On 7 May well 1603, James VI of Scotland and now James I of England rode into the cash of his new kingdom: the Stuarts experienced arrived. Thousands of Londoners gathered to view and, at Stamford Hill, the Lord Mayor was waiting around to current the keys of the city while 500 magnificently dressed citizens joined the procession on horseback.

There was a smaller specialized hitch. James should really have been sure for the Tower of London right until proclaimed and crowned but, even with frantic developing get the job done, it was nowhere close to completely ready. As Simon Thurley recounts—twitching aside a velvet curtain to reveal the shabby backstage machinery—parts of the Tower, conventional powerbase of English monarchs considering the fact that William the Conqueror, were derelict. The good hall gaped open up to the skies and for decades the royal lodgings had been junk rooms. For the duration of James’s stay, a display wall experienced been built to cover a gigantic dung heap.

Artwork and architecture for the Stuart monarchs in England—an amazing period of time when the planet was turned upside down two times with the execution of a single king (Charles I in 1649) and the deposition of another (James II in 1688)—were neither about holding out the temperature nor totally about outrageous luxury. The royal residences have been advanced statements of energy, authority and rank. The architecture managed the jealously guarded accessibility to the king and queen: in quite a few reigns, almost anybody could get in to stand driving a railing and observe the king taking in or praying, and a surprisingly large circle was admitted to the point out bedrooms, but only a handful got into the precise sleeping locations. The choices of high-quality and decorative artwork from England, Italy, France or the Minimal Countries, who received to see it—whether an English Mortlake or a Flemish tapestry, a mattress created of durable Tudor Oak or an opulent French a person, swathed in fabulous imported gold-swagged silk—and where by courtiers or mistresses had been stashed, ended up all substantial conclusions and interpreted as such.

From James’s astonishing takeover of Royston in Hertfordshire as a searching base—nobody who reads Thurley’s account will all over again see it as just (forgive me) a instead boring stop on the highway north—to the disastrous obstetric historical past of Queen Anne, which ended the Stuart reign in 1714, the sums used have been remarkable, even without translating into modern day conditions or comparison with the golden wallpaper of existing Key Minister Boris Johnsons’ flat. Anne of Denmark, spouse of James I, spent £45,000 reworking Somerset House on the Strand. Henrietta Maria, spouse of Charles I, put in a different fortune, including on the most sensitive architecture of the Stuart reigns, an elaborate Roman Catholic chapel (ransacked by a rioting mob in the mid-century Civil Wars).

Thurley recreates some vanished residences, including the apparently gorgeous Theobalds in Hertfordshire and a quite private satisfaction dome inside of a glorious backyard garden in Wimbledon. Perhaps the most extraordinary perception is that in his past months, imprisoned on the Isle of Wight and engaged in failing negotiations with the Parliamentarians, Charles I was also taking into consideration strategies to entirely rebuild Whitehall palace, a project ended by the axe at the Banqueting Home, a single of the couple structures that would have been kept.

There’s a lot less architectural background and far more gossip in this energetic compendium than in the specific reports of person buildings Thurley has currently released, but there are myriad flooring strategies and present-day engravings, and a good deal to set the intellect of the standard reader wandering by the extended galleries—the new Whitehall would have had a 1,000 ft gallery—and a 29-web site bibliography for those people who want additional.

• Simon Thurley, Palaces of Revolution: Everyday living, Demise and Artwork at the Stuart Courtroom, William Collins, 560pp, 8 colour plates moreover black-and-white intext illustrations, £25 (hb), printed September 2021

• Maev Kennedy is a freelance arts and archaeology journalist and a frequent contributor to The Artwork Newspaper