Inside the medieval walls of Alnwick Castle are the State Rooms: grand, lavish and perhaps not what you might expect.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland, undertook a restoration of the rooms. The 4th Duke wanted his rooms to have the style and aesthetics of the Italian Renaissance, and spent his time as duke bringing his idea to fruition. His guests would travel through a Norman archway into a redesigned courtyard, enter through a new front door and climb the Grand Staircase, where they would find not a stone fortress for medieval soldiers, but a luxurious palatial home.
The walls of the State Rooms, several of which have been restored by the present Duke of Northumberland, are hung with Italian-style silk (now made in Suffolk) and artworks by masters such as Canaletto, Titian, Tintoretto, Turner, and Claude Lorrain. The rooms contain furniture and ceramics which have been collected by the Percy family over hundreds of years, as well as temporary exhibitions and modern items belonging to the current family.
The Dining Room is used regularly in the twenty-first century – you may even see it being set during your visit. Located on the spot where the original medieval Great Hall is believed to have been situated, the Dining Room features one of the most spectacular carved ceilings in the castle, showcasing the heraldry of the Percy family.
The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland still reside in Alnwick Castle, and this is most evident in the Library, created by the 4th Duke in the Prudhoe Tower to house the 14,000 catalogued books in the collection. In addition to the books, the room now contains family photos, comfortable modern furniture and, of course, a television!
While centuries of history can be felt in every room, the State Rooms also show the castle as a modern family home, making it a unique and fascinating part of a visit to Alnwick.
The State Rooms in Alnwick Castle are as follows: Lower Guard Chamber and Grand Staircase, Upper Guard Chamber, Chapel, Ante Library, Library, Saloon, Drawing Room, Dining Room, and China Gallery.