at twenty-eight images, they comprise by far the majority of picture subjects in the book, and based on the cover image, I had hoped for more relevant and informative research material.

References made to changes to the design and structure of the building would also have benefitted greatly from further `before and after' illustrations of the same facade, for comparison. A great deal is made of types of fenestration and choices of stone facing, and illustrations of these (even if of the same stone on other contemporary buildings) would have been far more relevant than yet another photograph of a mantle clock.

In all, it felt like a book in which the majority of illustrations were chosen at random from pre-existing stock, rather than time being spent putting together relevant images. This would not have bothered me so much had the text been as light and generalised as the images, but the text was very much that of a more serious reference book, whilst the images were generalised tourist guide-book fare. I had looked forward to purchasing the run of books available in the series, providing images of different palace interiors which would give a sense of the scale and grandeur of buildings of this significance, but having bought this one, I'll look elsewhere. Whilst the text was interesting, I'm afraid that for an illustrated history, it was let down entirely by its illustrations.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars George's Grandiose Bachelor Pad, 12 Jun. 2012
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Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buckingham Palace: The Official Illustrated History (Paperback)
Despite being published by Royal Collection Publications (the Crown's publishing arm), this is not the official guidebook to Buckingham Palace; rather it is a history of the building in five colourful chronological chapters. I say `colourful' because there is often more space on a page given over to illustrations than to text, which is no bad thing since the reproductions are well-chosen.

The first chapter traces the beginnings of the site as a `mere' mulberry garden up to the time of the acquisition of what was then Buckingham House by George III. Chapter two witnesses Nash's transformation of the house into a palace for George IV. John Martin Robinson, our guide, writes, "Though incomplete at the time of George IV's death, the new Palace was, at least in parts, a building of great originality and distinction, and it is the work of George IV and Nash, even overlaid by later schemes of lesser quality, which still shines through today."

Chapter three sees the completion of Nash's design under Edward Blore after George IV's death and Nash's own sacking for his perceived extravagance. William IV was uninterested in the building and offered it to parliament when the Palace of Westminster was virtually destroyed by fire in 1834. Robinson remarks that, "George IV ... had conceived the Palace as a grandiose `bachelor pad'. William IV and Queen Adelaide, for whom the Palace had been completed, were an elderly, childless couple. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, by contrast, had a growing family and young children and needed a different scale and type of accommodation."

The transformation under Victoria thus forms the heart of chapter four. But Blore was no Nash, and the resulting new wing in French classical style is described as "somewhat reminiscent of an English railway hotel or, as some considered, a provincial German palace." (Alas, there are no photographs reproduced in the book of the building before its cladding in Portland stone.) The building's standing in the twentieth century is the subject of the final chapter.

The illustrations provided of the interiors and its art treasures are all excellent. Many of the shots allow a `then and now' comparison to be made, although the reader will have to make the link him/herself, since the text does not point out, for instance, that the photo of, say the Picture Gallery today on page 134 can be contrasted with that of the same room in 1843 on page 56. Surprisingly, there are not many photographs of the building's exterior, or many seeking to explain the architecture described in the text. What's more, there are no illustrations of the major players in the building's design and construction: no Nash, Blore, Cubitt, Thomas Verity, or Aston Webb.

There are a number of minor errors in the text - Richard Strauss, for example, is referred to as "Richard Strauss (senior)" (the author presumably means Johann Strauss) - but amazingly, given that this is a history of a building, no plan of the palace is provided to allow the reader to orientate themselves with its development. Perhaps this is for security reasons, but that cannot be an excuse for there being no index or bibliography either.

Overall, this is a sumptuously illustrated guide to the history of Buckingham Palace. The well-written text has much detail about the designs of the monarchs and their architects, as well as the often behind-the-scenes tussles between monarch and parliament over the cost of various schemes. I only wish that the illustrations had been more pertinent to the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Buckingham Palace: The Official Illustrated History (Paperback)
Lovely we'll worth one pound
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