George was very unpopular with the public, particularly as a decadent young man running up huge debts, and especially in London. The people of Brighton were far more welcoming, perhaps because he had brought a lot of prosperity to the town. But George had the misfortune to find himself living at the same time as two of the greatest – and most scathing – satirical cartoonists in British history: James Gilllray and George Cruickshank.
You can see a selection of contemporary caricatures of George, both before and after he became King, some in the company of his mistresses. Opposite is a more recent vision of George, painted by the artist Rex Whistler in 1944. It shows a rotund and lascivious George preparing to ravish Brighton, depicted as an innocent maiden.
If you continue to your right, towards the tea rooms, you will notice the elaborate and original Chinese wall paper. These are the remnants of several sets of paper produced in Canton and acquired by the Prince in 1815. You may wish to pause your tour here to visit the tea rooms.
When you are ready to continue the tour, return to the top of the stairs, and this time go straight ahead into the Yellow Bow Rooms.
Rex Whistler’s Spirit of Brighton
‘We’re standing here in front of one of the most famous images of the Regent and most famous images associated with Brighton. Rex Whistler’s splendid allegory. It’s called ‘Allegory: His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales Wakening the Spirit of Brighton’. It was painted on wallpaper at a barracks at Preston Park. And it was painted in 1944 just before Rex Whistler took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy where he was killed by a mortar bomb at the age of just 39. The picture used to be thought to be so improper that it used to have a curtain across it and you had to pay to have the curtain removed. Children were not allowed to see this and on a famous occasion when Queen Mary came to the Royal Pavilion and asked to see it, the Director was so thrown by the thought of showing the Queen all this nudity that the picture was put in a darkened room and only the Queen was let into the room so that no-one could see her discomfiture at the sight of so much female flesh.’
In the Adelaide Corridor immediately outside the tearoom is the largest surviving amount of Chinese export wallpaper in the Royal Pavilion. It was supplied by Robson and Hale of Piccadilly. The paper was produced for the Western market in Canton. These papers were painted with whimsical variations on Chinese themes, which were stylised to suit Western taste. They were always extremely expensive and generally hung on battens rather than pasted directly to the wall, hence they could be removed. The Chinese themselves did not use elaborate papers of this type, so they were designed entirely for the Western market. The scenes depicted on the paper outside the tearoom are of a dragon boat festival. A dragon boat festival which commemorated an official called Qu Yuan, who protested against corruption and drowned himself. The dragon boat raced was a symbolic search for his body. In each boat there are 60 rowers and a man with drums. Also to be seen are the eight Taoist immortals.. These appear in mythological tableaux set in clouds and lotus flowers at the top end of the paper.
The Chinese wallpaper needs to be displayed with low light levels so it can be very difficult to see in this corridor. Click on the thumbnails below to reveal a hi-res photograph of each section of wallpaper.
(left hand side as you enter the corridor)
(right hand side as you walk back from the end of the corridor)