The history of the Queen's House: To 1678

Pages 25-47

Survey of London Monograph 14, the Queen's House, Greenwich. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1937.

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In this section


Carved frieze in the Queen's Cabinet

The First Phase

The Queen's House, built as a link between the gardens of Greenwich Palace and the royal park, was the first essay in pure renaissance design in England. Like the earlier villa of Pope Julius in Rome and the later Petit Trianon in the park of Versailles, it was designed to be decorated and furnished with the most lavish care, but was small enough to give the illusion of escape from the splendours of a great palace. Here for the first time, as far as documented evidence has been traced, Inigo Jones was able to give tangible form to his dreams of architectural design, to carry out in practice the precept noted in his sketch-book on the 20th of January 1614/15: "... in architecture ye outward ornaments oft (fn. 1) to be sollid, proporsionable according to the rulles, masculine and unaffected." (fn. 2)


Anne of Denmark

It might almost be said that the Queen's House owed its existence to the bad marksmanship of Anne of Denmark. It was begun in 1616, but its story may be taken back three years earlier. Mr. Chamberlain, writing to Sir Dudley Carleton on the 1st of August 1613, tells him: "The King is in Progress, and the Queen gone or going after. At their last being at Theobalds, which was about a fortnight since, the Queen shooting a deer mistook her mark, and killed Jewel the King's most special and favourite hound; at which he stormed exceedingly awhile; but after he knew who did it he was soon pacified, and with much kindness wished her not to be troubled with it, for he should love her never the worse; and the next day sent her a diamond worth £2,000 as a legacy from his dead dog. Love and kindness increase daily between them; and it is thought they never were on better terms." (fn. 3) On the 25th of November 1613 Chamberlain notes: "The Queen by her late pacification hath gained Greenwich into jointure." (fn. 4) Greenwich Palace lay along the south bank of the river with gardens and orchards behind it. Beyond the orchards ran a public road, and south of this again was Greenwich Park. The palace had been greatly enlarged by Henry VIII, who held many joyous revels there. Both his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were born and christened at Greenwich: here Mary, at the age of two, was solemnly affianced to the Dauphin, who was little older, and on October 5th the marriage ceremony was performed at Greenwich. (fn. 5) Six years later, in the same palace, she was betrothed to the Emperor Charles, who was present in person. It was here that Henry awaited the arrival of Anne of Cleves, and married her in 1540: here that Edward VI died ; and here, in the mire of the roadway between gardens and park, young Raleigh spread his cloak that his queen might pass dry-shod.


Anne of Denmark began to plan improvements in her new possession. She altered the buildings facing the gardens, and in 1616 was in consultation with the King's surveyor, Inigo Jones, concerning a more important alteration. On the 21st of June 1617 Chamberlain wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton: "The Queen removed on Tuesday from Greenwich to Oatlands . . .: she is building somewhat at Greenwich wch must be finished this sommer, yt is saide to be some curious devise of Inigo Jones, and will cost above 4000li . . ." (fn. 6)

James had enclosed the park (fn. 7), separated from the palace gardens by this public road from Deptford to Woolwich, with a brick wall. Astride this roadway, on the site of an old gatehouse, Inigo Jones planned his curious device, which later writers called the House of Delight, designing two buildings united by a covered bridge of stone across the mire, that Queen Anne might pass from garden to park dry-shod (Plate 14). In place of the balcony of the gatehouse which looked out across the park, he planned an Italian loggia of Ionic columns.

1616–18; 1618–21

Sketch Plans by Inigo Jones

In the Burlington-Devonshire collection of Jones's drawings, now in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects, is a sheet of sketch-plans for the house (Fig. 2), trial essays which show that the germ of the finished scheme was in his mind. Work was begun in October 1616, and carried on for eighteen months. The gatehouse was demolished, foundations dug, and stone, bricks and timber assembled. Before the building was finished difficulties arose; perhaps the Queen's finances, always in a parlous state, were unequal to the strain of building: perhaps the illness which proved fatal was upon her. On the 30th of April 1618 the work was stopped. Within a year the Queen died, and on the 29th of June 1621 Jones presented his account for the work so far completed (see Appendix IV). The house remained unfinished, and ten years were to pass before work was resumed.

The House of Delight

1619; 1629

After Queen Anne's death in 1619 Greenwich Palace and its park were settled on Charles, Prince of Wales. He was in residence here in the summer, for a letter to Lord Doncaster (fn. 8) is dated from Greenwich on the 27th of June 1619. (fn. 9) He retained possession of the palace and park after his accession in 1625, and his marriage to the Princess Henrietta-Maria of France, until 1629, when they were granted to the Queen, as part of her jointure, for ninety-nine years. HenriettaMaria was a daughter of Henri IV and Maria de' Medici. Her mother had inherited none of the family brains but much of their love of art. She built the Luxembourg Palace after her husband's death, and there Rubens immortalised her somewhat over-ripened charms in a series of immense and sumptuous allegories, which were completed and hung in time for the marriage by proxy of the Princess and Charles on the 11th of May 1625. The little princess, only sixteen years old at the time of her marriage, grew up at a court which had been strongly influenced by Italian culture; while her husband had already formed the nucleus of a collection of pictures which was to become one of the most valuable outside Italy. The commission to Rubens to paint the ceiling of Inigo Jones's new banqueting hall in Whitehall was first discussed in 1621, before the building was completed, partly, at any rate, at the suggestion of Prince Charles. (fn. 10) For culture and for art the auspices of the new reign were happy.


Henrietta-Maria of France

For the first three years the Duke of Buckingham was the most powerful subject in England. The young Queen disliked him, was jealous of his influence over her husband, quarrelled with them both, but was powerless. After the murder of the Duke in 1628, Charles and his wife were drawn closer together. Greenwich Palace was given to her in the following year, and thither came Rubens—not as an artist, but as an ambassador to pave the way for negotiations for peace with Spain. He has recorded his impressions in two letters. On the 8th of August 1629 he writes: ". . . This island . . . seems to me worthy the consideration of a man of taste, not only because of the charm of the countryside, and the beauty of the people, not only because of the outward show, which appears to me most choice and to announce a people rich and happy in the bosom of peace, but also by the incredible quantity of excellent pictures, statues and ancient inscriptions which are in this Court." (fn. 11) In another letter he writes: ". . . I must confess that, from the point of view of painting, I have never seen such a quantity of pictures by great masters as in the Palace of the King of England and in the gallery of the late Duke of Buckingham." (fn. 12)


The next ten years were to be the happiest in Henrietta-Maria's life. In 1630 her son Charles was born. There is all the gaiety and pride of the young mother in her description of him: " . . . [his] portrait, which I sent to the queen my mother, I think you have seen. He is so ugly that I am ashamed of him, but his size and fatness supply the want of beauty. I wish you could see the gentleman, for he has no ordinary mien; he is so serious in all that he does, that I cannot help fancying him far wiser than myself. . . ." (fn. 13)

Henrietta-Maria now turned her attention to the unfinished Queen's House. Unfortunately, the accounts have not all been preserved, and those extant are not all fully detailed. There is an entry for 1630 which shows that the completion of the building was under consideration. Henry Wickes, Paymaster of the Works, includes in his account for the period 1st October 1629 to 30th September 1630 an item:

"Also allowed to the said Accomptant for money by him yssued and paied wthin the tyme of this Accompte for sondry necessary workes and Reparac'ons donne and bestowed uppon the Mannor House of Grenewyche vizt in framing and setting up A newe Roofe over the Arch of the newe building . . . " (fn. 14)

The roof was thatched—an indication that the work was unfinished and to be protected from frost. A sum of £323 is. 8½d. is included in the account for work in progress "at the Peere at Portland."

A sketch—almost certainly by Inigo Jones—in the Burlington-Devonshire Collection, showing the block-plan and elevation of a square classic building flanked by four pavilions and crowned by a central dome, may belong to this period, when the completion of the house was under discussion. If it represents the Queen's House, as it certainly seems to do, it is an interesting example of the complete recasting of an architectural design. It is obviously the source from which Webb drew his inspiration for the scheme submitted to Charles II in 1661 (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Sketch plan and elevation

Among the pictures in the royal collection in Buckingham Palace is one, painted perhaps by Adriaen Staelbent (1580–1662) (fn. 15), of Greenwich Palace from the park. In the foreground the King and Queen, with one of their children, form the centre of a group of courtiers. In the middle distance the Queen's House breaks the long line of the park wall. Behind it rise the towers and roofs of the palace with its orchards and gardens, and across the broad, sparkling river lie the trees and pastures of the Isle of Dogs (Plate 7).

Another painting of the same period, by an unknown artist, reproduced by permission of Captain Bruce S. Ingram (S.N.R.) (Plate 9), is of exceptional interest in that it shows clearly the Queen's House in its original form as Jones planned it, an H plan spanning the road with a single bridge.

Fig. 4. Chimney–piece design


The accounts for 1633-1634 give no details of building work but include payments for overtime. (fn. 16) Under the date of the 20th of November 1635, in the Account of receipts and payments of the Exchequer, is an entry: " . . . towards charges of buildings at Greenwich 700l." (fn. 17) There are references to the work in the State Papers and in the letters of foreign ambassadors, but the most significant evidence of the lavishness with which the house was finished and decorated is to be found in the building itself and in Jones's own designs for chimneypieces, preserved in the Burlington-Devonshire Collection (Plates 17 and 18 and figs. 4 and 5). There are notes in Jones's handwriting in the margin of his copy of Palladio, dated "Greenwich ye 2 June 1632" (fn. 18) and "Greenwich 27 of July 1633," (fn. 19) which show the care with which he was studying every detail of his design. It was to Greenwich that Charles hastened on his return from his coronation in Scotland in August 1633, passing east of London and crossing the Thames at Blackwall, that he might join the queen without delay; for she was pregnant, and on the 12th of October her son James was born.


On a marble tablet above the central window of the north front is the date, 1635. On the 18th of May 1635 the Venetian Ambassador, Anzolo Correr, wrote to the Doge and Senate: " . . . On Wednesday his Majesty went to Greenwich with the queen. It is thought that they will both stay there at least six weeks, the king to enjoy the pleasures of the chase, and the queen to see the completion of a special erection of hers, which is already far advanced." (fn. 20) But the house was by no means finished, for two years later, on the 2nd of January 1637, the same ambassador wrote to the Doge and Senate, relating an incident of the kind which was seized on by the Queen's enemies and turned to her detriment: " . . . Some days ago, when their Majesties were passing near London to go and see some buildings of the queen at Greenwich, they were observed to leave their barque at the convent (fn. 21) of the Capuchins, where they passed from the church to the cells and then to the refectory, not disdaining the poverty, the habits and scant ceremonies of the friars." (fn. 22)


In 1636 much of the carving in the house was executed. There was a long and rather acrimonious dispute between Mr. Surveyor and the Commissioners of the Navy in 1637 concerning the pressing of two exempted men, Thomas James and Richard Durkin, carvers, into work for the Navy. Thomas James certified that he had been pressed out of the Queen's Majesty's work at Greenwich, where he had wrought a year and a half with two other men. He had been transferred from Greenwich to Somerset House a month before. Mr. Surveyor had issued a certificate of exemption on the 29th of January. (fn. 23)

The most interesting point about the dispute is that it is highly probable that the carvers were needed for work on the Sovereign of the Seas, built at Woolwich in 1636–7: "a most noble ship," as Pepys called her: (fn. 24) "a glorious vessel . . . being for defence and ornament the richest that ever spread cloth before the wind." (fn. 25) She was accidentally destroyed by fire at Chatham in 1696.

In 1636–7 the marble paving of the hall was laid. Nicholas Stone, the King's Master Mason, undertook the work, which was carried out by Gabriel Stacy. (fn. 26)

Fig. 5. Chimney-piece design.

1637; 1639

There are two designs for chimney-pieces, both dated 1637, which prove the leisurely progress of the work (Figs. 4 and 5). In July 1639 Nicholas Stone carved a chimney-piece of Portland stone and laid the marble hearths and the back-hearths of Reigate stone in five of the rooms, and some black and white marble paving "within the door of Entrance." (fn. 27) In 1639 Richard Dirgin was paid £4 13s. 9d. for carving two great picture frames for the house, and £1 18s. 8d. for another picture frame "for the Qs Bedchamber"; while in the same account George Cary, painter, is paid for painting and gilding five frames, including one carved with "eggs and anchors," £16 9s. 3d. Another item which again emphasises the richness and beauty of the furnishing of the house runs: "To . . . Zachary Tailer Carver for carving Tenn Pedestalls of Timber for marble Statuaes to stand on with Bulls heads festons fruites leaves & flowers att lxs the peece. . . ." These pedestals, with their marble statues, were set up "in the gt roome at the sd building." (fn. 28) Probably the "xven great Pedestalls of elme timber with their bases & capitalls," for turning which John Hooker was paid £9, were intended for the palace or garden, not for the Queen's House. The number of statues at Greenwich in the Inventory taken by the Parliamentary Commissioners in 1649–50 is notably large, and includes the famous bust of Charles I by Bernini, which was valued at £800. (fn. 29)


Three pictures in the Greenwich collection painted by Orazio Gentileschi were framed in 1633–4, (fn. 30) but there is no definite date of the execution of the panels which he painted for the ceiling of the great hall (Plates 86 and 87) nor of the painting of the cove of the ceiling of the Queen's bedroom (Plates 76 to 83 and frontispiece). That Gentileschi painted the canvas panels for the hall ceiling is known, and their history is given in Appendix II. He may have painted other ceilings at Greenwich, for Charles held him in high esteem, despite the efforts of Sir Balthazar Gerbier to belittle and discredit the Italian. (fn. 31) The Duke of Buckingham had brought Gentileschi to England, and after the Duke's assassination his widow found herself constrained to appeal to Charles to rid her of a guest who had outstayed his welcome. (fn. 32) Negotiations with Jakob Jordaens for the decoration of the Queen's cabinet were begun in 1639 through Gerbier, who conducted them with characteristic crookedness. (fn. 33) Rubens was asked to paint the ceiling panels, but his price was high, and his death ended the negotiations. "Mr Surveyor" was frequently called into consultation on the subject of these decorations during the first six months of 1640, (fn. 34) but his own part in the perfecting of the House of Delight must have been finished a year or so before.

The Queen paid many visits to Greenwich to view the progress of the work, and here the court frequently spent the months of June and July. (fn. 35) Charles was never free from political anxieties, but his wife had her husband and her children, her masques, her gardens and her pleasure-house. She proclaimed herself the happiest of women. She had all her father's high courage, as she proved again and again in the years to come; but she had no political wisdom. She had all her mother's obstinacy and much of her stupidity in her dealings with others; but she had a steadfast loyalty and deep affection which were all her own. There can have been barely three years in which she could enjoy the finished beauty of her house. One reference to it, written only a few years later, shows how deep an impression that beauty made on those who saw it during the few brief years of its first splendour: "Queen Ann, in the time of King James, builded that new Brick-work towords the Garden, and laid the Foundation of the House of Delight, towards the Park, which Queen Mary, hath so finished and furnished, that it far surpasseth all other of that kind in England." (fn. 36)


On the 10th of February 1642 the King and Queen stayed for a night at Greenwich on their way to Dover. The storm-clouds were black in the political sky. The Queen was taking her eldest daughter, the Princess Mary, to Holland, to her affianced husband William, Prince of Orange. The House of Commons, viewing the actions of the Queen with the gravest suspicion, protested that the princess, who was only ten years old, was too young to leave England. The Queen, under the pretext of drinking the Spa waters, was anxious to raise arms and money in Holland and to visit France to seek aid for her husband from the king her brother. King Charles, with the young Prince of Wales, left Greenwich for the north. In April he was refused admission to the walled town of Kingston-upon-Hull. The Civil War had begun. In August the royal standard was raised at Nottingham. For the next seven years Charles was fighting, negotiating, a prisoner. The Queen was raising money and munitions in Holland; back in England as "Generalissima" to bring reinforcements to her husband; escaping to France fifteen days after the birth of her youngest daughter, Henriette-Anne, the little sister whom Charles II loved with the purest affection of his chequered life: negotiating with Mazarin, with the Irish catholics, with the anti-Parliamentarian English fleet; finally living in miserable anxiety in the Louvre on the charity of her sister-in-law, where she received the news of her husband's execution on the 30th of January 1649.

The Interregnum

The Commonwealth

Parliament ordered that an inventory be made of the goods of Charles Stuart. Only imperfect copies of it have survived, but from them can be estimated the richness of the collection of pictures, statues and works of art found in the royal palaces. The value placed on the collection by the Commissioners would err on the side of under-estimation, yet in Greenwich Palace alone the pictures and statues were valued at more than £7,000. (fn. 37) Those in the Queen's House were not catalogued under a definite heading, but the following list of pictures, grouped together in the Inventory, were certainly there: (fn. 38)

fo. 119

No. £ s d
1 A Peece of Pharoahs Daughter finding Moses done by Genteliscoe 80 - - Sold Mr Wm. Lathom &c in a Dividend as Aprised 23 Oct° 1651
2 Lott and his two Daughters 80 - - Sold Mr Lathom &c Ditto
3 Nine Peeces in ye Ceeling 600 - - Sold Mr Lathom &c Ditto
4 Eight Peeces in One Roome per Jordaicon, att 200 - - Sold Mr Lathom &c Ditto
5 One Peece done by Rubens 150 - - Sold Mr Lathom &c Ditto
6 One Peece in ye Ceeling, being Daedalus & Iccorus, done by Julio Romano 500 - - both these sold Mr. Baker 2d ffeb: 1650 for 55li
7 A Chimney peece being Diana & Acteon 30 - -
8 Another of the Same 25 - -
A Peece of Joseph p' Gentiliscoe 50 - - Sold Mr Wilson
The Totall 1715

There are several important points to be noted in this Inventory, apart from the interest of the pictures themselves and the values placed upon them. One point is that against two items, both relating to ceiling pictures, there is no note of a sale in any copy of the Inventory; while against two others, which also formed part of the structural decoration, so to speak, of the house, the note of sale is erased. This may be taken as confirming the impression that the Queen's House was to some extent safeguarded from the spoliation to which the palace appears to have been subjected.

Another point is that eight pictures by Jordaens are noted as being "in one room": an indication that more of the paintings for the decoration of the Queen's Cabinet had been completed and sent to England than are noted in the extant correspondence.

A third point is that a ceiling piece by Giulio Romano, valued at a high figure, is mentioned. Nothing is known of the provenance of this picture or the place it occupied in the house. The "nine peeces" must be those painted by Gentileschi for the ceiling of the hall. The Giulio Romano can hardly have been companioned, even for a time, by the Jordaens canvases in the Cabinet, but may have formed the centrepiece of the ceiling of the Queen's Bedroom, where now the later panel of Aurora is painted. The design of this ceiling, with the doubled border at the two ends of the centre panel, almost suggests the necessity for devising a space to fit a pre-existing picture. In any case, the Giulio Romano, which does not appear to have been sold, must have been removed at a later time.

On April the 29th 1652 John Evelyn noted in his diary: "We went this afternoon to see the Queene's House at Greenwich, now given by the rebells to Bulstrode Whitlock, one of their unhappy counsellors, and keeper of pretended liberties."

Parts of the great palace by the river were let or sold in various lots. The buildings and land occupied by the King's Works went to Simon Bassill, (fn. 39) perhaps a descendant of that Simon Basil on whose death Inigo Jones had succeeded to the office of Surveyor. Other parts went to Henry Henn (fn. 40) and to Uriah Babbington (fn. 41) (who was retained as "under housekeeper" after the Restoration).

1653; 1657

Between 1652 and 1654 Dutch prisoners captured in the naval struggles at Portland, the Gabbard, and Scheveningen were incarcerated in other parts of the palace. But the Queen's House, together with the Park and Castle, was reserved for the use of the Commonwealth: Bulstrode Whitelocke was in possession, and little, if any, damage was done to the house. Indeed, as Professor Callender has written: "The Queen's House, by contrast [with the older palace], received fresh access of dignity. After the victory of the Gabbard [1653] the body of General Deane lay in state in Inigo Jones's Hall: and a few years later [1657] came the body of one, perhaps the only one of that age, whom Roundheads and Cavaliers agreed to praise. In the same Hall, the illustrious Robert Blake lay in state, while all London put on mourning, or prepared for the funeral procession by river to Westminster Abbey with many state barges dressed in black and the silent homage of thousands bare-headed." (fn. 42)

Later History: The Restoration

Inigo Jones died in 1652, "through grief, as is well known, for the fatal calamity of his dread master," (fn. 43) bequeathing legacies (among others) to John Webb and Richard Gammon, (fn. 44) who had married his kinswomen. Webb, his pupil and assistant, inherited the master's drawings, and it is primarily to his pious care that we owe their preservation. When his son's widow sold them, the major portion of the collection was bought by Lord Burlington, and is now in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Nearly all the remainder was bought by Dr. George Clarke, a man of considerable versatility and an amateur architect, who bequeathed his collection of drawings to Worcester College, Oxford.

The year 1660, which saw the restoration of King Charles II, was marked by great activity in refitting the royal palaces. Whitehall was the first care, and Greenwich, which had suffered perhaps greater spoliation than any other of the major palaces, was left derelict for another year. In June 1661 the King visited the palace, and two gates in the park were broken open to let him in. Arthur Haughton (fn. 45) was instructed to "take a platt of the House and grounds "and the storeyard of the Works was set in order. (fn. 46)


In August the work of repairing and enlarging the "new buildings" —viz., the Queen's House— was begun. There is no record of the preliminary discussions. Sir John Denham was the Surveyor-General, with John Webb to assist him, and the probability is that Webb planned the alterations to the work of his master, Inigo Jones, as well as the new palace which Charles II determined to build on the site of the derelict buildings by the river. (fn. 47) A plan is preserved in the Burlington-Devonshire Collection (Plate 21) which may belong to this date or be that made in 1663 (see p. 42). Inigo Jones's building is shown, with its mullioned windows, and considerable alterations, with notes and dimensions in handwriting that is almost certainly Webb's. This scheme was partially carried out in the next twelve months. No interference with the public road was contemplated, but two new bridges were to be built across it with rooms above them, uniting the original blocks of building on the east and on the west, so that on the first floor an uninterrupted suite of state-rooms would be obtained round the outer circuit of the house. (fn. 48) This part of the scheme shows imagination and ingenuity, as well as respect for the work of an older architect. Less admirable is the scheme for further increasing the accommodation of the house by adding four corner pavilions. (fn. 49) Not only would these have necessitated the awkward insertion of doorways in the angles of the four principal rooms on each floor: they would have destroyed the simplicity and beauty of the plans and elevations. No attempt was made in 1661 to build these pavilions, nor to form the courts enclosed by walls on the east and west sides of the house; but the derelict condition of the great palace by the river made some increase in the accommodation in the Queen's House imperative, and another alteration was planned on the first floor. The two large rooms at the south-east and south-west corners of the house, opening on to the loggia, were each divided by a partition to form the King's closet and bedchamber and the Queen's closet and bedchamber. Over each closet a floor was inserted to form an additional small room under the roof. Further attic rooms were "gained" over the small inner rooms on the south side looking on to the roadway, necessitating the construction of two additional staircases. These alterations, especially the mutilation of the two large rooms communicating with the loggia, must have been forced on the architect. They ruined the proportions of the rooms, interrupted their ordered and stately sequence, and shut off the loggia from the range of state-rooms.

Over the foot-passages on either side of the two main archways of the new bridges were formed narrow rooms to be used by the guards or porters. Four staircases (not shown on Webb's plan) connected these rooms with the ground floor. (fn. 50)

In August 1661 the road through the house was temporarily closed. Breaches were made in the park wall and fences put up to enclose an accommodation road, and for the next twelve months a labourer was paid £1 a month to open and shut the gates for passengers. The brickwork of the new archways and the rooms above them was carried out on two separate contracts by Isaac Corner and Thomas Pattison. Full details are given in the accounts for the month of November 1661 (cf. Appendix IV). It may be noted that, although the two bridges appear to be identical, the one involved 38 rod of brickwork and cost £217 3s. od., less an allowance for old bricks, while the other involved 36¾ rods and cost £210 15s. 6d., less a smaller allowance. By January 1662 the carpenters were busy bracketing the ceilings in the two new rooms, framing the partition to divide the Queen's closet from the chamber, "framing and raifing of two floores (vizt) one on the King's side, th'other on the Queenes side," repairing the ceiling in the presence chamber and the gilded mouldings in the hall ceiling; while the bricklayers were "pining in" four stone door-cases.


In the March accounts there is an entry for taking down "the marble neech and tearmes wth. the marble head in a lower roome in the new Buildings." From subsequent entries it appears that the "marble head" was in the north-east room next to the hall—a room in which a freestone chimney-piece was set up a month later. The niche may have been in the same room or may have been the lining of the apse on the south side of the hall. John Grove is paid in the same account for the modelled plaster ceilings in the two new rooms on the first floor. A little later these two rooms are wainscoted, and Robert Streeter, the Serjeant Painter, is paid £3 10s. od. for "mending the Ceeling peice wch. came from St. Jameses house xj foote Diameter." In the June accounts the carpenters are paid for making "a ftreyning frame for the Ovall picture." This is noted among items relating to the King's bedchamber: as this room (the south-east corner room on the first floor) has a coved ceiling with an oval panel in the centre it is probable that the ceiling-painting from St. James's was put up here. The longer diameter of the panel is 10 ft. 5 in. In the two new bridge rooms were set up two "Egipt marble chimney-peeces" for which Joshua Marshall, the Master Mason, was paid £26 each. In the July account much finishing work is charged for, and the house is swept and cleaned. The queen-mother, Henrietta-Maria, landed in England at the end of July and proceeded to Greenwich, where she stayed until alterations to the larger and more convenient palace of Denmark House (fn. 51) were completed. During this time she must have occupied the Queen's House, for the older palace at Greenwich was derelict and already in process of demolition; but apartments were fitted up there for the Earl of St. Albans, (fn. 52) whose appointment as Keeper of Greenwich House and Ranger of Greenwich Park was confirmed on the 24th of April 1662. Evelyn went to Greenwich on the 28th of July to wait on the Queen; and on the 14th of August he notes in his Diary: "This afternoone the Queene Mother with the Earle of St. Albans and many greate ladies and persons, was pleas'd to honor my poore villa with her presence, and to accept of a collation. She was exceedingly pleas'd and stay'd till very late in the evening." (fn. 53)


Perhaps as a direct consequence of the Queen-Mother's residence there, further alterations were projected at the Queen's House in the following year. Charles had already begun the laying-out of the park on the model of the great French demesnes: Le Nôtre himself visited England in 1662 and made designs for the planting of the parks at Greenwich and St. James's. Pepys, on the 11th of April, went "back to Greenwich by water, and there . . . walked into the Park, where the King hath planted trees and made steps in the hill up to the castle, which is very magnificent." These steps, and the great radiating avenues designed by Le Nôtre, can still be traced; but for years the planting was neglected, (fn. 54) paths were made—first as tracks, then asphalted or gravelled—crossing the grass in every direction, to the serious detriment of the design; while no attempt was made to replace trees which had died or been blown down. Accurate surveys exist of the original planting: sympathetic care will, it is hoped, redeem a noble example of seventeenth-century design from complete destruction.

Among Charles's letters to his sister Henriette, who had married Philippe, duc d'Orléans, in 1661, is a note written on the 17th of October 1664: "Pray lett le Nostre goe on with the modell, and only tell him this addition that I can bring water to the top of the hill, so that he may add much to the beauty of the desente by a cascade of watter." (fn. 55) There is no record of the place to which the "modell" (or design) referred, but the "desente" suggests the grass steps in the hill-side in Greenwich Park. There was water there, brought in conduits from Blackheath for the use of the palace. The situation would almost irresistibly suggest to the creator of the gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte and of Versailles a cascade—fountains—ornamental waters.

Work was carried on for some years in the park; but meanwhile the King was not yet satisfied with the alterations to the Queen's House. Greenwich palace and park were still the property of the QueenMother, but from references in the accounts it appears that it was Charles, who was happy in sight of shipping, who wished to restore to Greenwich something of its earlier splendour. (fn. 56) In March 1663 the wall separating the palace gardens from the road was repaired and strengthened, the temporary fence in the park removed, and a "ground plott" of the house was drawn. (fn. 57) This ground plan must have been made in view of the new works contemplated by the King, for in May the charges for "setting out the ground in the parke for the adition to the new building" were entered in the accounts: labourers were employed in "digging the topp of the foundation of the adition to the new building in the parke and digging in the Gardine to shew where the high way shall goe, and helping to load timber to carry to the water side." These additions were the corner pavilions already mentioned (p. 39); the work in the garden was the prelude to the work of building the new palace on the river bank which Evelyn had discussed with Sir John Denham in October 1661, and Charles had described to Evelyn three months later.

1664; 1665

In June and July the foundations of the two pavilions on the park side were dug, 48 feet by 44 feet, and the bricklayers were underpinning "two of the Quines . . . six foots deepe & 18 fot. returne." But in August all labour was diverted to the work of preparing for the building of the new palace, except for making a scaffold "and putting up the round picture in the Ceeling" of the Queen's House. Unfortunately there is no indication which ceiling is referred to. The building of a "snow well" in the park was begun, and in January 1664 the foundations of the new palace were staked out. In the February accounts John Grone, Stationer, was paid 1s. 2d. for "2 large thick past boards made into a cover"; Arthur Haughton charged 5s. 6d. for "a box covered with red leather to putt ye designes in"; and in March the carpenters were paid for "two plate boards for draughts." The Greenwich Works Office was equipping itself, not for lunch-hour amusement, but for the making and preserving of architectural drawings. John Webb Esqr Deputy Surveyor generall was paid £6 in May "for his Jorney to Lindhurst and Portland, xj dayes" to arrange for the supply of stone. The one item in this account charged to the Queen's House is for 162 quarries at 1d. each used by Thomas Bagley, master glazier, and the charge is headed "For the old Buildings." Evelyn notes that the elms were planted in Greenwich Park this year, and on the 4th of March Pepys "at Greenwich did observe the foundation laying of a very great house for the King, which will cost a great deale of money." (fn. 58) In June Richard Gammon, Clerk of the Works, was paid 8s. for "bringing a Trunck with drawing out of Sumrsetsheire" (fn. 59); and in the same month there is a foreshadowing of workmen's compensation in the payment of 40s. to Thomas Fisher, a labourer "yt was dangerously hurt in the worke for his losse of tyme & charges of his Cure." (fn. 60) In July John Tomlin was paid £5 "for throwing downe the princes lodgs. and Towr: in the Tiltyard." (fn. 61) In January 1665 Richard Gammon again journeyed into Somerset, at a cost of 18s., to fetch two boxes "wth. book prints and drawings of Mr. Webbs for his maties. Ufe." This year, the worst plague year in London, the officials of the Board of Admiralty moved their offices to Greenwich to escape infection. On the 24th of August Pepys "dined very well" at Greenwich, "and thence to look upon our rooms again at the King's house, which are not yet ready for us." A few repairs were carried out in the Queen's House, the most interesting item being the account for work done by Richard Ashworth, smith, who repaired the wrought-iron balustrade of the round stairs. (fn. 62) In March there are payments to carpenters for "the making of a moddell for ye Fountaine in the Parke and making of stakes setting out the Ground &c." (fn. 63) If this fountain was ever built, all trace of it has now disappeared. It may have been part of the scheme designed by Le Nôtre, referred to in Charles's letter to his sister, already quoted (p. 42). In May a warrant was issued to pay Sir William Boreman, keeper of the dwarf orchard, £589 17s. 8d. for keeping and planting sixteen coppices and a dwarf orchard in the park, and £148 a year for gardener's wages and other expenses; (fn. 64) and in July another warrant for £1,200 was issued to Adrian May for levelling, planting and other works in the park. (fn. 65) A warrant dated 12th December 1665 is an interesting reminder of one method of securing money for the King's Works. It is "for a grant to John Lord Berkeley and Sir Hugh Pollard of the estate of Peter Cole, bookseller of London, forfeit by his committing suicide, on their paying one half of the value thereof towards building the King's house at Greenwich." (fn. 66)


Little was done to the Queen's House in 1666 save general maintenance repairs. The lead roof was overhauled, and the foundations of "the Quoines of the Queenes buildings next the parke" were protected by "two Dams for marsh earth" rammed and covered with weeds. The glazing was made good, the "boards from ye windows and doores" being taken down and afterwards nailed up again to preserve it.

1667; 1669

In May 1667 work was resumed on the foundations of the two pavilions on the south side of the house, while the ground was staked out for the foundations of the second pair at the corners of the north front. In June there was little work done beyond the "putting up of ledges for hangings" in several rooms, and for the next year and a half nothing more than maintenance repairs was done. In January 1669 a minor disaster occurred, and carpenters were employed "in shoring wth. fower large peices the side wall of the Kitchen that was flowen out belonging to the Queens buildings and spiking on a peice of timber under the joysts to keepe them up," (fn. 67) a result, in all probability, of leaving unfinished the work on the foundations of the south-east pavilion.


In the autumn of 1669 half of the marble paving of the loggia on the south side of the house had to be taken up, owing to the decay of the joists. The work occupied twelve months. Meanwhile, the idea of building the four angle pavilions was finally abandoned: the brick foundations already built were grubbed up and the excavations filled in with earth. (fn. 68) In November 1670 Leonard Gammon, the Clerk of Works, was granted £1 for "extraordinary paines in reward for this last summer." (fn. 69)

Catherine of Braganza

There are a number of pictures showing the Queen's House at this period. Perhaps the best-known ones are the copies of the painting by Dankaerts, one of which is in the possession of the Trustees of the National Maritime Museum (Plate 12). Pepys met the artist on the 22nd of January 1669, and commissioned him to paint four pictures in distemper of four of the royal palaces for his dining-room. The Greenwich picture was finished in March, to his "very good content," and a fortnight later the diarist went to Greenwich by water, "and there landed at the King's house, which goes on slow, but is very pretty. I to the Park, there to see the prospect of the hill, to judge of Dancre's picture, which he hath made thereof for me: and I do like it very well: and it is a very pretty place." (fn. 70)

In 1670 a grant was made to Thomas Boreman of the place of underkeeper of the palace at Greenwich. The appointment is interesting as showing the relative importance of the parts of the palace. For keeping the great house and galleries (viz., the new Charles II block) the yearly fee was £20; for the White House (i.e., the Queen's House) and buildings annexed, £13 6s. 8d.; for keeping the gardens, £18 5s. (fn. 71) The wages of the day workmen and labourers were, however, in arrears. Charles had no money, but, "being graciously sensible of their condition," referred their petition to the Treasury Commissioners. (fn. 72) The planting of the park was still in progress. On the 24th of June 1670 Hugh May was appointed inspector of the French and English gardeners at Whitehall, St. James's, Greenwich and Hampton Court, at a yearly salary of £200 (fn. 73)

1671; 1673; 1674

In the accounts for June 1671 are payments to labourers for strengthening the doors in the cellars of the Queen's House "for secureing ye Marbles there." This refers to marble shipped from Leghorn to be used for chimney-pieces and for paving in Charles II's building. In August carpenters were employed "in making a large Ovall Table wth. Tressels for the greate roome in ye Qs buildings and putting up battens for hangings aboute that roome." (fn. 74) In July 1673 is a charge for "bourding up with slitt deale two in side windowes in ye passage next the Kitchin & fastening up one of ye. dores there for a pantry." Some door-linings "of deale wainscot wrought with bellexions and raised pannells" and some window shutters were also made. In December 1673 work was begun on the repair of the rusticated brick archway forming the gate into the park "against Fryers road" (fn. 75); and during the next summer the roof over the great hall, carried on two large oak trusses over a span of 40 feet, was repaired at a cost of £68 13s. 1d. (fn. 76)


Many items in the accounts prove the inconvenience of having a highway running through the house. One such is the charge for "workeing and setting of a new post of oak at one of the Quoines of the Queenes buildings in the highwaie to defend it from ye. Carts the old one being wrotted and brocken down"; (fn. 77) and some years later labourers were employed "about Raisinge and Leveling the Ground washed into Great Holes & plowed vp by Cartes at ye. Queens house," and "21 Load of Rubish & Stone" were used to raise the ground and mend the road under the house. (fn. 78)

But among all these payments for ordinary maintenance of the house, noted with such exactitude by the Clerk of the Works, the most interesting occurs in March 1675, when charges are made for three pairs of deal shutters for three windows "in a lower roome att the Queens buildings next the parke (where the Dutch painters worke)." William van de Velde the elder, "painter of sea-fights to their Majesties King Charles II and King James II," as the inscription on his tombstone in St. James's, Piccadilly, records, came to England in 1675, and was probably accompanied by his son. What is more likely than that they should have been given lodgings by the King in the Queen's House? The younger van de Velde died at Greenwich in 1707, (fn. 79) and the link will now be renewed through the preservation in the National Maritime Museum of the large and valuable collection of van de Velde drawings and pictures. The Dutch painters were still working in this room in 1678.

The Sergeant Painter's accounts are valuable for their record of the colours used in the decoration of the rooms, but occasionally chance references in other accounts provide unexpected clues. In August 1675 the ceiling of the room "next the Blew roome" was repaired with brackets "to hang up the carved timber worke thereof, and raising the Ceiling being sunke on one side the roome. . . ." (fn. 80) This refers almost certainly to the cabinet room on the first floor leading out of the Queen's drawing-room. Traces of blue pigment were found on the background of the gilded carving of frieze and cornice of the latter room.


Mary of Modena

During the later years of Charles II's reign there was little use made of the house and little money spent on it. Carpenters were employed in repairing the frieze of the hall during the winter of 1676–7, "making it good wth. new boards where it was rotted," and "hanging vp" the four corner cantilevers or "cartooses" supporting the gallery there with ten squares of iron. (fn. 81) In the account for November 1677 Mr. Robert Streeter, Sergeant Painter, was paid £9 Is. 8½d. for painting and for touching up and regilding a cornice and panelling. (fn. 82) The King had lost interest in Greenwich and was full of the project for a new palace at Winchester. The building was deserted, and the windows boarded up "to prevent Robing the house."


  • 1. i.e., ought.
  • 2. Facsimile in the library of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
  • 3. John Nichols, "The Progresses . . . of King James the First" (London, 1828), II, 671.
  • 4. Ibid., II, 704.
  • 5. Beatrice White, "Mary Tudor," p. 5.
  • 6. C.S.P. Domestic, James I, 1617, 70.
  • 7. It was in this park that Nigel Olifaunt attempted to present his "sifflication" to the King when James was hunting, as is told in "The Fortunes of Nigel."
  • 8. James Hay, created Viscount Doncaster, 1618; and Earl of Carlisle, 1622.
  • 9. W. N. Sainsbury, "Original Unpublished Papers illustrative of the Life of Sir Peter Paul Rubens," p. 118 note.
  • 10. W. N. Sainsbury, loc. cit., p. 249, IV: ". . . Quant à Sa Majesté et son A. Monsr. le Prince de Galles, je seray tousjours bien ayse de reçevoir l'honneur de leurs commandemens, et touchant la sale au nouveau Palays je confesse d'estre, par un instinct naturel, plus propre a faire des ouvrages bien grandes que des petites curiositez. . . . D'Anvers ce 13 Sep. re 1621 St. No."
  • 11. Emile Cammaerts, "Rubens," p. 209.
  • 12. Ibid., p. 210. The collection of pictures and statues belonging to the Duke of Mantua had been purchased by the King in 1628. The collection included Mantegna's "Triumph of Julius Caesar," and the price paid exceeded £18,000.
  • 13. M. A. Everett Green, "Letters of Queen Henrietta-Maria," p. 18.
  • 14. P.R.O., E. 351/3263; cf. also A. O. 1, 60/2426.
  • 15. C. H. Collins Baker and Montague R. James, "British Painting."
  • 16. P.R.O., A.O.1, 63/2427. See Appendix IV.
  • 17. S.P.D. 1637, p. 492.
  • 18. Worcester College Library, "Palladio," Book II, p. 9.
  • 19. Ibid., Book IV, p. 14.
  • 20. C.S.P., Venetian, 1632–1636; 1635, 478.
  • 21. In the grounds of Denmark (i.e. Somerset) House.
  • 22. C.S.P., Venetian, 1637, 134.
  • 23. Cf. J. A. Gotch, "Inigo Jones," pp. 182–3.
  • 24. Pepys, "Diary," 17 June 1660.
  • 25. Evelyn, "Diary," Vol. I, p. 18, 15th July 1641.
  • 26. Walpole Society, Vol. VII, pp. 113, 114.
  • 27. Walpole Society, Vol. VII, pp. 118–119.
  • 28. P.R.O., A.O. 1, 71/2429. Cf. Appendix I.
  • 29. The statues at Greenwich were valued at £3,185, excluding "brass" statues put at £460. B. M. Harl. 7352.
  • 30. P.R.O., A.O. 1, 63/2427.
  • 31. W. N. Sainsbury, "Original Papers Relating to Rubens."
  • 32. "1631. July 28. 45. Katherine Duchess of Buckingham to Sec. Dorchester. If Gentileschi could have the money due to him from his Majesty he would leave England and be gone to his own country. Begs him to move the King thereon, so that the Duchess may have York House free to herself, for want whereof she is constrained to keep a family at Chelsea to look after her laundry" (C.S.P. Domestic, Chas. I, 1631–33).
  • 33. Sainsbury, loc. cit. See Appendix II.
  • 34. Ibid., pp. 214, 217, 218, 222, etc.
  • 35. C.S.P. Domestic, Ch. I and Addenda. "Letters of King Charles I," ed. Sir Charles Petrie.
  • 36. Philipott, "Villare Cantianum," p. 162 [1659]. Henrietta-Maria was called Mary after her marriage; but as the use of the name might lead to confusion it has not been adopted here.
  • 37. The total given in Walpole's "Anecdotes of Painting," viz., £13,780 appears to be a mistake.
  • 38. B. M., Harl. 7352.
  • 39. Commissioners of Crown Lands, Index of Lands C, fo. 423.
  • 40. Ibid., D, fo. 521.
  • 41. Ibid., D, fo. 523.
  • 42. Geoffrey Callender, "Annual Report of the Society for Nautical Research," 1929, p. 122.
  • 43. Webb, "The Vindication of Stonehenge Restored."
  • 44. A certain Richard Gammon was Clerk of the Works at the Tower from 1660 to 1670, when he was transferred to Denmark House; and Leonard Gammon held the like post at Greenwich from 1661 to 1680, when he was transferred to Whitehall.
  • 45. Purveyor to the King's Works until 1683.
  • 46. P.R.O., Works, 5/2.
  • 47. "The Diary of John Evelyn": entries for 19th October 1661 and 24th January 1662.
  • 48. In the accounts the east range is designated "the King's side," the west "the Queen's side."
  • 49. Cf. p. 30 and Plate 20.
  • 50. See plan on Plate 23.
  • 51. Known also as Somerset House: called Denmark House in honour of Anne of Denmark.
  • 52. P.R.O., Works, 5/3. Henry Jermyn was created Earl of St. Albans in 1660.
  • 53. "Diary of John Evelyn".
  • 54. As early as 1716 Thomas Hewitt reported to the Lords of the Treasury that there was "great waste made in Greenwich Park. . . . One grove of chestnuts has been cut down and entirely destroyed" (Cal. Treas. Bks., 1714–19, p. 192).
  • 55. C. H. Hartman, "Charles II and Madame."
  • 56. Cf. C.S.P.D., Ch. II, 1664–5, 4th January 1665, p. 161.
  • 57. P.R.O., Works, 5/3. Cf. also p. 39.
  • 58. The amount spent since 1660 on Greenwich Palace was stated, in November 1665, to be £75, 288 6s. 4d. (C.S.P.D., Ch. II, 1665–6).
  • 59. B.M., Harl. 1618.
  • 60. P.R.O., Works, 5/5.
  • 61. B. M., Harl. 1618.
  • 62. P.R.O., Works, 5/7. Cf. Appendix IV.
  • 63. P.R.O., Works, 5/7.
  • 64. C.S.P.D., Ch. II, 1664–5, p. 374.
  • 65. Ibid., p. 475.
  • 66. Ibid., Ch. II, 1665–6, p. 98.
  • 67. P.R.O., Works, 5/12.
  • 68. P.R.O., Works, 5/14 and 5/15.
  • 69. Ibid., 5/15.
  • 70. Pepys's "Diary." Entries for 22nd January, 5th February, 3rd March, and 16th March 1668–9.
  • 71. C.S.P.D., Ch. II, 1670; Addenda 1660–1670, pp. 217 and 448.
  • 72. Ibid., p. 265, 10th June 1670.
  • 73. Ibid., p. 294, 24th June 1670.
  • 74. P.R.O., Works, 5/18.
  • 75. P.R.O., Works, 5/21.
  • 76. Repairing "the flattforme over the Queenes buildings on the south side of the truse being sunnck" (P.R.O., Works, 5/23, July-August 1674).
  • 77. P.R.O., Works, 5/23.
  • 78. September 1687.
  • 79. D.N.B.
  • 80. P.R.O., Works, 5/26.
  • 81. Ibid., 5/27.
  • 82. Ibid., 5/28.