The Dining Room

Foto: Rikard Österlund

Foto: Rikard Österlund

Foto: Rikard Österlund

Simple elegance with regal gilded edges

The clatter if typewriters rises towards the recently restored stucco ceiling of what will be the royal guestroom at 27 Portland Place. Fortunately, given the unlikelihood of getting forty winks in the room that has been pressed into service as the legation office while the new annex is completed, no guest is currently expected.

However, when the blue and yellow flag is raised on the roof of the Swedish legation on 1 July 1923 to celebrate the engagement of Swedish Crown Prince Gustav Adolf and Lady Louise Mountbatten, it signals the start of what will be a hectic autumn. Royal visits will be particularly thick on the ground in early November for the London wedding, when an excited King Gustav V will naturally occupy the finest bedroom. Since then, the Swedish ambassador’s residence has functioned as a home-from-home for a number of Swedish royals.

Foto: Rikard Österlund

A royal guestroom in all its simplicity

When the building was renovated in 1921, the third of the Adam brothers’ suite of state rooms was repurposed as the residence’s finest guestroom, to be used by visiting Swedish royalty among others. The room provides a further example of how Torben Grut transformed the neoclassical Adam style. Examinations of paint samples in 2010 have shown that the gallery, Yellow Salon and the present-day dining room all once had simpler colour schemes. In 1921, the British press reported with some interest on the interior design of the royal guestroom. On the simplicity of main theme with its white walls and gilded detailing and on the contrast between the expensive brocade covering some of the furniture and the antique carved oak cabinets standing on Persian carpets, as well as one or two family heirlooms belonging to Baron Palmstierna.

“Royal Suite Preparations /.../ The keynote of the scheme is simplicity.”

The Marylebone Mercury, 6 August 1921, —It will however be some time before the first royal guest occupies the room. The old stables and outbuildings are demolished in 1921 to make way for an annex to accommodate the legation’s chancery. This project takes time and in the intervening period the guestroom serves as a temporary office for the envoy and legation staff.

The state rooms are opened up

In around 1940, during the war, a false ceiling was installed in the guestroom. This was removed in 1947 and the original stucco was restored to repair the damage caused by the fixings. The room was opened up to become part of the long suite of state rooms, together with the large gallery and the Yellow Salon. It is now the dining room.

In conjunction with Gunnar Hägglöf’s appointment as ambassador in 1948, the old ground-floor dining room was converted into a library. At the same time, the kitchen was moved from its traditional location in the basement to the first floor of the annex, directly adjacent to the new dining room. However, according to Gunnar Hägglöf’s recollections of life on Portland Place, the Hägglöfs initially dined in the room beneath the present-day dining room, directly to the left of the entrance hall (which is now part of a separate staff apartment) because, as he points out, the dining room of an English home of some social standing should always be on the ground floor. It therefore seems likely that the following anecdote took place there.

Foto: Rikard Österlund

Foto: Rikard Österlund

Table set for political controversy

Even the most trivial events may sometimes demand a little diplomacy. No sooner have Ambassador Gunnar Hägglund and his wife Anna moved into 27 Portland Place, than the case of a few missing plates threatens improbable political ramifications. With only a few crates unpacked, the couple invite

a handful of British politicians, the Crown Prince of Sweden and some of the members of a delegation from the Swedish Riksdag to dinner. In total, a dozen guests gather around the dining table on that autumn evening in 1948. Lamentably, certain members of the delegation have not been invited, a state of affairs that generates both political controversy and some level of sarcasm on the part of a smirking British press. Hägglöf claims that the number of guests was exactly that of the number of plates in the moving crate, while the snubbed delegates prefer to see it as a politically motivated slight.