The King’s Stairs in William III’s State Apartments in the newer half of Hampton Court Palace is a stunning example of Baroque architecture and artwork. The walls were painted (circa 1700) by Italian Baroque painter Antonio Verrio and conjure up mythological and historical figures depicting the strength of William III. Note how many allusions to warfare and might are seen throughout these paintings.
Do you see how shallow the steps on the staircase are? This helps the sovereign and the courtiers ascend with majesty and grace, and shallow steps meant less exertion (William was a poorly man, prone to asthmatic attacks). Back to the paintings, these images show great wealth (look at the gold plates) and plenty. Even the SPQR motto from the mighty Roman empire is clearly used, as you can see in the image below.
There are depictions of countless deities from Greco-Roman mythology. You can see Hermes, the messenger god, in the image below:
Here is a detail which once again shows the emphasis upon warfare and might:
Next, the exquisite ceiling above the staircase…
Of all mythological heroes, William III admired Hercules (Herakles) and this is continually seen in representations of him as Hercules and in the artwork that decorated the rooms in his apartments. Whilst his propaganda portrayed him as strong and manly as Hercules, the real William, though strong and determined in mind, was sickly, frail, and asthmatic.
This staircase leads to the entrance of William III’s State Apartments, which contains Henry VIII’s priceless tapestries, among other beautiful items.
Next time you’re in Hampton Court, don’t forget to stop and admire the King’s Staircase!