Kungliga Slottet, Majesty made accessible

Palaces have this ability to make you go gaga at their grandeur. At least thats what the dictionary definition of a palace is supposed to do. But not all palaces are created the same (makes sense). Theres elegant palaces for the rich like Tureholm Slottet in southern Sweden,

Tureholm Palace, Trosa

And then there’s royal palaces like the Kungliga Slottet.

Coming from Singapore, with our small Presidential Palace (the Istana), the wide curved walls of the Kungliga Slottet was an eye opener when I first arrived.

Hundreds of rooms, housed in a massive orangey-beige baroque styled building, an open quadrangle that allows spectators to get close to the action during the changing of the guard parades and open to the public everyday. In Singapore, the Istana is open only on public holidays and the building is certainly not as grand. Perhaps all that was missing to make this a fairytale style palace was a garden and vast expenses of green. The green used to come come from Kungstradgården and Djurgården, both royal gardens and parks.

Not everyone shares the same enthusiasm. A year after my arrival and now that I am the one giving tours, my first encounter was with a tour group that wasn’t too impressed with the palace. “Doesnt look that grand,” was what she said to me. I smiled back awkwardly then, not knowing how to reply (I changed the topic and ushered the group to Stortorget instead). With hindsight, I would have responded a lot differently. But hindsight is 20/20.

When compared to the vast expense that leads to the Palace of Versailes or Buckingham Palace, Sweden’s Kungliga Slottet doesn’t look that impressive.

Located at the edge of the small island of Gamla Stan and with no broad roads building up to it, (quite the opposite, it is small, tight narrow roads that build up to the palace) there isn’t a sense of grandness when you reach the royal palace. And this is the official residence of the royal family in Sweden!

There is only one path that opens up to a more majestic looking palace. The wide bridge guarded on both ends with lions, proceeding down from the city district to the old town of Stockholm leads up to the Baroque royal palace.

The Kungliga Slott of today was completed in 1760 in the Baroque style, although the site it self used to house a citadel called the Tre Kronor in the 13th Century.

A picture of the Tre Kronor castle by Govert Dircksz Camphuysen in 1661 (Source)

The old Tre Kronor castle was an old Renaissance style castle and was due for an upgrade. After 300 years of use, a call was made by the then Queen Christina in 1651 for architectural designs to upgrade the palace. Plans were drawn up but no new construction took place until the father and son team Nicholas Tessin the Elder (and Younger) took over as Chief architects of the city. The original plan was to have the external facade facing the city remodelled into a baroque style while leaving the original renaissance style Tre Kronor castle. This was to be the architecturally confused monstrosity.

Tre Kronor Castle with Baroque Facade (Source)

But then in 1697 a fire raised the whole palace to the ground except the sturdy and new northern wall. The source of the fire was traced suspiciously close to the workshop of Nicholas Tessin the Younger.

After a fire, the ruling Queen dowager ruled that a new palace be built on the site, and Nicholas Tessin the Younger was appointed the chief architect. Nicholas Tessin the Younger had a new plan drawn up with a year and instructed that the old damaged parts of the palace be completely removed. The new castle came at a difficult time in Sweden’s history. The Swedish empire was caught up in the Thirty Year War as well as the Northern War and the nations coffers were emptied to fund the fighting of external wars. Construction was completed halted in 1709 and remained in the semi-completed state for 18 years when funds were released in 1727.

The original plans were even grander, with many statues and sculptures that were not put up, but the palace is still grand.

On the square where a statue of King Charles XI was not put up is now the space for the daily change of guard parade, one that for a palace is extremely close up.

Accessibility and openness are to me the buzzwords of this royal palace. Perhaps its the sense of acessibility that causes the royal palace to lose its grandeur, but would it make sense in any otherway in one of the most egalitarian and equal country on earth? Its fitting perhaps, the the palace is so accessible in a country of Jantelagen. Accessibility also makes for a royal event with the grandeur not of inanimate objects, but of human presence.

It may not have the material majesty of larger palaces, but it’s accessibility gives it its true majesty.



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