A fairy tale palace– a rare combination of pinnacles, domes and minarets– has been a busy tourist spot in Brighton, for over 160 years. This Royal Pavilion was the brain-child of an impulsive and extravagant Prince of Wales, who later became king George IV.

Originally it was a simple farm house of the Prince and his secret bride. Fashionable friends from London started visiting the Prince, and soon Brighton became one of the most popular resorts in Europe.

For nearly 35 years (from 1786 to 1821), the house was constantly being redesigned and refurnished by the leading English Architects–costing an astronomical 750,000 U.S.$! Several contractors were ruined for life as the Prince ran out of money often enough!

The inside of the palace was at first furnished in French style. Later this was replaced by the oriental style. Fake bamboo furniture, Chinese wall papers, silk wall hangings and bright colours replaced the more sober French style.

The Royal stables were built in the picturesque style of Islamic India, with magnificent domes. In 1815, the Prince became a Regent and could spare more money to throw in his lavish dream project. He could add to this unusual pavilion more domes, miniature pagodas, slender columns with lotus flower tips, and strange Gothic figures.

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The interior has two magnificent chambers, one for music and one for banquet. A chandelier found there weighs over a ton! The enormous and elaborate domed ceilings and the rich colour scheme of red, gold and blue is fascinating and eye-catching.

The Prince became a King in 1820, but he rarely visited his dream palace. He died in 1830 and his successors rarely used the palace. The palace was further stripped of all its furnishings and stood empty and forlorn till 1850!

Then the residents of Brighton bought the palace and restored it to its earlier glory. This Mahal at Brighton is now a busy resort. The dream of the whimsical Prince has become a reality at last!

Visalakshi Ramani.