The Banqueting House we see today had two predecessors. Elizabeth I was wooed by her noble suitors in the first building, meant to be temporary, which was made of bricks, timber and canvas, with a ceiling beautifully painted with vines and fruit – all symbols of the hoped-for fecundity of a marriage which never materialised.
Despite its flimsy construction, this old banqueting house was much in demand from Elizabeth’s successor as a venue for masques. James I and his wife Anne of Denmark loved this form of extravagant performance. Eventually James commissioned a more substantial hall from architect Robert Stickells. However, the King was disappointed with the building. Although very ornate, a forest of columns supporting a gallery blocked much of the audiences’ view.
His spectacular Banqueting House building was completed in 1622, to the King’s great delight and the astonishment of all who surveyed it.