Orleans House Gallery, whose eponymous owner, the Duke of Orleans once called “my peaceful house in old Twick”, is about to come alive to a new wave of admirers after its refurbishment.
The House’s makeover is fit for a King, or Queen - a nod to its illustrious history as a royal favourite. In fact the baroque Octagon Room was commissioned in 1710 by the then Secretary of State for Scotland to curry favour with the new monarch King George I.
And it did just that with both George I and George II visiting. Later Queen Caroline, whose portrait now hangs in the Gallery, also dined at the house along with her children in 1729. In the 1800s the House became home to Louis Phillippe, future king of France and Duc d’Orleans. In his two years in Twickenham Louis marvelled at the tranquillity of the place, writing “I bless heaven, morning, noon and night that I am in my peaceful house in old Twick.” He later visited his former home in 1844 accompanied by Queen Victoria.
Louis’ son Henri, Duc D’Aumale , followed his father in living in Twickenham for almost two decades from 1852. It was Louis who built a gallery and library next to the house. His extensive collection of masterpieces, now in the Chateau de Chantilly near Paris, included two paintings by Raphael and works by the French and Italian Schools.
Two animated displays, Spiral Productions and animator Belle Mellor, will now run in the Gallery to celebrate the history of the House. The first explores the story of Orleans House Through Time and the second is based almost word for word on the copy of a first course of Queen Caroline’s banquet in the Octagon Room in 1729. A copy of this survived and is in the Richmond Local Studies Archive and collection
Cllr Paul Hodgins, Leader of Richmond Council and Chairman of the Orleans House Trust, said:
“With its stunning setting on the riverside, green spaces and wonderful architecture I’m not surprised Orleans House was a favourite of Royals from near and far.
“Along with the Duc d’Orleans and Secretary of State for Scotland, the House was also home to George Morton Pitt MP, who changed the Octagon Room and added the link building in 1750, and naval officer Sir George Pocock.
“Now that history will be celebrated through a brilliant new animated display, which will play on loop in the new interpretation area outside the Octagon Room. Sharp eyed visitors will note a special cameo from the Duck d’Orleans - the gallery’s semi-resident mallard who sits on the Coach House roof during the spring.
“The restoration work undertaken at the House over the last few months has created a spectacular site and really celebrates the role the house has played as a centrepiece of life in Twickenham for three centuries.”
— from a Richmond Council press release - 13 February 2018