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The Tulip Staircase: A true British icon

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England is known for its elegant estates filled with elaborate decoration and opulent architectural flourishes. Despite the numerous Lords and Ladies who lived in many of these expansive country estates, no one lives larger than the nation's monarch.

The Queen has palaces and mansions throughout the country that are considered official residences, although many have been turned over to local municipalities over the past few generations to become important cultural landmarks. One such former residence is The Queen's House in Greenwich, home to one of the most impressive interior structures in the British Isles, the Tulip Staircase.

These stairs are the first geometric self-supporting spiral stairs in Britain. The structure stands thanks to the steps acting as a cantilever from the walls, with each tread resting on the one below.

However impressive the helical spiraling of the staircase, the structure itself is most noteworthy for its subtle but highly detailed balustrade, which features wrought iron balusters that curve into an intricate flower pattern. Although the staircase is named for tulips, it is commonly believed that the flowers were actually meant to be fleur-de-lis. This symbol was the emblem of the Bourbon family, of whom Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, was a member. It was Charles I, who reigned from 1625 to 1649, oversaw the construction of the mansion in its modern state.

The Tulip Staircase is also famous not just for its unique beauty, but also for being the site of an apparent string of paranormal sightings. In 1966, a former clergyman who had been taking pictures of the staircase to document the beautiful balustrade captured a figure that many claim is evidence of a ghost. The figure, which appears to be semi-translucent and robed, was apparently not visible on the stairwell before the picture was taken, long baffling paranormal investigators.

Today, it is commonly believed that the photo was staged, and that the staircase is probably not haunted by a robed entity.

 


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