At the beginning of 2011, King Boris and Queen Giovanna Royal Heritage Fund assigned their team of experts and restorers, expanded with professionals in architectural and historical heritage protection, to prepare a thorough analysis of the condition of the main palace building in Vrana, the New Palace. Simultaneously, a successive restoration of individual rooms on the ground floor began: the Central Lobby, the Antechamber, the Orléans Hall, the study of King Boris III, and so on, after the newly drafted restoration plan.
However, the progress of the restoration work as a whole has since been very difficult and practically limited to the ground floor, due to some circumstances and obstacles – starting with the moratorium on the disposition and uptake of the Royal Family’s private property, adopted by the National Assembly in 2009, in full contradiction to the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria, and coming to observe how the state, in the person of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, is suing to nationalize the private home of three Bulgarian kings, for the second time after the Confiscation Act of 1947.
In these nearly ten years, certain media and political circles have dishonestly used the topic of the Royal Family’s personal property for selfish purposes, with the methods of propaganda, the substitution of historical facts and documents, and outright untruths. Nevertheless, the Royal Family, through the King Boris and Queen Giovanna Fund – with the means at their disposal and within the scale allowed by the restrictions – tirelessly and consistently continues to take care of and improve the palace. And this is done under up-to-date demands to institutes dedicated to the history of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom, which never existed before.
The Vrana Palace Complex consists of three interconnected buildings – the Older Palace (1904), the New Palace (1909-1912), and a warm connection between them with a kitchen and utility building. The palace is located in the heart of the palace park, established by King Ferdinand on agricultural terrain, which he bought from residents of the villages Gherman, Lozen, and Kazichene. Its full design and completion are done by 1939. The building of the New Palace is of elongated rectangular shape, with the two long facades oriented, respectively, northwest – the facade with the main entrance, and southeast – the facade facing the afforested park environment.
VOLUME AND SPACE SOLUTION
The building is a symmetrical composition, as the symmetry is broken only in the northeastern facade, through the situated tower with a dome in neo-Byzantine style and ornamentation. The palace building is a combination of Baroque, Secession, and Renaissance elements that give it a unique appearace, thanks to the senses, demands, and views of King Ferdinand embodied in the work by the architectural genius of Nikola Lazarov.
The building consists of four levels as follows:
- Basement – partially underground
- Ground floor – with the main entrance from the northwest (photo 1)
- First floor – main residential floor for the Royal Family (photo 2)
- Second floor – attic with partially incomplete height
The socialists authorities used the building until the mid-1970s. Then it was closed, and the repair and maintenance activities ceased, which led to its final depreciation and compromise. After a thorough inspection and survey of the existing condition, we came to the following conclusions:
The overall condition is outworn to a high degree. The wooden joinery and the plasters are exposed to risk by many leaks noticed from the gutters, which enter the stoneware pipes and flow down to the central piping system. All types of installations mounted in the last 100 years are in poor condition, and their replacement and renovation are necessary, where permissible.
2. GROUND FLOOR
This floor has been significantly restored and is the only one that is fully habitable. Based on all available documents – both from the Royal Family and Arch. Nikola Lazarov’s archives, the Fund’s Restoration Council proposed a comprehensive project of bringing the existing premises to the appearance, interior, and arrangement, as close as possible to that of the 1912-1946 period.
To this end, after significant restoration work on the palace interior, the rooms today exhibit authentic furniture, historical objects, paintings, and personal belongings of the Royal Family members, which have been preserved in the homes of King Ferdinand in Coburg, Germany, Queen Giovanna in Estoril, Portugal, and King Simeon in Madrid, Spain, during the Royal Family’s exile. To a great extent, the memories of Princess Maria Louisa, Lalka Genova, daughter of the Commander of the armoured regiment Colonel Geno Genov, of Mariana Sarafova, niece of the court lady Anna Sarafova, of Vera Vasileva and Radka Nikovska, personal maids of H. M. Queen Giovanna, as well as the testimonies of Eng. Todor Kolarov, manager of the palace from the time of socialism, helped to achieve the purpose. All mentioned are immediate direct memories of people who lived in different periods in the building.