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Royal Palace in Stockholm

The Royal Palace in Stockholm

The Royal Palace in Stockholm is one of the largest palaces in the world. As for the quantity of its rooms and other facilities (and there are more than 600 of them!) it is the largest royal palace, which is being currently used, in the world. The palace is the official residence of the head of the state – His Highness King Carl Gustav XVI. Besides that, it contains several important landmarks of Stockholm: royal apartments with crown jewels and regalia, hall of solemn events, halls of the Orders of Chivalry, State Treasury, museum-palace Three Crowns, and arsenal with a collection of carriages and weapons, antique museum of Gustav III.

Every day, April through October, a solemn ceremony of the change of royal guards can be observed on the square in front of the palace. In winter time, when there are not so many tourists the ceremonies of the guards’ change are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 12:10 and on Sundays at 13:10. If you do not get there at the time indicated, do not be disappointed – at 8 am, 10 am, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm there are also changes of guards, but they are simpler than the ceremonial ones.

In the middle of XIII century, according to the Swedish medieval chronicle (Rimkronikan), Birger Jarl, King Eric’s son in law and de facto ruler of Sweden built a castle on the hill, where the Royal Palace is standing now. The fortress consisted of two parts and was surrounded by a wall. Thick walls at their foundation were laid of granite rocks, but when there was a need to increase the height of the wall, brick was used. One can suppose that changing the material was intended to elevate the fortress’s prestige, because brick was more expensive as building material than stone.

Map of the Royal Palace

Map of the Royal Palace

The earliest remains of palace walls that survived till our days date back to the middle of XIV century. At that time king Magnus Eriksson reigned and the castle bore the name Tre Cronor (Three Crowns). There were three kingdoms under his rule: Sweden, Norway and Skane – one of the present southern Swedish provinces.

The remains of the old castle are exhibited in the Three Crown Palace Museum. Baroque style façade conceals medieval towers with loopholes. In 1521, Gustav I Vasa brought Sweden out of Kalmar Union made in 1397 between Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, which united Scandinavian countries  under one crown. It set the beginning for the history of the modern independent Swedish state and the Three Crown Castle became the main residence of Sweden’s monarchs. The medieval fortress was turned into a splendid Palace in Renaissance style.

The epoch after the thirty year war of 1618-1648, when Sweden was at the peak of its military glory could not but leave a trace in the royal residency. Reconstruction plans were presented right after Westphalia peace treaty was signed, but remodeling works started in the castle only in 1692. They were done under the oversight of Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. It was at that time, when the north wing of the Palace gained its Roman Baroque style appearance, which we see today.

But the palace did not stand for very long. The fire on May 7, 1697, destroyed almost the entire palace, except for the north wing. After the fire, Tessin the Younger presented the project of the new palace to the Swedish government. According to the plan the new Palace had to be completed in five years. The reconstruction works on the interior started only in mid-1730s under the architect Carl Harleman. But the royal family returned to the palace only in 57 years (in 1754).

Each one of the four facades of the present Royal Palace has its own symbolic significance. Two main ones are the west and east facades. The west facade – “The King’s facade,” has the king’s apartments, grand royal stairs and an arch. The east façade, correspondingly, is “The Queen’s façade with the symmetrically built arch and staircase, queen’s apartments and a small garden. On the north side there are: the ministers’ cabinet, the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) assembly hall and the royal library. West and east facades symbolize the representative side of the Swedish monarchy, while the northern one is related to its active side. The southern facade is solemn; its arch is the most monumental one. On both sides of the arch the State Hall and Royal Chapel are located: according to the architects’ thought, the throne and altar are the symbols of Swedish statehood.

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