The Grand Babylon Hotel

19. Royalty At The Grand Babylon
THE Royal apartments at the Grand Babylon are famous in the world of hotels,
and indeed elsewhere, as being, in their own way, unsurpassed. Some of the
palaces of Germany, and in particular those of the mad Ludwig of Bavaria, may
possess rooms and saloons which outshine them in gorgeous luxury and the
mere wild fairy-like extravagance of wealth; but there is nothing, anywhere, even
on Eighth Avenue, New York, which can fairly be called more complete, more
perfect, more enticing, or - not least important - more comfortable.
The suite consists of six chambers - the ante-room, the saloon or audience
chamber, the dining-room, the yellow drawing-room (where Royalty receives its
friends), the library, and the State bedroom - to the last of which we have already
been introduced. The most important and most impressive of these is, of course,
the audience chamber, an apartment fifty feet long by forty feet broad, with a
superb outlook over the Thames, the Shot Tower, and the higher signals of the
South-Western Railway. The decoration of this room is mainly in the German
taste, since four out of every six of its Royal occupants are of Teutonic blood; but
its chief glory is its French ceiling, a masterpiece by Fragonard, taken bodily from
a certain famous palace on the Loire. The walls are of panelled oak, with an
eight-foot dado of Arras cloth imitated from unique Continental examples. The
carpet, woven in one piece, is an antique specimen of the finest Turkish work,
and it was obtained, a bargain, by Felix Babylon, from an impecunious
Roumanian Prince. The silver candelabra, now fitted with electric light, came
from the Rhine, and each had a separate history. The Royal chair - it is not
etiquette to call it a throne, though it amounts to a throne - was looted by
Napoleon from an Austrian city, and bought by Felix Babylon at the sale of a
French collector. At each corner of the room stands a gigantic grotesque vase of
German faïence of the sixteenth century. These were presented to Felix Babylon
by William the First of Germany, upon the conclusion of his first incognito visit to
London in connection with the French trouble of 1875.
There is only one picture in the audience chamber. It is a portrait of the luckless
but noble Dom Pedro, Emperor of the Brazils. Given to Felix Babylon by Dom
Pedro himself, it hangs there solitary and sublime as a reminder to Kings and
Princes that Empires may pass away and greatness fall. A certain Prince who
was occupying the suite during the Jubilee of 1887 - when the Grand Babylon
had seven persons of Royal blood under its roof - sent a curt message to Felix
that the portrait must be removed. Felix respectfully declined to remove it, and
the Prince left for another hotel, where he was robbed of two thousand pounds'
worth of jewellery. The Royal audience chamber of the Grand Babylon, if people
only knew it, is one of the sights of London, but it is never shown, and if you ask
the hotel servants about its wonders they will tell you only foolish facts
concerning it, as that the Turkey carpet costs fifty pounds to clean, and that one
of the great vases is cracked across the pedestal, owing to the rough treatment
accorded to it during a riotous game of Blind Man's Buff, played one night by four
young Princesses, a Balkan King, and his aides-de-camp.