Saturday, 8 August 2009

What to see: Strömsholm Palace, Strömsholm

Strömsholm is probably the least known of the ten palaces currently at the disposal of the King of Sweden. It is also the one which is furthest away from Stockholm, situated almost in the middle of nowhere 5 kilometres from a small place called Kolbäck (a railway station, a café and some shops) and 27 kilometres from the town of Eskilstuna.
The first palace on the spot was built in the late 1550s for the third and last wife of King Gustaf I, Queen Katarina, née Stenbock. The current palace is however a Baroque structure built for the Dowager Queen Hedvig Eleonora by the architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder (1615-1681) in 1669-1681. The interior did however remain unfinished until Queen Ulrika Eleonora the Younger had Carl Hårleman decorate them in the 1730s. In 1766 the palace was put at the disposal of Crown Princess Sophia Magdalena, the bride of the future Gustaf III, and the interiors were redecorated in Rococo style, some of which were later redecorated again in Gustavian (early neoclassical) style.
In 1808 the Dowager Queen Sophia Magdalena exchanged Strömsholm for Ulriksdal Palace, which is much closer to Stockholm. The last royal to use Strömsholm was King Carl XIV Johan – Sweden had then joined Norway in a union in 1814 and the King would sleep at Strömsholm when travelling between the capitals of his two kingdoms, a journey which back then took at least one week.
Following his death in 1844, no-one showed much interest in the palace, which in 1868 was made available for the Army Riding and Driving School. They stayed for a century, leaving the palace in 1960 and the estate in 1968. The rooms on the ground floor were restored in the 1990s, bringing the interiors back to what they were like in 1816, the year of the first complete inventory of the palace. Strömsholm is open to the public in the summer, but the royal family rarely come there.
The largest room on the ground floor is the Hall of Portraits – the name derives from the large portraits of the palace’s founder Queen Hedvig Eleonora and the monarchs Gustaf I, Gustaf II Adolf, Christina, Carl X Gustaf, Carl XI, Carl XII, Ulrika Eleonora and Carl XIV Johan, the latter posing with the crowns of both Sweden and Norway on a table to his right.
The Chinese Dining-Room is one of the most beautiful rooms of the palace – the wall paintings are by Lars Bolander and were done in 1774. On the walls of the ground floor can be found a large number of portraits of members of the dynasties Pfalz and Holstein-Gottorp and various relatives, as well as some landscapes done by Queen Ulrika Eleonora the Elder, consort of Carl XI and a keen amateur painter.
On the second floor the most important room is the Hall of State, where one can see large paintings of King Carl XI and his favourite horses. On the third floor, beneath the lantern, is the Palace Chapel, dating from 1734-1741.

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