History of the Palace

The name of Rundāle comes from the German place-name Ruhenthal (Valley of Peace).
The Rundāle Palace built during the 16th century was located on the northern side of the pond. It can be seen in the design of F. B. Rastrelli as a small square field with towers in the corners. Rundāle Manor was already created at the end of the 15th century. It belonged to the Grotthus family from 1505 to 1681 and the palace was mentioned in the list of Livonian castles in 1555. Facade finishing components have been found in the territory of the palace – cast fragments and fragments of coats of arms carved in stone dating to the middle of the 17th century. In 1735 Ernst Johann von Biron bought the Rundāle property for 42 000 thalers.
The old palace was completely torn down, and the stones, bricks and even the mortar were used in the construction of the new palace.
Duke Ernst Johann died in 1772, and the palace was inherited by his widow Duchess Benigna Gottlieb; during her time orchards were formed around the palace. Duke Peter did not come to Rundāle often, he mostly resided in the smaller Vircava Palace near Jelgava.
In 1795 Duke Peter gave up his throne and the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was added to the Russian Empire. Catherine II gave Rundāle Manor as a present to Count Valerian Zubov who died in 1804. During the distribution of inheritance Rundāle became the property of his brother Prince Platon Zubov, the last favourite of Catherine II.
During the time of Zubov the palace was refurnished, however the building itself remained untouched, only entrance porticos were added to the central building and several fireplaces were built inside. The palace was demolished in 1812 during the Franco-Russian War – mirrors were smashed, silk wallpaper was torn down, the library given as a present from Catherine II was destroyed.
Prince Platon Zubov died in Rundāle Palace on 7 April 1822. His widow married Count Andrey Shuvalov, and Rundāle Manor belonged to this family until the agrarian reform of the Republic of Latvia in 1920. The Shuvalovs rarely stayed in the palace, excluding the time period from 1864 to 1866 when Count Pyotr Shuvalov was the governor-general of the Baltic region and used Rundāle Palace as his official summer residence. During this time unsuccessful renovation of the palace rooms was carried out, however during the 1880’s careful renovation of the interior design was performed. At the end of the 19th century part of the palace’s furniture and works of art was taken to Saint Petersburg.
During the time from 1915 to 1918 a German army commandant’s office and an infirmary was established in the palace. In 1919 the palace was demolished by the men of the Bermondt-Avalov army.
The palace was renovated in 1923 and some of its rooms were used as the primary school of Rundāle Parish. In 1924 Rundāle Palace was handed over to the Latvian Union of Disabled Veterans, but in 1933 it was taken over by the Board of Monuments which started the renovation of the building and the restoration of some of the rooms, and the western building was constructed for the needs of the primary school. In 1938 the palace was handed over to the State Historical Museum that was planning to create a church art and decorative art museum there. The palace was also open to the public during World War II. In 1945 a grain storage was formed in the halls of the palace, and the palace was closed to the public after that.
In 1963 some of the palace’s rooms were given to the Museum of Regional Studies and Art of Bauska, but in 1972 a permanent Rundāle Palace Museum was created and its main aim was to renew the whole ensemble of the palace by mainly orientating towards the condition of the palace during the second part of the 18th century. The first restored rooms in the eastern building of the palace were opened to the public in 1981, gradually being followed by new interiors. Restoration of the palace was finished in 2014.

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