Visiting the Queen’s House

Mirinda has wanted to see Drotts (as we call Drottningholm Palace) at least since we’ve been here. Of course, it wasn’t open for ages. That wasn’t just because of the plague. It was also the season, it being normally closed over winter.

There’s a few ways you can get to the palace. But, when I discovered you could visit it by boat from the centre of Stockholm, that was always going to be the option. It really is the only way when you consider the busy road that the bus or car would require.

So, I bought a couple of return tickets and we turned up this morning and boarded an earlier than booked ferry.

The day was grey and muggy but at least the sun wasn’t beating down on our heads as we sat outside on the top deck along with almost everyone else on the ferry. The inside was empty for the entire 50 minute trip.

The first glimpse of Drotts is the end. I thought it was the gardener’s cottage and Mirinda thought it was a bit disappointing but then, as the ferry approached the dock, we realised we were looking at the end of one side of the palace and it was a good deal bigger.

While parts were inspired by Versailles and other royal European palaces, I think it looks a bit like Schönbrunne in Vienna, though that might be just the colour.

Of course, before we assaulted the palace, we had to have a drink at the café which is conveniently sited between the palace and the pier. How fortunate was that?

It was just on beer o’clock so I enjoyed a rather tasty pilsner while Mirinda settled for a coffee. Then, suitably refreshed after our gruelling journey, we headed for the big house.

In a word, I’d say that Drotts is beautiful. Inside and outside. I can see why the current royal family use it. It’s quite the summer lake house, something most Swedes have though, generally speaking, not quite as big.

Mind you, this isn’t the original building (though a few fragments exist inside). The first one, built by John III for his wife, Catherine Jagelon in 1580, burned down after the dowager queen, Hedwig Eleonora bought it in 1661. She had the architect, Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, design and have built a new one for her.

The place was almost finished in 1681 when Nicodemus, not realising it was a job for life, died. It was left for this son, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, to complete his father’s work.

Hedwig Eleonora died in 1715 and the next regular summer visitor was Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden and her husband, King Frederick I. Fred gave the place to crown Princess Lovisa Ulrika of Prussia when she married Adolf Frederick who became king in 1751.

Lovisa did a lot to Drotts. Among other things, she had a theatre built. Though the first one burned down and she had to have another one made.

Fires were a bit of a feature at Drotts. One memorable one occurred four hours after the Queen left to return to the palace in Stockholm. I assume she left the iron on or something similar.

For some reason, Lovisa sold the palace to the Swedish State in 1777. This didn’t stop the royals using the place, I assume rent free, for the next long while. It wasn’t until Charles XIV John of Sweden (1818–1844) decided it was a symbol of the old Sweden, something he didn’t approve of, and the place was left to rot.

Eventually King Oscar I decided to fix it up again in 1846 and so, successive rulers continued the work of bringing it back to its former glory with a lot of modernising included. This was criticised by a lot of people who believed that the past should be preserved at all costs. And, seriously, who needs modern plumbing when you live on a lake?

Then, in 1991, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, which makes it imperative that we visit. And we did a pretty thorough job of it, I must say.

We spent a delightful time wandering round the various richly decorated rooms, discovering many portraits of previous owners, some of which appeared to be cross dressers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but a few of the ‘ladies’ could have done something about the five o’clock shadows.

Obviously, being a royal residence, the rooms are richly decorated and beautifully preserved. And, being in Sweden, there’s no limit to the photographs you can take. Also, because of the plague, the place was not crowded at all. This, I mentioned to Mirinda, is possibly the one benefit of the plague.

Following the house, we wandered through the garden, heading for the Chinese Pavilion.

The pavilion was a surprise birthday present to Lovisa Ulrika from her husband, the king in 1753. This is obviously one of those gifts to give someone who has everything. How she didn’t know it was being built though is anyone’s guess.

While I thought it was a bit extravagant as a birthday present, it’s a mere bagatelle when you consider Chinese Emperor Qianlong’s gift for his mother in 1750. Which we visited back in 2013.

The photo above is just the entrance. There are wings either side which gradually swing around with curved corridors. The rooms are richly decorated with silk wall hangings and lots of Chinese porcelain.

There’s also a few artistic exhibits dotted around the place. They were all part of the ‘going elsewhere’ exhibit. In the case of a few pieces, going somewhere else would have been good. There were a few amusing pieces and an odd set of swings which was meant to represent dead children but, on the whole, there’s not a lot to say about them.

As opposed to the savoury våfflors we had at the small cafe. Mirinda had goat cheese topping while I opted for the skagenröra. It was an excellent choice, confirmed not just by eating it but also by the waitress who agreed that it was the best on the menu. (Skagenröra is a shrimp based sour cream, dill and lemon creation.)

We had a traditional våfflor at Christmas with jam and cream, but the savoury ones are something else again.

Possibly my favourite bit of Drotts was The Confidence. This is a building looking down on the Chinese Pavilion. It was where the royal family would have meals while tourists watched them at table. Sadly, this doesn’t happen any more.

The Confidence has an amazing feature, as explained to us by a lovely room monitor in the Pavilion, and confirmed by us looking through the doors.

The dining table sits on a section of the floor which can be lowered and raised into and out of the kitchen directly beneath the building. This meant that the table could be set then hauled up so the royals didn’t have to see the staff. Around the table were also four cabinets with shelves which could also be raised into the room. These could contain cutlery, linen, condiments, cakes, whatever else was required.

What was the kitchen directly beneath The Confidence is now the våfflor cafe, where you can not only see the staff but can also have a jolly lovely conversation with them as well.

All in all, it was a long, foot tiring but fantastic day. The weather held with some patches of sun but no rain of any merit. Mind you, a few very tiny spits of rain forced a few families inside from the open deck of the ferry returning to Stockholm.

All in all, a splendid day.

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