Monday, October 31, 2011

Banqueting House Whitehall

I mentioned that when I visited London on St. Edward’s Eve, I did more than listen to two great choirs. One destination was the Banqueting House at Whitehall.

Seeing the great ceiling paintings of Peter Paul Rubens is worth the price of admission and is, in fact, the main attraction.

The main reason I found the paintings interesting is the insight they give into the mentality of Charles I. He had the paintings done in honor of his father King James I and, boy, do they honor him. I found them over the top to the point of being funny.

In the central painting, King James ascends up into heaven accompanied by the heavenly host. In another, personified England and Scotland look gratefully upon the wise James on his throne. And the whole scheme has virtues triumphing over vices, because of King James, of course.

The ceiling portrays the past King of England as godlike . . . which is not far akin from how Charles saw himself as king. An examination of the ceiling gives a good idea as to how Charles could be so insufferable he got his head lopped off.

And the ceiling is one of the last things Charles saw, which is ironic indeed.

By the way, Oxford, which was King Charles’ friendly home for much of the Civil War, still seems to be fighting said war. Portraits and statues of him are everywhere.

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