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Stockholm Palace

Stockholm Palace or the Royal Palace (Swedish: Stockholms slott or Kungliga slottet) is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch (the actual residence of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia is at Drottningholm Palace). Stockholm Palace is on Stadsholmen, in Gamla stan in the capital, Stockholm. It neighbours the Riksdag building. The offices of the King, the other members of the Swedish Royal Family, and the Royal Court of Sweden are here. The palace is used for representative purposes by the King whilst performing his duties as the head of state.

This royal residence has been in the same location by Norrström in the northern part of Gamla stan in Stockholm since the middle of the 13th century when the Tre Kronor Castle was built. In modern times the name relates to the building called Kungliga Slottet. The palace was designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and erected on the same place as the medieval Tre Kronor Castle which was destroyed in a fire on 7 May 1697. Due to the costly Great Northern War which started in 1700, construction of the palace was halted in 1709, and not recommenced until 1727—six years after the end of the war. When Tessin the Younger died in 1728, the palace was completed by Carl Hårleman who also designed a large part of its Rococo interior. The palace was not ready to use until 1754, when King Adolf Frederick and Queen Louisa Ulrika moved in, but some interior work proceeded until the 1770s. No major conversions have been done in the palace since its completion, only some adjustments, new interiors, modernization and redecorating for different regents and their families, coloration of the facades and addition of the palace museums. The palace is surrounded by the Lejonbacken and the Norrbro to the north, the Logården (known as the Shot Yard in English) and Skeppsbron in the east, the Slottsbacken and the Storkyrkan in the south, and the outer courtyard and Högvaktsterrassen in the northwest.

As of 2009 the interior of the palace consists of 1,430 rooms of which 660 have windows. The palace contains apartments for the Royal families, representation and festivities such as the State Apartments, the Guest Apartments and the Bernadotte Apartments. More features are the Hall of State, the Royal Chapel, the Treasury with the Regalia of Sweden, Livrustkammaren and the Tre Kronor Museum in the remaining cellar vaults from the former castle. The National Library of Sweden was housed in the northeast wing, the Biblioteksflygeln (the Library Wing), until 1878. As of 2014 it houses the Bernadotte Library. The Slottsarkivet is housed in the Chancery Wing. In the palace are the offices of the Royal Court of Sweden, a place of work for approximately 200 employees. The Royal Guards have guarded the palace and the Royal Family since 1523. A comprehensive renovation of the facade began in 2011, to repair weather damaged parts made from sandstone. The repairs are estimated to cost approximately 500 million crowns (about US$77 million) over a period of 22 years.

The Royal Palace is owned by the Swedish State through the National Property Board of Sweden which is responsible for running and maintaining the palace, while the Ståthållarämbetet (the Office of the Governor of the Royal Palaces) manages the royal right of disposition of the palace.

The first building on this site was a fortress with a core tower built in the 13th century by Birger Jarl to defend Lake Mälaren. The fortress grew to a castle, eventually named Tre Kronor for the core tower's spire top decorated with three crowns.

Stockholm Palace

Early suggestions

At the beginning of the 17th century, King Gustavus Adolphus made plans for a new royal palace. The plans came to naught, but in 1651, his daughter Queen Christina appointed Jean de la Vallée to architect for the royal castles, and among his commissions was to make suggestions for how to improve and update the Tre Kronor Castle. Contemporaneous copperplates from 1654 shows de la Vallée's idea of a more visible castle on a raised plateau with a connecting bridge over the Norrström. Queen Christina remodelled and embellished the existing castle extensively, but no new castle was built during her reign.

From 1650 to 1660, Jean de la Vallée made suggestions for large conversions of the castle, but it was not until 1661, when Nicodemus Tessin the Elder became City Architect and Architect for the Royal castles, that more substantial plans for a new castle were made. In 1661, he presented the first draft for a conversion of the northern row which his son, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, would later rework and realise in 1692 to 1696.

A map of the Stadsholmen from the 1650s, illustrates de la Vallées suggestion for the conversion of the old castle. The project also brought about an adjustment of the Slottsbacken, making it partially enclosed by buildings. Of interest are Tessin the Younger's additions in pencil on that map, probably made at the end of the 17th century. There is an early sketch for the northern facade's west wing and the two curved wings enclosing the outer courtyard (both executed). Tessin the Younger also made plans for the city area west of the palace with large stairs in false perspective where the Axel Oxenstierna palace, among other buildings, are and joining the Västerlånggatan in addition to a wide street to the present Mynttorget, straight though the city block with the present Brantingtorget (not executed). He had envisioned a line of sight from the center of the palace, westwards to the Riddarholmen.

Stockholm Palace

The northern row 1692–1696

The northern row of the present palace was built in 1692, in just five months as a part of the old Tre Kronor castle. The new row had the same austere Baroque style that still remain, contrasting with the rest of the Renaissance castle.

At an early stage of the conversion in the 1690s, a number of elderly Swedish artists such as David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl and Johan Sylvius, were still alive and they contributed with artistic work to the completion of the northern row, in particular to the Royal Chapel. Ehrenstrahl made the large religious paintings and Sylvius painted the plafond.

A model for the austere Roman baroque style, including a relatively strict regularity and symmetry, was the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, where the architect in charge of the conversion, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, went to study buildings in 1688.

The walls surrounding the storages, stables and workshops of the Tre Kronor castle are now behind the Lejonbacken and in the basement of the northern row. Thus, Lejonbacken conceals the old windowless wall behind it. Older walls can also be found higher up in large parts of the northern row's facade walls. The walls from the former northeast and northwest square corner-towers for example, are thicker in this part of the palace's ground floor, since Tessin re-used the remaining walls and incorporated them in the new palace. About half of the old walls were used in that manner, since the ever frugal Charles XI had only reluctantly agreed to the conversion which started in 1690. Thrift and recycling were guiding principles at the building of the northern row. Hence, the construction proceeded rather quickly and after five months the new row was topped out and roofed. The new walls became higher than the old ones, except for the towers which were completely enclosed in the new walls. The Charles XI's Gallery is one more feature remaining since before the fire, all according to Tessin's plan.

Stockholm Palace

A new Royal Chapel in the northern row was inaugurated at Christmas in 1696, and a new Hall of State was also planned there. The chapel was to replace the old castle chapel that had been erected by John III in the same location by the old storages and stables at the Tre Kronor castle.

Building the new chapel with the same proportions as the old one and making it fit within the walls of the old chapel, with a retained high ceiling inside the walls of the former northeast tower (now the northeast corner of the palace), proved difficult for Tessin if he was to be able to adhere to the austere Baroque style where all the windows aught to be the same size, and placed in precise rows despite what rooms were behind them. To achieve this, Tessin added a mezzanine floor with smaller square windows just above the lower row of windows. These smaller windows now encircles the whole building, a remnant of the first castle chapel. After the fire, when Tessin could make more substantial alterations, the Royal Chapel and the Hall of State were placed in the southern row instead, and the furniture and inventories, such as benches, household silver and decorations are to some extent preserved in the present-day Royal Chapel.

According to a plan from before the fire, the palace was to be in a square shape without any wings in austere Roman Baroque style, essentially with the rest of the rows looking like the northern row. This suggestion is not preserved, historian Boo von Malmborg suggests that this was probably because Tessin did not dare to present his comprehensive plans to the economical Charles XI.

The Palace fire in 1697

On 7 May 1697, a great castle fire occurred, prompting the building of the present Stockholm Palace. The fire ruined most of the earlier fortress, the Tre Kronor Castle, except for the sturdy, recently constructed walls of the northern row, most of which are still standing. Unlike the rest of the castle, the walls of the northern row could be repaired.

Stockholm Palace

The first phase of building the new palace 1697–1709

After the fire, the Regency Council of King Charles XII under the direction of the Queen dowager Hedvig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp at the Karlberg Palace that a new castle should be built on the walls of the burnt castle. Nicodemus Tessin the Younger was the architect appointed to draw and build the new Stockholm Palace. At the same time that Tessin's plans were approved, he was appointed head of the construction of the palace as part of his new position: Överintendent över de Kungliga Slotten (Superintendent of the Royal Castles), a kind of castle architect. Göran Josuæ Törnquist (later ennobled Adelcrantz) became the Assisting intendent and his deputy, an important position at the construction site, and Hans Conradt Buchegger became general contractor for the palace construction. In 1697, Abraham Winantz Svanssköld, Tessin's half brother, was appointed deputy castle and court architect. Together with Tessin he was active at the palace construction and they were helped by several German journeymen. Important sculptors and craftsmen during the first years of the construction were, among others, René Chauveau, Bernard Foucquet the Elder and his son Jacques Foucquet.

Tessin presented the first finished plans for the new palace within the year of the fire. First, the remnants of the old castle were razed, practically everything was demolished save for parts of the northern row with its strict Baroque, that were still standing. The demolishing was performed by approximately 300 men from mid May 1697 to mid-spring in 1700, when the remains of the old keep Tre Kronor were re-used as filling for the Lejonbacken. Consequently, most of the material for the new palace was new.

When Tessin got the commission to design the new palace, he abandoned parts of his earlier plan about building a square palace and added the lower wings flanking the palace in the east and west.

Stockholm Palace

This was made to give the palace a more monumental look and this could be executed since there was now more open land in which to expand the palace such as the western area where King Gustav I's moat and cannon mounds had previously been. The southwest wing had to be made shorter since the Storkyrkan was in the way. This asymmetry, created by the different lengths of the wings, was compensated by adding the two detached, semicircular wings for the Royal guards and the Commanders, west of the main building. These wings encircle the courtyard. Tessin's plans and commissions to artists still characterizes the facades, walls and stone pilasters as well as walls, floors, pillars and pilasters inside the palace, such as in the Hall of State, the Royal Chapel and the stairwells.

The building of the palace went on with great intensity during the reign of Charles XII, but the costly campaigns during the Great Northern War were impedimental. Charles XII lost at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, and that year the building of the palace came to a complete halt. At that time, the courtyard had been leveled and the courtyard walls were erected to the height of one floor in the south and east part and half a floor in the west part. The palace remained in that semi-finished state until 1727, when the Riksdag granted funds to continue the work. This was one year before Tessin died.

Some embellishments in Tessin's plans were never made. For example, he wanted to place an equestrian statue of King Charles XI in the inner courtyard in the French fashion at that time, but King Charles XII disliked that and rejected the idea since it would "totally obscure the beautiful prospect". Neither did Tessin's suggestion to embellish the roof balustrade with sculptures. Tessin's vision for this can be seen on an illustration of the palace made by Jean Eric Rehn about 1770.

Stockholm Palace

The French artists' colony

The largest group of artists came from France. Between the years 1693 and 1699, sixteen French masons, painters and foundrymen arrived at Stockholm. At Tessin's initiative, the craftsmen had received an invitation through the Swedish diplomatic envoy in Paris, Daniel Cronström, to come and work for the Swedish king. They were offered yearly wages and accommodations. The sculptor René Chauveau started out with a salary of 1,000 riksdaler (approximately equal to US$49,550 in 2014) per year; he was among the highest paid in the group. Some artists had brought their families with them and they formed a French artists' colony. The family members often participated in the construction work. The whole group is referred to as de fransöske hantwerkarne (the French craftsmen). Most of them had received their education at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in Paris and had worked at King Louis XIV's large palace construction at Versailles. Most of the craftsmen were Catholic, and they lived and worked in a very tight-knit community close to the French embassy in Stockholm. They could practice their Catholic faith within the colony, but this was strictly forbidden in the rest of Sweden at that time. When to building of the palace came to a halt in 1709, the colony was dissolved. Some craftsmen, such as René Chauveau and his family, returned to France, but most of them remained in Sweden until they died during the first part of the 18th century.

Tessin's plan for the palace surroundings

Alterations of the land-use plan for the area surrounding the Stockholm Palace had been proposed during the beginning of the 1700s, by the superintendent Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. Tessin's plans for the city was finished in 1713, and in those the area surrounding the palace were given a new shape. A new Norrbro with rows of sculptures, a great royal cathedral and new Riddarholm Church resembling the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Facing the Stockholms ström in an extension of the Kungsträdgården, Tessin envisioned a 112 metres (367 ft) long "victory hall" with arcades and columns in a doric order, featuring two corner towers and exhibition halls with 50 metres (160 ft) headroom. There would be displayed cannons taken as booty, flags and other trophies of war. At the Helgeandsholmen he planned a horse racing stadium for equestrian games and other forms of entertainments, a bear-garden was also to be built. The ideas were not approved by King Charles XII who wanted the Helgeandsholmen for himself.

Ramps were to be built on the Slottsbacken leading up to a narrowing area in front of the Storkyrkan, which was to be redressed in a new baroque facade. The Stortorget was also to be rebuilt and a new city hall and stock exchange was planned. Tessin was convinced that his plans would one day be realized, but building the new palace kept him fully occupied and demanded great financial resources. The time of the Swedish Empire was coming to an end and all the great plans remained unfulfilled.

Stockholm Palace

The second phase of building the new palace 1727–1771

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger died in 1728, before the palace was finished. The responsibility for the construction was taken over by Carl Hårleman, even though Tessin's position as superintendent was formally passed on to his son Carl Gustaf Tessin.

Hårleman formed large parts of the palace's interior in a newer style, more to the taste of that time, the Rococo. At Hårleman's initiative, the color of the facade was changed from the earlier brick red to light yellow (see Coloration below). When the building was reassumed in 1727, there was anew a need for qualified workers. The second group of French artists and craftsmen arrived in Stockholm in the summer of 1732, as a result of Hårleman's negotiations in Paris the previous winter. The group consisted of six persons: two Masters, Antoine Bellette and Michel Le Lievre and four journeymen. Other noted sculptors and craftsmen during the second phase of the construction were Charles Guillaume Cousin, Jacques-Philippe Bouchardon, Pierre Hubert L'Archevêque, Johan Tobias Sergel and Adrien Masreliez. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo turned down Tessin's offer of a commission.

Carl Hårleman died in 1753, and his work was continued by Carl Johan Cronstedt and Carl Gustaf Tessin who finished the palace together. Some parts of the palace where the Royal family would live, the northern row and what is presently the State Apartmens, were also completed that year. The Stockholm Palace was ready to be used in 1754. The Royal Family who had lived in the Wrangel Palace on Riddarholmen since the fire in the old castle, moved to their new residence on the First Advent that same year. Instead of living in the State Apartment, the Royal Family choose to stay in the part now known as the Bernadotte Apartments. The work on the interior continued even after the Royal Family had settled in. Priority was given to the interior rather than the completion of the Slottsbacken and Lejonbacken.

Lejonbacken and the Chancery Wing were finished by architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, who also was put in charge for the work on the interior after Hårleman's death. 1771 is considered the year when the palace was officially declared finished. The wall of the eastern quay was completed that year, but during a number of years many of the statues and sculptures in the facade's niches were still lacking, such as the eight statues on the southern facade depicting noted Swedish men and the Enleveringsgruppen (the Abduction group) on the same facade.

Stockholm Palace

Development after the 1770s

After the completion of the new palace, no major conversions has been made to the complex save for a number of adaptions, new interiors, modernizations and redecorations for different regents and their families. Museums have also been added to the palace.

Artists like Jean Eric Rehn and Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander were important to the palace's grand interior during the end of the 18th and 19th century, when pilasters, columns, wall decorations, etc. were added.Among those sculptors, painters and craftsmen who also contributed during the later renovations were Louis Masreliez (interior work in Classicism and Neoclassicism), Jean Baptiste Masreliez (interior work), Axel Magnus Fahlcrantz (the Logården Wall and the wrought iron fence at Logården), Johan Niclas Byström (sculptures), Sven Scholander (restorations), Johan Axel Wetterlund (facade sculptures of noted men and four allegorical groups on the Logården Wall), Julius Kronberg (ceiling paintings) and Kaspar Schröder (facade sculptures; lion masks at the courtyard facade).

A larger change in the facade was made during the reign of King Charles XIV John resulting in Hårleman's light yellow facade coloring being painted over and at the beginning of the 20th century during the reign of King Oscar II when a decision to go back to Tessin's original brick red color was made. As of 2014 it is the color of the facade. (see Coloration below)

During the reign of King Oscar I, there was a renewed interest for older styles and when the Vita Havet (the White Sea Ballroom) was created from the designs of Per Axel Nyström in 1844–1850, a compromise between old and new was made. Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander was the royal curator of King Charles XV and shared his taste in interior design, this resulted in rooms like the Victoriasalongen (the Victoria Drawing room) in a lush revived Rococo style.

King Oscar II performed a number of additions, improvements and modernizations to the palace. Most of the empty facade niches were filled with sculptures during his reign. He had the palace's technical installations updated, such as installing a water pipe system in 1873, installing electricity in 1883, telephone in 1884 and waterborne central heating around 1900. As of 2014 the property is connected to long-distance heating. The king's interest also extended to the decoration of the stairwells, and he commissioned Julius Kronberg to paint plafonds in the ceiling of the West Stairwell. Author Georg Svensson, wrote about King Oscar II that "his goal was to complete the construction of the palace as intended in Tessin's plans in a manner worthy of this monument".

During 1922 to 1930, the Logården was rebuilt from the former English park to a more open area with pools of water on either side of the walkway leading from the East Arch to the Skeppsbron.

In 1956 to 1958, Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities was restored. Architect and Chief Intendant Ivar Tengbom was appointed for the work. The Treasury was opened in 1970 and the Tre Kronor Museum in 1999.In 2018 600 solar panels were installed on the roof of the palace and are expected to generate an annual output of 170 MWh or at least twelve percent of the palace's annual electricity consumption.

Stockholm Palace


The palace is made of brick and sandstone. The roofs are covered with copper and are slanting inward towards the inner courtyard. On the main building they are encircled by a balustrade made of stone. The building consists of four rows, commonly named after the four cardinal directions.

The facades of the palace were each given their own design and not the same as the original northern row. A triumphal arch in splendid Baroque style framed the entrance and the stairwell in the middle of the southern facade, and niches for statues were placed at every second window ledge. The middle parts of the east and west facades were adorned with Baroque pilasters, herms and statues. The palace has a total of 28 statues, 717 balusters, 242 volutes, 972 windows, 31,600 window panes and approximately 7,500 windows, doors and gates. The facade is covered with circa 9,500 m2 (102,000 sq ft) of dimension stone and 11,000 m2 (120,000 sq ft) of plaster. The main building, without the wings, is 115 by 120 m (377 by 394 ft) and encloses the Inre borggården (the Inner Courtyard).

Projecting from the corners of the main building are four wings facing the east and the west. Between the two eastern wings is the Logården, and between the two western wings is the Outer Courtyard. All the wings are 16 m (52 ft) wide and 48 m (157 ft) long except for the southwest wing which is 11 m (36 ft) long because of the position of the Storkyrkan. The asymmetry is concealed by the two detached, semicircular wings the Högvaktsflygeln (The Royal Guards Wing) and the Kommendantsflygeln (the Commanders Wing).

Approximately 800,000 people visit the palace each year.

Stockholm Palace