Saturday, December 15, 2018

DAY 38: Welcome to the Kinsky Palace

Count Charles Kinsky, Jennie Churchill's lover and her sons' surrogate father for more than a decade, was the eldest son of a Knight of the Holy Roman Empire and a Prince of Austria-Hungary. His mother, Marie, was a Princess Lichtenstein before her marriage. Charles--or Karl, as he was called at home--grew up in a series of opulent houses. Chief among them was Palais Kinsky, No. 4 Freyung. Built in 1713, it now houses shops, an auction firm, and an open-air restaurant. But in Charles's lifetime, the Baroque town palace was a center of power and a social beacon of the Hapsburg Court.

facade of the Palais Kinsky, 4 Freyung, Wien
I take Jennie to Palais Kinsky in That Churchill Woman for a charged meeting with Charles's parents. Here's what she might have seen.

Once admitted from the street entrance by a porter, guests on foot would cross through a carriage portico topped by a clerestory-lit dome. In one direction was the entrance to the palace; in another, through an archway, a view of the interior courtyard and gardens.

Jennie would have entered the palace, and been led up a flight of stairs from the street or ground level to the first, or reception, floor.

The footman would then have led her up the prunkstiege, or grand staircase, to the full breathtaking height of the palace gallery.

Following the footman down the long carpeted passage to the double doors at its end, Jennie would have glanced upward at the painted ceiling, and perhaps compared it to the other Baroque palace she knew quite well--Blenheim. The Long Library built by the first Duke of Marlborough has a ceiling of plastered lozenges meant to be painted as Palais Kinsky's were, with boisterous Renaissance images of gods and cherubs peeking from the clouds; but the first duke had run out of money before the artists could be hired, and the elaborately framed lozenges remained blank.

When the double doors at the far end were thrown open, and her presence--Lady Randolph Churchill--announced, Jennie would have entered a reception room where Princess Marie and Prince Ferdinand would be waiting, Charles gazing into the fire.

She might not have glimpsed the soaring oval space of the Festsaal Trauung, or ballroom; in my version, Jennie's visit is in the afternoon. But here it is below--note the auction house chairs ready and waiting, and imagine instead a Viennese orchestra playing for a turn-of-the-century bouquet of waltzing couples.

And outside the protective walls of Kinsky Palace?
Late November, early dusk falling, and the winking lights of the Christkindlmarkt, the Christmas Market, spread out in the Freyung.

Old Viennese Christmas Market on the Freyung, Palais Kinsky as backdrop
For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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