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The Royal Palace of Amsterdam


Where Gumbo Was #469

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam started out with pretty much the opposite intention. It was built in 1655 to show off the wealth and power of Amsterdam's merchants and traders after throwing off control by the Spanish throne.

Amsterdam_Royal_Palace_7299C Messier/Wikimedia

It was the Golden Age for the Netherlands, and the city was ruled not by a king but by various wealthy burghers and an assortment of nobles. Its port was teeming with wealth built on colonies in the Indies and an active slave trade.

P1200810P1200791Two large maps set in a floor mark off the extent of the Dutch empire

Just as the gentlemen of Amsterdam showed off their positions in paintings such as Rembrandt's 'Night Watch' and 'Dutch Masters' they created a Town Hall not only to provide a center for administration, justice and taxation, but also to show off to other cities.


And it is impressive. The interior pictures here are all from the first floor, one level above the street; it's the part that's open to visitors and has the main state rooms that are used, from time to time, for official occasions and state visits. Imagine the space and rooms above!


This square of luxury carpet, repeated in the Palace in several colors, was the start of GeorgeG's successful solution of this week's Where In the World.


The building sits on Amsterdam's Dam Square, which as seems sensible, is named for the dam that once formed a main part of Amsterdam's waterfront. The square in the exterior picture above would have been filled with ships when the building was new. The building is sitting on over 13,000 wooden piles driven into the soft ground.

P1200811P1200843P1200858Napoleonic bust and elaborate clocks showing Bonapartes as Roman rulers

But after about 150 years of commercial courts, tax collectors, city treasurers and sergeants-at-arms and a lot of political changes, the Town Hall took on a new role. When Napoleon's armies swept across the Low Countries, he installed his brother Louis as King of Holland in 1806. And a king needs a palace, right?


Louis moved the capital from The Hague to Amsterdam, moved into the Town Hall, and called in the decorators. Some of the large paintings are from the Town Hall period, and a good deal of the carved work, but the main furnishings of many of the rooms on view is Empire-style furniture left behind when Louis was forced out in 1813.


After the Napoleonic period, the Netherlands became an independent kingdom, led by King William I, who returned the Palace to the city. Barely an eye-blink later, realizing that he, too, was a king needing a palace, he took it back. It remained family property of the monarchs until 1936.


It's still set aside for their use, along with two other palaces in The Hague, but in the past hundred years, they've seldom lived in it for more than a few weeks at a time, although it's in frequent use for state occasions and state visits. The painting below hangs in the room shown in the picture; the event is the 1949 signing of the treaty in which the Netherlands accepted Indonesia's independence after a four-year war to prevent it.

P1200849Palacio_Real,_Ámsterdam,_Países_Bajos,_2016-05-30,_DD_07-09_HDR_diegoDelsoDiego Delso/Wikimedia

Aside from the large and formal spaces, most of the rooms that are on view are set up as bedroom suites for important visitors, with comfortable seating, tables, and, of course, beds. The room below is the one set aside for when the current king sleeps over. The second image is the room's ceiling.


Occasionally there's also room for a chuckle or an odd moment. A sign with a convoluted title leads the way to a quite lavish bedroom; the painting in the Hall of Justice looks a bit more like vengeance than justice!


A reminder of the pre-Royal days: one of two columns showing the symbols of Amsterdam's guilds, merchant associations and communities.


Admission to the palace is €10 and includes an audioguide, which was useful; without it, you'd only be guessing how the rooms differ from each other and what their original purpose was. The descriptions of how the Town Hall functioned were far more interesting than the royal trivia!



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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