When visiting the city of Braunschweig (Brunswick) last July, we didn’t quite know what to expect. The city has a real royal palace, but surprisingly it is only ten years old. Where discussion went on in Berlin for many years before they finally started rebuilding the city palace, in Brunswick they realised these plans already earlier. Although you don’t see it on the front, all that was actually rebuilt is the facade of the palace. In the back there is a modern shopping center, called Schloss-Arkaden (Palace Arcade). Not much going on there on a Sunday, but you can walk through it.
If you stand in front of the palace on the right there is the city library, on the left you will find the small but very nice Palace Museum. At the time we were there, there was an exhibition about the rebuilding of the palace. The newest exhibition sounds nicer: “Victoria-Luise – ein Leben, zwei Welten” (Victoria-Luise – One Life, two Worlds), running from 14 September 2017 to 16 September 2018. The museum itself is nice, but all there is to guide you are a piece of paper for each room or an audio guide – if you want to listen to it all it takes you ages to finish your visit. No photography allowed unfortunately. We were surprised by the good selection of products, including books and postcards in the shop.
The biggest surprise of the building however is the Quadriga on top of the building – and yes, you can go all the way to the roof. The entrance is on the right of the entrance of the Schloss-Arkaden, in the middle of the building. You can take the stairs or take a lift first and then 48 steps. No dogs or food/drinks allowed, and I recommend bringing a coin to pay for the entrance fee at the machine (2 Euro). We were there on a rather sunny day, late afternoon and had a wonderful view on the city.
The statue on top is the Quadriga – a chariot drawn by four horses – with as the triumphant woman Brunonia, the symbolic national goddess of the Duchy and the Free State of Brunswick. In October 2008 the statue could finally be placed on top of the new palace. It is really unbelievable how close you can get to the impressive figure.
The history of the residence of the Dukes of Brunswick goes back to 1717. The building work then started under the direction of Hermann Korb, on request of Duke August Wilhelm. Korb was succeeded by Martin Peltier de Belfort, and finally on request of Duke Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand the work was finished in 1791 by Christian Gottlob Langwagen and Wilhelm von Gebhardi. Between 1807 and 1813 Peter Joseph Krahe turned the building into an Empire-Style building, a royal winter residence for Jérôme Bonaparte, the King of Westphalen.
A fire destroyed the residence in the night of 7 to 8 September 1830, during a revolution against Duke Karl II. Carl Theodor Ottmer was the architect of the second palace, that was completed in 1841. He also designed a Quadriga, however the one that was only presented to Duke Wilhelm for his silver jubilee on 25 April 1856 was modelled by Ernst Rietschel and was placed on top of the palace in 1863.
Another fire destoyed parts of the palace in the night of 24 February 1865, including the brand new quadriga. A new quadriga was created soon and put on top of the building in 1868. The Dukes resided at the palace between 1753 and 8 November 1918. The last royal residents were Duke Ernst August and his wife Viktoria Luise, the daughter of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. They had to leave Brunswick late 1918. The family had valuable furniture and paintings from the palace returned only in 1926.
1919-1922 the less valuable furniture were sold, in 1920 the palace for the first time became a museum and school. 1935 the palace turned into a military school for SS officers. Again faith struck and during World War II the building was damaged badly, and in 1960 it was decided to demolish the remains. A palace park arose on the site between 1961 and 1963.
The city council in 2004 decided to build a large shopping centre instead. On 6 May 2007 the palace was finally opened to the public again. On the square in front of the present palace statues of the Dukes Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand (1735-1806) and Friedrich Wilhelm (1771-1815) can be found.