As one branch of the Guelph family could never have less than one of the other branches and the Wolfenbüttel line had just finished the Versailles-like Schloss Salzdahlum, Elector Ernst-August decided to expand his family's summer residence in Herrenhausen just outside of Hanover, however, the construction plans he had drafted himself were never carried out. His son, Elector Georg Ludwig better known as the British King George I, concentrated his efforts on creating a garden, a move that had been initiated by his mother, Electress Sophia. Between 1704 and 1706, the palace was overhauled though it's basic design features remained the same.
Originally a baroque palace, the Schloss was reconstructed in a classical design by Georg Ludwig Friedrich Laves between 1819 and 1821. The palace directly adjoints the Great Garden, which had been designed by French gardener Martin Charbonnier on the request of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and the Berggarten, Welfengarten and Georgengarten, alltogether known as Herrenhausen Gardens, are also very closeby.
When the Kingdom of Hanover was annexed by Prussia in 1866 and the Guelph rulers deposed and exiled, the Schloss remained their property. The palace and the gardens were opened to the general public after the annexation. In 1936, the family sold the Great Garden to the city of Hanover. A few years later, on July 26, 1943 to be exact, the Schloss was destroyed during bomb raids of the British Royal Air Force, even though the British Royal Family had apparently specifically requested that Herrenhausen should be spared from bombs. The palace burned down quickly as it was largely made of wood and painted plaster. Only the formal staircase as well as the orangery closeby survived the bombings.
After the war, the Guelph family sold the remains of the destroyed palace to the city of Hanover. As early as in the 1950's, there were calls for a reconstruction of the Schloss but for many years no agreement could be reached. By 1966, the extensive gardens had been restored and about ten years later, even the then prime minister of Lower Saxony suggested to rebuild the palace though nothing ever came out of it.
In 2007 it became known that the city of Hanover and the VolkswagenStiftung had started talks about a reconstruction of Schloss Herrenhausen. Two years later a lease contract for the grounds were signed and in June 2011 the the first stone was laid. The costs of the reconstruction were estimated at around 20 million euros which were paid by the VolkswagenStiftung, who have chosen to create a modern interior design behind the newly erected old facades. The palace was rebuilt in neoclassical style on the basis of the historic plans by Georg Friedrich Ludwig Laves and while the main part now houses a scientific conference center, the side-wings are home to a museum with changing exhibitions. (More on the current one in a few days...)
Good to know:Schloss Herrenhausen and the Herrenhäuser Gärten, which merit their own post and will thus be covered in an upcoming one, are accessible via a combination ticket available for eight euros per adult. The Großer Garten and Berggarten are open all year round. The museum is open every day during the summer season between 11am and 6pm. During the winter season (November 1-March 31), the museum is open Thursdays to Fridays between 11am and 4pm.