The Prince's Marine Pavilion

Black and white picture of a painting of the Brighton Pavilion
West Facing Front of Marine Pavilion

Shortly after his twenty-first birthday on August 12, 1783, the Prince of Wales (1762-1830) formed a connection that George III had prevented while the Prince was a minor. The Prince of Wales had been carefully kept away from the corrupting influence of George III's younger brother Henry Frederick. The Prince now went on an eleven-day visit to his notorious uncle the Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790) at the Duke's Brighton residence Grove House. The pair threw themselves into a round of fun that included hunting, racing, balls, and theatrical performances all liberally anointed with spirits. Prinny and the Duke of Cumberland became companions united by their interest in horse racing and rebellious self-indulgence. The Prince rented a house in Brighton during the summers of 1784 and 1785. When he secretly married Mrs. Fitzherbert, she was nominally installed at her own house on the Steine. George and Maria began to spend much of their time at Brighton. In October 1786, Louis Weltje, the Prince's cook, took an option on a farmhouse owned by Thomas Read Kemp. Weltje rented the land to the Prince for a 1,000 pounds a year until the Prince finally purchased the property in 1793. Like many of the Prince's connections, Weltje, who had purchased the property for 5,850 pounds, made a considerable profit on his dealings with the Prince.

The Prince of Wales was at this time very friendly with the wealthy, charming, generous, and recklessly profligate Louis Philippe II, the Duc d' Orleans (1747-1793). The Duc d' Orleans, who was fifteen years older than the Prince of Wales, shared the Prince's fondness for Brighton. He introduced the Prince to things Parisian such as scent, underclothing, fancy paper, and waistcoats, which thoroughly entranced him. Under the spell of his new enthusiasm for French style, the Prince of Wales had architect Henry Holland draw up plans for a French Neoclassical building similar to one found in Volume VI of Neufforge's Receuil Elementaire d' Architecture. The building was already underway by the spring of 1787.

The Prince was able to occupy his new villa when he arrived from London on July 6th, 1787. The Marine Pavilion had a great round central Grand Saloon bracketed by half domes that measured 37 feet by 48 feet. The round saloon was windowed all across the garden front so that it acted as a huge semi-circular bay. This bay was shaded by a semi-circular porch supported by columns. The central dome was adjoined on either side of the half domes by rectangular wings each with two semi-circular bays facing east. The southern wing was the original house, which now contained an anteroom and a breakfast room on the ground floor. The new northern wing housed an eating room and a library. In front of these rooms was a long corridor stretching the length of the house. On either end of the corridor wings extended to the west forming a forecourt. The south wing contained pages' rooms. The north wing housed domestic quarters. In the center of the court, a hall jutted from the building. A portico made up of a pediment with an entablature all supported by columns fronted the hall. A tunnel connected Mrs. Fitzherbert's house to the Pavilion.

Plan of Pavilion

Artist Biagio Rebecca (c1735-1808), who specialized in the imitation of antique bas-relief, painted the Grand Saloon. Grand Saloon in Indian style from John Nash's Views of the Royal Pavilion(Note the very early use of a circular sofa called a "sociable" in the center of the Grand Saloon in the print at left showing the Grand Saloon at a later date redecorated in a style reflecting Mogul India. Prinny always kept abreast of the latest fashions.) The library was papered in brilliant yellow. The eating room was in yellow and maroon with a sky blue ceiling. The corridors were French blue. The staircase walls were green with gray and white ceilings. Most of the French neoclassical style furniture for the Pavilion was supplied by English craftsmen: George Seddon, Carrington, and Thomas Chippendale. Frenchman Dominique Daguerre, who popularizing the mounting of porcelain plaques onto small versatile pieces of furniture, did supply a few items amounting to over 14,000 pounds in purchases.

As was usual with the Prince, the building was constantly altered. In 1795, curving wings were added to the garden side of the house that contained a new dining room with niches between columns at either end. Discreetly placed water-closets were also added at this time. By 1802, a new banquet room and conservatory had been added to the Pavilion. Holland also designed and built a specially fitted up confectionary for the three confectioners the Prince kept on his domestic staff.

In 1801, the Prince's interest in Chinese decoration was revived by a gift of some oriental wallpaper. Redecorating of various corridors and rooms followed ultimately leading to the John Nash remodel of the exterior of the Pavilion in the style of India in 1815. The Prince's Marine Pavilion exists as a shadow in the floor plan of the Brighton Pavilion and in a few prints, but for the most part is another lost building like Carlton House or the Fishing Temple.

Prince of Wales riding along the Steine in Brighton with the Marine Pavilion seen in the background.
The Prince of Wales riding along the Steine in Brighton in 1804 with the Marine Pavilion in the background.
Floor Plan of the Marine Pavilion at Brighton
East Facing Garden side of the Marine Pavilion

There is a scene set in the Brighton Pavilion in Georgette Heyer's novel Regency Buck
Enjoy a mystery that begins with the dead body of a beautiful woman in Prinny's arms in When Gods Die a novel by C.S. Harris
Read more about the life of the Duke of Cumberland in A Royal Affair: George III and His Scandalous Siblings by Stella Tillyard.
View all the existing drawings of and plans for the Pavilion in The Making of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton: Design and Drawings by John Morley
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