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QUEEN MARY AT HOME IN HER NEW PALACE.
PENDING the completion of the new State Apartments, which in any case could not, even with the most urgent despatch, be got ready for the King and Queen's occupation for a considerable time, their Majesties were desirous of having a set of rooms fitted up with all the modern conveniences of that day, in some part of the old palace, where they might reside in comfort, while superintending the buildings and the laying out of the new gardens. This need was felt especially by the Queen, who was already greatly attached to Hampton Court, and who liked to retire to it whenever she could get away from London, during her husband's long absences in Ireland and abroad.
Accordingly she fixed upon a building, at one time occupied by Queen Elizabeth when Princess and under restraint by order of her sister, and occasionally assigned to visitors at Court, but chiefly used as a landing-place from the river, and thence known as the “Water Gallery,” which, by its detached situation, at some distance from the main building, was admirably adapted for the purpose of a temporary residence while the new palace was being finished.
It was, therefore, about this time, put into the hands of the decorators and furnishers, who soon made of it, under the Queen's direction, “the pleasantest little thing within doors that could possibly be made, with all the little neat curious things that suited her conveniences.” Here Mary delighted to take up her abode : and her retreat would do credit to any æsthetic lady of the present day.
The decoration of the rooms was superintended by Sir Christopher Wren, and included painted ceilings and panels, richly carved doorways and cornices, with festoons of fruit and flowers in limewood by the delicate hand of Grinling Gibbons, oak dados, hangings of fine artistic needlework, and corner fireplaces with marble mantelpieces surmounted
THE WATER GALLERY FURNISHED.
by diminishing shelves, on which were placed many rare and curious pieces of oriental and blue and white china. The taste for this she was the first to introduce into England, and for her choicest specimens she had cabinets specially made by Gerrard Johnson, a clever cabinet-maker of the time, which were placed in a room called “the Delft-Ware Closett,” and many of which may now still be seen in various of the State Rooms. Other rooms of hers in the Water Gallery were : “the Looking Glass Closett,” which she engaged James Bogdane, the fashionable painter of animals, to decorate for her; her “Marble Closett” in the same suite, which was likewise finely painted and decorated ; and her “Bathing Closett,” which was fitted with a white marble bath, “made very fine, suited either to hot or cold bathing, as the season should invite. She had also here a dairy, with all its conveniences, in which her Majesty took great delight,” being once heard to say that she could live in a dairy."
Here, at the Water Gallery, and in the gardens close to it, Mary spent most of her time; sometimes plying her needle on the balcony of beautiful wrought iron, which overhung the then uncockneyfied Thames, and watching the barges float to and fro; sometimes superintending the laying out of the gardens, or attending to her botanical collection; sometimes discussing with Wren the details of the new building, and sometimes sitting at work with her ladies, beneath the shade of the curious intertwined trees, still known by the name of “Queen Mary's Bower.”
Her habit of working with her needle was much extolled by her sycophantic panegyrist Burnet, who, in his essay on her memory, declares that, “In all those hours that were not given to better employment, she wrought with her own hands; and sometimes with so constant a diligence, as if she had been to earn her bread by it. It was a new thing, and looked like a sight, to see a Queen work so many hours a day.” Specimens of her needlework, consisting of hangings and coverings for chairs, couches, and screens, were long shown at Hampton Court, and were described as “extremely neat and very well shadowed.” They were all removed from the palace some years ago.
It was in the Water Gallery, also, that the Queen had her “Gallery of Beauties, being the Pictures, at full length, of the principal Ladies attending upon her Majesty, or who were frequently in her Retinue; and this was the more beautiful sight," in Defoe's opinion, “because the originals were all in Being, and often to be compared with their
Sir Godfrey Kneller was the artist who painted this series of portraits, henceforward known as “the Hampton Court Beauties,” to distinguish them from Lely's Beauties of the Court of Charles II.
“Of the Beauties of Hampton Court,” remarks Horace Walpole, "the thought was the Queen's during one of the King's absences; and contributed much to render her unpopular, as I have heard from the authority of the old Countess of Carlisle, who remembered the event. She added, that the famous Lady Dorchester advised the Queen against it, saying: 'Madam, if the King was to ask for the portraits of all the wits in his court, would not the rest think he called them fools ?'"
The Queen, however, would not be dissuaded; she apparently wished to emulate the enterprise of the Duchess of York, for whom Lely painted his series of “Beauties”; and Kneller, on his part, entered thoroughly into the spirit of the idea, and did his best to rival his predecessor. But his productions, it must be confessed, cannot compare with their models, either as works of art or objects of interest. They are heavy in style, and have much sameness in their designs; and the originals could boast of none of those romantic adventures, or piquant and scandalous anecdotes, which have immortalized the “Beauties” of the Merry Monarch. Kneller was knighted, however, for his performance, and received besides a medal and a chain worth £300. Lord Lansdowne, the poet, who knew all the ladies, and celebrated several of them in his verse, concludes his “Progress of Poetry," by the following reference to them:
“Oh, Kneller ! like thy picture were my song,
The “ Hampton Court Beauties” remained at the Water
Gallery after the Queen's death, until that building was demolished on the completion of the new palace, on account of its obstructing the view, when they were placed in a room directly under the King's Guard Chamber, thenceforth called the “Beauty Room,” where William III. used sometimes to dine in private. Since the rearrangement of the pictures about forty years ago, they have adorned the walls of King William's Presence Chamber.
While Queen Mary was living at the Water Gallery, she devoted much of her time to gardening, and she gathered together here a number of choice exotics and other rare plants, for which she sent gardeners at great expense to Virginia, the Canary Islands, and other places. Her collection was intrusted to the care of Dr. Plunkenet, a distinguished herbalist, whom she appointed her head gardener at a salary of £200 a year, and who assisted her to raise many foreign, and especially tropical plants, from seed in the hothouses. Many of these were long preserved at Hampton Court; and, indeed, some remnants of her collection may still be seen in the Privy Garden—in the winter in the greenhouse and orangery, and in the summer ranged on the walk in front of the south side of the State Apartments.
Of the general appearance presented by the gardens at this time, a good idea can be formed from the plate already inserted at page 297, and that by Sutton Nicholls on page 309. In the Privy Garden there is to be noticed the long arbour of wych or Scotch elm, one of the most interesting curiosities of Hampton Court Gardens, usually known by the name of "Queen Mary's Bower.”
Queen Mary's Bower.” It is 100 yards in length, 20 feet high, and 12 feet wide, and the branches of the trees are so wonderfully intergrown and interlaced, as to form an avenue completely inclosed and roofed in. It was, perhaps, in existence prior to the building of the new palace and the alterations in the gardens; for Evelyn tells us in his Diary, under date June 9th, 1662, that "the cradle-work of horne-beame, in the Garden, is for the perplexed twining of the trees very observable.” The trees, however, are not hornbeam, but wych elm.
During the summer of 1690, while William was in Ireland, Mary, who had been appointed Regent in his absence, was so busily occupied with public affairs in London, that she