Royal Domain of Drottningholm
The Royal Domain of Drottningholm stands on an island in Lake Mälar in a suburb of Stockholm. With its castle, perfectly preserved theatre (built in 1766), Chinese pavilion and gardens, it is the finest example of an 18th-century north European royal residence inspired by the Palace of Versailles.
The ensemble of Drottningholm - castle, theatre, Chinese pavilion and gardens - is the best example of a royal residence built in the 18th century in Sweden and is representative of all European architecture of that period, heir to the influences exerted by the Château de Versailles on the construction of royal residences in western, central and northern Europe.
The royal domain of Drottningholm is located on Queen's Island in Lake Mälaren, outside Stockholm. The island's name acknowledges the closely interwoven history of the castle with the different queens of Sweden. The first royal residence was built there towards the end of the 16th century for Queen Catherine Jagellon, as the summer residence of the royal family. A century later, Queen Hedvig-Eleonora bought the lands and had a new castle built by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder (1615-81). The interior was decorated between 1665 and 1703, at first in a heavy, sumptuous Baroque style, but later increasingly refined to French patterns. After his death, his son carried on the work, but the building remained unfinished for almost 100 years. Belonging to this phase of construction are the royal bedroom and the atrium-vestibule from which the main staircase rises. The next owner was a future queen, the crown princess Louisa-Ulrika (wife of Adolph-Frederick 1751-71).
She ordered Carl Harleman to continue the work in the style of Louis XV and, along with the private apartments, to add a sumptuous library and a portrait gallery, built by the French architect Jean Eric Rehn. Gustav Ill (1771-92) inherited the castle from his mother, but the terrible monarch was obliged to sell it to the state with all the furnishings and collections of Louisa-Ulrika. Expansion and renovation went on over the decades that followed as well, leading to the creation pf new ancillary buildings, the radical restructuring of the throne room and, during the reign of King Oscar II (1829-1907), an extensive campaign of decoration intended to make the palace adhere more closely to the eclectic Rococo tastes of the king.
The same queen Louisa-Ulrika had Frederik Adelcrantz build a theatre (1766) in the castle grounds. In the early 20th century it was restored to its original appearance and refurbished with the original fittings, even the stage sets. It is a unique example of a European theatre of the 18th century that has conserved its original state. The sophisticated theatrical machinery, designed and built by the Italian Donato Stoffani, is still fully intact, permitting quick changes of scene with the curtain up. A unique collection of stage sets, the dressing rooms, the storerooms, the scenery, and the large orchestra, seating 400 spectators, are preserved. The park was later expanded with a wilder section, and Gustav III also had an English park laid out in 1777. In 1922 the castle, once again a residence for the royal family, was restored and a large part of the furnishings and decorations of the 18th century were returned, under the direction of Agne Beijer.
The changes and shifts in styles and fashions also affected the gardens: the French garden, which surrounds the complex, designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger in 1681 on the model of the Baroque park of Versailles, with bronze statues by Adriaen de Vries, hedges with surprising shapes, and flowerbeds, bushes, waterfalls, fountains and artificial ponds; and the English garden, to plans by King Gustav III and the architect Adelcrantz, reflecting the new preference for a more lively and 'picturesque' landscape.
As a birthday gift, the mother of Gustav III was once given a Chinese pavilion, in keeping with the chinoiseries in vogue at the time. The pavilion, built in 1769 to replace a wooden pavilion from 1753, is considered one of the most important examples of this type of structure conserved in Europe. The architecture is basically French Rococo but it has an exotic character, with Chinese and other oriental elements, which were the height of fashion then. The interiors are among the most splendid in Swedish Rococo. The exterior of the Chinese Pavilion was renovated in 1943-55 and the interior in 1959-68.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC