Saturday, March 14, 2009

Royal Palm Beach

I recently returned from a successful short tour of Florida with the Dallas Symphony. On our free day, March 11, I had some time to explore Palm Beach. Most monarchists, unlike most people, would probably associate Palm Beach with the mayoral "reign" of Paul Ilyinsky (1928-2004), son of Rasputin assassin Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (1891-1942) and the only "Romanov" (albeit a morganatic one) to hold political power anywhere since the Revolution. I was not able to learn in advance of any particular sites with connections to Ilyinsky I could visit while there, though I realized after my return to Dallas that the Episcopal church I had stopped at, Bethesda-by-the-Sea, is where his funeral was held in 2004.

However, I did visit two attractions which were not without their royal connections. The first of these was the 1896 luxury hotel The Breakers, located right on the Atlantic Ocean, whose elaborate Renaissance-inspired decor (one could almost imagine one had left the USA behind for Italy or Spain) includes a 16th century tapestry depicting the 1556 abdication of Emperor Charles V as well as a marvelous "Gold Room" full of portraits of such figures as Charles V, Ferdinand & Isabella, Margaret of Parma, and Catherine de Medici.

The second was the 1902 "Whitehall" mansion, now the Flagler Museum, a supreme example of "Gilded Age" luxury, some of the details of which pay tribute to icons of style such as Marie Antoinette and Louis XV. In the courtyard were two stones from a ruined 18th century Spanish fort inscribed with the name and heraldry of King Fernando VI.

I would highly recommend both of these attractions to anyone visiting Palm Beach, especially monarchists...but allow more time than I did, and if you take pictures of the Gold Room, copy down the key on the wall so that you can identify more than a few of the historical figures depicted!

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