The Palace started out as a fortress in the mid-13th century (although it has been suggested that some fortifications had existed on the site since the 10th century) and developed into a palace known as the Tre Kronor ("Three Crowns") taking on Baroque style in the 17th century. Much of the castle and palace, with the exception of the North Wing was destroyed by fire in 1697, resulting in the construction of the existing palace during the 18th century. The construction took considerably longer than anticipated and it was not completed for habitation until 1754, meaning that the Royal Family were not able to move in until then.
Today it is the official residence and office of the Swedish monarch and members of the Royal Family. It also holds the offices of the Royal Court of Sweden and contains a number of museums.
Constructed of brick, the Palace is spread over of 7 floors. Each of the four façades has a specific representation, the west façade represents the king and is bordered by the wings which enclose the open space; the east façade represents the queen and faces the quay and waterfront; the southern façade represents the nation and faces the sloping area leading up from the waterfront and the northern façade represents the common royals. The length of the façade from east to west is 115 metres and from north to south 120 metres with the four wings of the building surrounding an inner courtyard. The roof is covered with copper and is surrounded by a stone balustrade which surrounds the main building.
On entering the Palace through the arch in the western façade, visitors can turn right and visit the church, where services are still held. Turning left will take them to the State Room. The Hall of State was used as the House of Parliament until 1866. This room was used to show the televised opening of parliament until 1975. Today it is used for official ceremonies and contains the silver throne of Queen Kristina for her coronation in 1650, which was also used when Carl XVI Gustaf became Sweden's king in 1973. The room is used during the summer for concerts.
On the second floor of the northern wing is the Bernadotte Gallery which houses the portraits of all Swedish kings and queens since 1818. On the floor above is the ballroom which is still used for entertaining.
Also in the North wing is the Karl XI Gallery that is now used for state dinners. Adjoining that is the White Sea room which was the old ballroom. This was formed from two rooms in 1845. Next to that is the cabinet meeting room and a number of guest apartments are also to be seen. The bedroom where Gustav Ill (1771 1792) died after being shot at the Opera can also be visited.
Also contained in the Palace is the Armoury, displaying royal costumes and armour and a number of coaches, including the coronation carriage. The Treasury in the cellar vaults houses the royal regalia used for weddings, christenings and funerals. This includes the sword of state of Gustav I (1523 1560), the crown, sceptre and orb of Erik XIV (1560 1568) and a number of other crowns as well as the silver baptismal font used at royal baptisms dating from 1696.
Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in many areas of the Palace - even without flash - so the author is not able to provide a virtual tour of the palace.
It is permitted to take photographs of the Royal Guards who have been stationed at the Royal Palace since 1523 and are provided by different units from the Swedish army in rotation. Not only do they provide security but also form part of the tourist attraction especially during the changing of the guard ceremony.
Gripsholms Castle was built in 1537 by King Gustav I (1523 - 1560) on the site of a fortress which he confiscated from a monastery in 1526 as part of his confiscation of Castles and mansions. The original fortress was built around 1380 by Bo Jonsson Grip the head of the royal council. It was demolished in order that the new castle and Royal residence could be constructed and was to serve as the Royal residence until 1713 when it became a prison which it remained until 1773 when it was renovated and extended by King Gustav III (177192).
Between 1889 and 1894, the castle underwent significant restoration when many of the 17th and 18th-century alterations were removed. This work included the addition of a third floor; although the demolition of a wing that was planned did not occur.
The castle bore witness to a number of significant historical events. The castle acted as a prison both to King Eric XIVs brother John who was placed there by Eric and then to Eric himself when he was overthrown by his brother. King Gustav IV Adolf (1792 1837) and his family were imprisoned there following his removal from the throne in 1809 it was in Gripsholms castle that he signed the document of abdication. It was however, also known for happier times and was the place that Sigismund, who was to become king of Sweden and Poland was born in 1566.
Located in the small town of Mariefred 40 miles (65 kilometres) from Stockholm it is has a beautiful setting with the Mälaren lake and nature reserve. The castle is now a museum and contains works of art and furniture, decorative arts and furnishings dating back 400 years. It also houses paintings and is the site of the National Portrait Gallery, one of the oldest portrait collections in the world.