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What Is Queen's House?

By John Markley
Updated May 23, 2024
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Queen's House is a building and historical site located near the Thames River in the Greenwich district of London, England. Its construction began in 1614, but due to a lengthy period of inactivity, was not completed until 1635. In addition to its great age, Queen's House is of great historical interest because of its place in the history of British architecture as the first example of a building built in an entirely Classical style. Today, the building is part of the National Maritime Museum, which is supported by the United Kingdom's Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Both Queen's House and its grounds have been designated as a scheduled monument by the British government, and the building is listed in the government's Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, which means that alterations to the building or its grounds are strictly regulated by law due to the site's historical importance.

The building was designed by architect Inigo Jones, a highly influential figure in British architecture. Jones was a pioneer in bringing Renaissance architecture, based on the architecture of Classical Greece and Rome, from Italy to Great Britain. It is England's first building constructed in what is commonly called the Palladian style of architecture, which is named after the renowned Venetian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and draws inspiration from Classical sources, especially ancient Greek and Roman temples.

Construction of Queen's House, originally intended as a royal residence for the wife and queen consort of King James I, Anne of Denmark, began in 1614 but came to a stop when the queen fell ill in 1618 and died the following year. Construction was resumed by King Charles I in 1628 and completed in 1635, and the building became a residence for his wife. Its use as a royal residence quickly came to an end when the king and his court fled London during the English Civil War in 1642, and the building became property of the short-lived Commonwealth ruled by Oliver Cromwell after Charles I was beheaded by Parliament in 1649.

It then became a residence used for important government guests and continued serving in that capacity even after the monarchy was restored. Later, in 1805, King George III granted Queen's House to the Royal Naval Asylum, a charitable organization dedicated to caring for the children of men who died at sea. This led to considerable expansion of the house over the next few years due to the need for additional facilities. In 1934, it was taken over by the National Maritime Museum, which restored the building and used it to house some of the museum's collections, which Queen's House still does today.

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