Government House

Melbourne, Australia | C.1876

Photo Credit: James Wong

It is said that when Queen Victoria first reviewed the architectural plans for Government House, she objected to its design because its Ballroom (seen here) was bigger than the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace. She requested to reduce the size of the building, but by the time her message reached Melbourne – 10,497 miles away – construction had already begun.

The year was 1871, and although the Queen’s request wasn’t honored, the construction of the Government House moved forward successfully. Five years later, the Italianate-style building and official private residence of the Governor of Victoria debuted at its address next to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Although the House wasn’t constructed until the late 19th century, its origins and much of its furniture date back many decades. The land was first set aside in 1841, and its design was inspired by Queen Victoria’s summer home, Osbourne House located on the Isle of Wight. Inside, antique pieces include custom-made furniture, a Steinway grand piano, and the State Chair – made around 1859.

When the Ballroom hosted its first function – a lavish celebration for the Queen’s Birthday Ball – the elegant room was painted white. It acquired its initial distinctive hue of blue in 1889 after a redecoration was ordered to celebrate the arrival of the then Governor of Victoria and his wife.

From extravagant parties to state ceremonies, the Ballroom has been used for a number of functions over the last century and a half. During WW1, the Red Cross even took up residence in the Ballroom to use it as a depot to create and dispatch surgical gowns and bandages.

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