Hillsborough Castle, a Georgian mansion dating back to the 1750s, has been a grand family home and is now the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and a royal residence, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Hillsborough Castle, an elegant “Irish Big House”, was built by Willis Hill, the 1st Marquis of Downshire, in the 1750s. The Georgian mansion has been a grand family home and is now the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and a royal residence. Her Majesty The Queen stays at Hillsborough, as do other members of the Royal Family when visiting Northern Ireland. Viewed by some as a politically neutral venue, Hillsborough has played an important role in the Peace Process in Northern Ireland since the 1980s. In 2014, Historic Royal Palaces (of the U.K.) took over the running of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens and began an ambitious project to restore the house and gardens to its former glory. Following a five-year, 20 million British pound restoration, the palace and its exceptional gardens were officially reopened by the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) and the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla), in April of this year.
The State Entrance Hall has always been the entrance to the mansion and a space in which to welcome visitors from HM The Queen to pop star Gary Barlow; the portraits in the Hall portray all the main protagonists involved in the history of the house, including Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire; Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Paintings in an Irish ‘Big House’, as these aristocratic private homes were known, were usually created by minor jobbing artists. These painters travelled around the country to paint for wealthy clients. However, it is known that Hillsborough originally displayed work by one prominent artist, George Romney (1734-1802). The house inventories going back as far as 1747 reveal that family portraits hung in the Dining Room, as was traditional. Satirists were also popular, and these early inventories showed that the family owned many prints by William Hogarth.
The display of art at Hillsborough Castle was selected to represent both the history and the contemporary use of the house as a royal and government residence, drawing from several sources, including The Royal Collection, The Schorr Collection and collections featuring contemporary Irish artists; Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Over the years, numerous politicians and other dignitaries have spent time at Hillsborough Castle, from Eleanor Roosevelt, Japan’s Crown Prince, and the Dali Lama to Princess Diana, President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blain, and Hillary Clinton.
The Throne Room, a splendid space that is the ceremonial heart of the castle, was created in the early 19th century as a Saloon and was the picture gallery of the house; traditionally, that was where the Downshire family, like other aristocrats, would hang their most prized ‘history’ paintings, featuring stories from the Bible, mythology and ancient history, to reflect an aristocratic classical education; Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
In the Red Room the paintings appear as a “cabinet hang”, typical of the type where many small, highly-decorative paintings are densely displayed – a cabinet was usually a private room in which intimate discussion took place; Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
During the 1980s and 1990s, many of the delicate negotiations of the Peace Process were held in the Red Room of Hillsborough Castle. It was in the Red Room that HM The Queen met Irish President Mary McAleese in 2005, for what was described at the time as “a historic event”.
Around the chair rail in the Red Room are a series of numbered miniature painted portraits of English Royalty; this photograph captured #24, King Charles II; #23, Queen Catherine of England, wife of Charles II; #26, King James II; and #25, Ann Hyde (Duchess of York), wife of James II; Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Around the Red Room at Hillsborough Castle are 40 miniature portraits of English sovereigns, and several of their consorts, which span the walls. Prince Albert commissioned this collection, named the Bone Miniatures, in 1843. Albert and Queen Victoria used to place the portraits on the floor to test each other’s knowledge of the family tree. The collection is named after its creators, Henry Bone and his son Henry Pierce Bone.
One hallway in Hillsborough Castle was filled with satirical cartoons from the 19th century publications; pictured here is: St. Stephens Review Presentation Cartoon (Tom Merry) June 23rd, 1888. GEOGRAPHY BEWITCHED: The false Ireland & the True. Erin strangling the hag of Hawarden. Ireland strangles Home Rule advocate GLADSTONE, who is presented as the ‘hag’ of Hawarden Castle, his Flintshire home. The beautiful, youthful ERIN tries to stifle his manipulation of true Ireland
A second satirical cartoon caught our attention: Supplement given away with the WEEKLY FREEMAN 22nd May 1886 SUSPENSE!!! ERIN, the personification of IRELAND, stands outside the door of the House of Commons as MPs debate the fate of the first Home Rule Bill
The formal and picturesque gardens at Hillsborough Castle cover 100 acres, including the newly restored Walled Garden that we walked to on the edge of the estate; Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
A view of the Castle from the gardens, including a beautiful fountain in the formal garden; Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
The entry and exit gate at Hillsborough Castle, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
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