Located on the east side of Madrid, the Buen Retiro Palace was originally an extension to a small royal lodging known as the Royal Apartment, attached to the monastery of San Jerónimo. Within a short space of time (1633-1640), the palace complex gradually took shape with the successive addition of new features: royal apartments, two open courtyards for jousting and bullfights (the Principal Court and the Large Court), the Hall of Realms, the Emperor's Court, the Servants' Court, the Casón or ballroom and the theatre, known as the Coliseo, where plays often requiring elaborate stage machinery were performed.

One of the salient aspects of the residence -which was occupied for only a few weeks of the year- was its park and gardens. The Queen's Garden, adorned with an equestrian statue of Philip IV (now in front of the Royal Palace), was particularly beautiful, as was the Large Lake, intended for boating and staging water spectacles.

The complex was destroyed during the War of Independence except for the Casón and the north wing of the Principle Court, which has since been extensively remodelled and now houses the Museo del Ejército (army museum). The gardens became what is now the Parque del Retiro, although virtually nothing is left of their original layout. There survive some exterior views of the Palace but unfortunately there are none of the interior.

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