Royal Libraries

These are libraries owned by the nobility and the government, mostly in European countries. Many are quite ornate, reflecting the historical state importance of the owners. Some are open to the public for visits.



A room in the King's private library in Windsor Castle. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images), circa 1940.



The library at Fountainebleu Castle, one of the largest royal chateaux. The impressive room was originally constructed as the Gallery of Diana by Henry IV (1553-1610) for his wife, showing the myths of the Roman goddess Diana. The gallery measures 260 feet in length and is 22 feet wide. Napoleon III made a library of this room in 1858. It houses 16,000 volumes from the library of Napoleon I.



El Escorial Library at El Escorial in Spain. El Escorial is a historical residence of the king of Spain, northwest of Madrid, and was built by Phillip II of Spain in the 1560s. It functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. The library, designed by Juan de Herrera, is located in a great hall 180 feet long by 30 feet wide by 32 feet tall, with marble floors and beautifully carved wood shelves. The frescoes on the vaulted ceilings were painted by Pellegrino Tibaldi, and depict the seven liberal arts: Rhetoric, Dialectic, Music, Grammar, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy. The library contains more than 40,000 volumes, including Philip II's personal collection.



The opulent home library at Festetics Castle in Hungary, built in 1650 and as large as Versailles. In the library is the non-royal Hungarian Prince George Festetics, Lord of Keszthely, clad in tuxedo while going over a family album in September 1938. I really love old library photos.



The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany.



This is actually a doll’s house library in 1:12 scale, but one built for royalty: The Queen’s Dollhouse, which was built for Queen Mary, consort of King George V (the first of the Windsors). Completed in 1924, it was designed by architect Edward Lutyens and built by numerous skilled craftsmen and artists, who contributed to what has become a national treasure and a valuable historical record of Edwardian upper-class daily life, with such detailed work as fully plumbed bathrooms, functional lamps and elevator, tiny wine bottles filled with real vintages and miniscule paintings by noted artists.

The library is filled with miniature beautifully leather-bound books (1.5” in height) and include a full set of Shakespeare, a Dickens novel and a number of reference books. But the greater part of the books were commissioned from 170 living writers of the time, some of whom wrote original works in their own handwriting, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and Edith Wharton. The dollhouse is now on display at Windsor Castle in England. This is so cool.



The King’s Library at Buckingham House, England, as pictured in “Pyne's Royal Residences,” published in 1819. Assembled between 1762 and 1820 by George III (1738-1820), this scholarly library of over 65,000 volumes was one of the most important collections of books and pamphlets of the Age of Enlightenment. The Library was housed at the Queen's House, where it occupied four specially built rooms, two of which are pictured here. Most of the books in the library were given to the British nation by George IV and resided first in the British Museum, and since 1997 in a special tower at the British Library. The original library rooms were remodeled during the conversion of the Queen’s House into Buckingham Palace.