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Buckingham Palace

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Title: Buckingham Palace  
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Subject: List of Privy Council Orders, Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, List of tourist attractions in the City of Westminster, Palace of Westminster
Collection: Buckingham Palace, Edward Blore Buildings, Edwardian Architecture in London, Georgian Architecture in London, Grade I Listed Buildings in the City of Westminster, Grade I Listed Palaces, Historic House Museums in London, Houses Completed in 1703, Houses Completed in 1762, John Nash Buildings, Museums in the City of Westminster, Neoclassical Architecture in England, Neoclassical Palaces, Palaces in London, Royal Buildings in London, Royal Residences in London, Terminating Vistas, Visitor Attractions in the City of Westminster
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Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace. This is the principal façade, the East Front; originally constructed by Edward Blore and completed in 1850. It acquired its present appearance following a remodelling, in 1913, by Sir Aston Webb.
Queen Victoria, the first monarch to reside at Buckingham Palace, moved into the newly completed palace upon her accession in 1837.

Buckingham Palace (

  • Buckingham Palace, Official website of the British monarchy
  • Directory of Buckingham Palace's rooms for virtual navigation (high and low resolution)
  • Geographic data related to Buckingham Palace at OpenStreetMap
  • Buckingham Palace entry from The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses
  • Account of Buckingham Palace, with prints of Arlington House and Buckingham House, from Edward Walford, Old and New London, Vol 4, Chap. VI (1878)
  • Account of the acquisition of the Manor of Ebury, from F.H.W. Sheppard (ed.), Survey of London, vol. 39, "The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair", part 1 (1977)

External links

  • Blaikie, Thomas (2002). You Look Awfully Like the Queen: Wit and Wisdom from the House of Windsor. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-714874-7.
  • Goring, O.G. (1937). From Goring House to Buckingham Palace. London:Ivor Nicholson & Watson.
  • Harris, John; de Bellaigue, Geoffrey; & Miller, Oliver (1968). Buckingham Palace. London: Nelson. ISBN 0-17-141011-4.
  • Healey, Edma (1997). The Queen's House: A Social History of Buckingham Palace. London: Penguin Group. ISBN 0-7181-4089-3.
  • Hedley, Olwen (1971) The Pictorial History of Buckingham Palace. Pitkin, ISBN 0-85372-086-X.
  • Nash, Roy (1980). Buckingham Palace: The Place and the People. London: Macdonald Futura. ISBN 0-354-04529-6.
  • Robinson, John Martin (1999). Buckingham Palace. Published by The Royal Collection, St. James's Palace, London ISBN 1-902163-36-2.
  • Williams, Neville (1971). Royal Homes. Lutterworth Press. ISBN 0-7188-0803-7.
  • Woodham-Smith, Cecil (1973). Queen Victoria (vol 1) Hamish Hamilton Ltd.
  • Wright, Patricia (1999; first published 1996). The Strange History of Buckingham Palace. Stroud, Gloucs.: Sutton Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7509-1283-9.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ By tradition, the British Royal Court is still officially resident at St. James's Palace, which means that, while foreign ambassadors assuming their new position are received by the British sovereign at Buckingham Palace, they are accredited to the "Court of St. James's Palace". This anomaly continues for the sake of tradition as Buckingham Palace is to all intents and purposes the official residence. See History of St James's Palace (Official website of the British Monarchy).
  4. ^ a b Robinson, p. 14
  5. ^ Goring, p.15
  6. ^ The topography of the site and its ownership are dealt with in Wright, chapters 1–4
  7. ^ Goring, p.28
  8. ^ Goring, p.18
  9. ^ The Acquisition of the Estate, Survey of London: volume 39: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History) (1977), pp. 1–5. Retrieved 3 February 2009
  10. ^ Wright, pp. 76–8
  11. ^ Goring, pp. 31&36
  12. ^ Audley and Davies were key figures in the development of Ebury Manor and also the Grosvenor Estate (see Dukes of Westminster), which still exists today. (They are remembered in the streetnames North Audley Street, South Audley Street, and Davies Street, all in Mayfair.)
  13. ^ Wright, p. 83
  14. ^ Goring, Chapter V
  15. ^ a b c Harris, p.21
  16. ^ Wright, p. 96
  17. ^ Goring, p.62
  18. ^ Goring, p.58
  19. ^ Harris, p.22
  20. ^ Nash, p. 18, although the purchase price is given by Wright p. 142 as £28,000
  21. ^ In 1775, an Act of Parliament settled the property on Queen Charlotte, in exchange for her rights to Somerset House (see Old and New London (below)
  22. ^ Westminster: Buckingham Palace, Old and New London: Volume 4 (1878), pp. 61–74. Date accessed: 3 February 2009. The tradition persists of foreign ambassadors being formally accredited to "the Court of St. James's", even though it is at Buckingham Palace that they present their credentials and staff to the Queen upon their appointment.
  23. ^ Harris, p.24
  24. ^ Harris, pp.30–31
  25. ^ Jones, p. 42
  26. ^ Harris, p.33
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Hedley, p. 10
  31. ^ a b Woodham-Smith, p. 249
  32. ^ Harris, de Bellaigue & Miller, p. 33
  33. ^ Holland & Hannen and Cubitts – The Inception and Development of a Great Building Firm, published 1920, p. 35
  34. ^ Hedley, p. 19
  35. ^ Healey, pp.137–138
  36. ^ Healey, p.122
  37. ^ Allen's Indian Mail, and Register of British and Foreign India, China, and all parts of the East. 1850, Vol. VIII. Google Book link
  38. ^ John Gardiner The Victorians: An Age in Retrospect, London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007 [2002], p.142
  39. ^ a b c Robinson, p. 9
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b Harris, p.41
  42. ^ Harris, pp.78–79
  43. ^ Healey, pp.387–388
  44. ^ Harris, p.81
  45. ^ Harris, p.40
  46. ^ Healey, pp.159–160
  47. ^ Harris, de Bellaigue & Miller, p. 93
  48. ^ Harris, de Bellaigue & Miller, p. 91
  49. ^ Jones, p. 43
  50. ^ a b Harris, p.82.
  51. ^ a b c d e
  52. ^ Healey, p.233, quoting The Memoirs of Mabell, Countess of Airlie, edited and arranged by Jennifer Ellis, London:Hutchinson, 1962.
  53. ^ Peacocke, pp. 178–179, 244–247
  54. ^ Peacocke, pp. 264–265
  55. ^
  56. ^ Princess Margaret is reputed to have remarked of the débutante presentations: "We had to put a stop to it, every tart in London was getting in." See Blaikie, Thomas (2002). You look awfully like the Queen: Wit and Wisdom from the House of Windsor. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-714874-7
  57. ^ Harris, p.72
  58. ^ a b Healey, p.364
  59. ^ Healey, p.362
  60. ^ Hedley, p. 16
  61. ^ Healey, pp. 363–365
  62. ^ Robinson, p. 49
  63. ^ The Guests
  64. ^ Dickens, Charles (5 July 1885) "The boy Jones", All the Year Round, pp. 234–37.
  65. ^ God Save the Queen, Fast Spencer Davidson and Arthur White Time Magazine 26 July 1982 Retrieved 3 February 2009
  66. ^ Buckingham Palace at the Wayback Machine (archived May 2, 2008) (Museum of London.) Retrieved 2 May 2009.
  67. ^ Gold State Coach at the Royal Collection.
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^ Robinson (Page 9) asserts that the decorations, including plaster swags and other decorative motifs, are "finicky" and "at odds with Nash's original detailing".
  71. ^ Harris, p.34
  72. ^ Healey, p.185
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^ Healey pp. 221–222
  76. ^ Harris, p.63
  77. ^ Robinson, p. 11
  78. ^
  79. ^ Rose, pp. 178–179
  80. ^
  81. ^ The Sunday Graphic, 18 September 1939, p. 1
  82. ^ Price, Alfred. The Battle of Britain Day, Greenhill Books, London, 1990, pp. 49–50 and Stephen Bungay, The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain. Aurum Press, London, 2000, p. 325.
  83. ^
  84. ^ 1945: Rejoicing at end of war in Europe (BBC On this day.) Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  85. ^
  86. ^ There is no reliable public information about the formal ownership of Windsor castle and Buckingham palace. The official Internet site of the Royal Family only says they are "held in trust". They are however not among properties listed to belong to the Queen personally or to the Crown Estate. State ownership is widely assumed.
  87. ^
  88. ^


See also

Thus, Buckingham Palace is a symbol and home of the British monarchy, an art gallery and tourist attraction. Behind the gilded railings and gates which were completed by the Bromsgrove Guild in 1911[39] and Webb's famous façade, which has been described in a book published by the Royal Collection as looking "like everybody's idea of a palace";[39] is not only the weekday home of the Queen and Prince Philip but also the London residence of the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. The palace also houses the offices of the Queen, Prince Philip, Duke of York, Earl and Countess of Wessex, Princess Royal, and Princess Alexandra, and is the workplace of 800 people.[88]

In May 2009, in response to a request from the Queen to the government for money to carry out a backlog of repairs to the palace, a group of MPs on the Public Accounts Committee proposed that in return for the extra £4 million in annual funds requested, the palace be open to the public more than the 60 days it is now, as well as when members of the royal family are in residence.[87]

The palace, like Windsor Castle, is owned by the British state. It is not the monarch's personal property, unlike Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle.[86] Many of the contents from Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace and St. James's Palace are known collectively as the Royal Collection; owned by the Sovereign, they can, on occasions, be viewed by the public at the Queen's Gallery, near the Royal Mews. Unlike the palace and the castle, the gallery is open continually and displays a changing selection of items from the collection. The rooms containing the Queen's Gallery are on the site of the former chapel, which was damaged by one of the seven bombs to fall on the palace during World War II. The palace's state rooms have been open to the public during August and September since 1993. The money raised in entry fees was originally put towards the rebuilding of Windsor Castle following the 1992 fire which destroyed many of its state rooms.

Palace gate with royal coat of arms

Every year some 50,000 invited guests are entertained at garden parties, receptions, audiences and banquets. The Garden Parties, usually three, are held in the summer, usually in July. The Forecourt of Buckingham Palace is used for Changing of the Guard, a major ceremony and tourist attraction (daily during the summer months; every other day during the winter).

The Queen's Gallery, built on the site of the former chapel, is open continually and displays a changing selection of items from the Royal Collection

21st century: Royal use and public access

On VE Day—8 May 1945—the palace was the centre of British celebrations. The King, Queen, Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen), and Princess Margaret appeared on the balcony, with the palace's blacked-out windows behind them, to the cheers from a vast crowd in the Mall.[84] The damaged Palace was carefully restored after the War by John Mowlem & Co.[85]

On 15 September 1940, known as the Battle of Britain Day, an RAF pilot, Ray Holmes of No. 504 Squadron RAF rammed a German bomber he believed was going to bomb the Palace. Holmes had run out of ammunition and made the quick choice to ram it. Holmes bailed out. Both aircraft crashed. In fact the Dornier Do 17 bomber was empty. It had already been damaged, two of its crew had been killed and the remainder bailed out. Its pilot, Feldwebel Robert Zehbe, landed only to die later of wounds suffered during the attack. During the Dornier's descent, it somehow unloaded its bombs, one of which hit the Palace. It then crashed into the forecourt of London Victoria station.[82] The bomber's engine was later exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in London. The British pilot became a King's Messenger following the war, and died at the age of 90 in 2005.[83]

On the balcony, left to right: Princess Margaret, 8 May 1945

The palace fared worse during World War II; it was bombed no less than seven times, the most serious and publicised of which resulted in the destruction of the palace chapel in 1940. Coverage of this event was played in cinemas all over the UK to show the common suffering of rich and poor. One bomb fell in the palace quadrangle while King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were in residence, and many windows were blown in and the chapel destroyed.[80] War-time coverage of such incidents was severely restricted, however. The King and Queen were filmed inspecting their bombed home, the smiling Queen, as always, immaculately dressed in a hat and matching coat seemingly unbothered by the damage around her. It was at this time the Queen famously declared: "I'm glad we have been bombed. Now I can look the East End in the face". The royal family were seen as sharing their subjects' hardship, as The Sunday Graphic reported:

[79] To the King's later regret, [78]. The King imposed rationing at the palace, much to the dismay of his guests and situ During World War I the palace, then the home of King George V and Queen Mary, escaped unscathed. Its more valuable contents were evacuated to Windsor but the royal family remained

A book published in 1999 by the Royal Collection Department reported that the palace contained 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms.[77] This is actually small in comparison to the Russian imperial palaces in Saint Petersburg and at Tsarskoe Selo, the Papal Palace in Rome, the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Stockholm Palace, or indeed the former Palace of Whitehall, and tiny compared to the Forbidden City and Potala Palace. A minor change was made in 1938, in which the north-west pavilion, designed by Nash as a conservatory and altered in 1911–13 to a racquets court, was converted into a swimming pool.

The Victoria Memorial was created by sculptor Sir Thomas Brock in 1911 and erected in front of the main gates at Buckingham Palace on a surround constructed by architect Sir Aston Webb.

The last major building work took place during the reign of Queen Mary was a connoisseur of the arts, and took a keen interest in the Royal Collection of furniture and art, both restoring and adding to it. Queen Mary also had many new fixtures and fittings installed, such as the pair of marble Empire-style chimneypieces by Benjamin Vulliamy, dating from 1810, which the Queen had installed in the ground floor Bow Room, the huge low room at the centre of the garden façade. Queen Mary was also responsible for the decoration of the Blue Drawing Room.[75] This room, 69 feet (21 metres) long, previously known as the South Drawing Room, has a ceiling designed specially by Nash, coffered with huge gilt console brackets.[76]

In 1901 the accession of Edward VII saw new life breathed into the palace. The new King and his wife Queen Alexandra had always been at the forefront of London high society, and their friends, known as "the Marlborough House Set", were considered to be the most eminent and fashionable of the age. Buckingham Palace—the Ballroom, Grand Entrance, Marble Hall, Grand Staircase, vestibules and galleries redecorated in the Belle époque cream and gold colour scheme they retain today—once again became a setting for entertaining on a majestic scale but leaving some to feel King Edward's heavy redecorations were at odds with Nash's original work.[70]

Visiting heads of state are received by the Queen at either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. Here, United States President Barack Obama and his wife are greeted in the first-floor audience chamber in the private apartments in the north wing.

Modern history

The Mall, a ceremonial approach route to the palace, was designed by Sir Aston Webb and completed in 1911 as part of a grand memorial to Queen Victoria. It extends from Admiralty Arch, across St James's Park to the Victoria Memorial. This route is used by the cavalcades and motorcades of visiting heads of state, and by the royal family on state occasions such as the annual Trooping the Colour.[69]

Adjacent to the palace is the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[67] Also housed in the mews are the carriage horses used in royal ceremonial processions.[68]

At the rear of the palace is the large and park-like garden, which together with its lake is the largest private garden in London.[66] Here the Queen hosts her annual garden parties each summer, and also holds large functions to celebrate royal milestones, such as jubilees. It covers 40 acres (16 ha), and includes a helicopter landing area, a lake, and a tennis court.[51]

The west façade of Buckingham Palace, faced in Bath stone, seen from the palace gardens

The garden, the Royal Mews and the Mall

The boy Jones was an intruder who gained entry to the palace on three occasions between 1838 and 1841 as recorded by Charles Dickens some 40 years later.[64] In 1982, Michael Fagan was able to break into the palace twice, and conversed with the Queen on one of these occasions.[65] Reportedly, Her Majesty maintained her composure while the palace police were en route and Fagan made no threatening motions towards the Queen.

Uninvited guests

The largest functions of the year are the Queen's Garden Parties for up to 8,000 invitees in the Garden.[63]

Since the bombing of the palace chapel in World War II, royal christenings have sometimes taken place in the Music Room. The Queen's first three children were all baptised here.[62]

Smaller ceremonies such as the reception of new ambassadors take place in the "1844 Room". Here too the Queen holds small lunch parties, and often meetings of the Privy Council. Larger lunch parties often take place in the curved and domed Music Room, or the State Dining Room. On all formal occasions the ceremonies are attended by the Yeomen of the Guard in their historic uniforms, and other officers of the court such as the Lord Chamberlain.[61]

Other ceremonies and functions

State banquets also take place in the Ballroom; these formal dinners take place on the first evening of a state visit by a visiting Head of State.[58] On these occasions, 150 or more guests in formal "white tie and decorations", including tiaras for women, may dine off gold plate. The largest and most formal reception at Buckingham Palace takes place every November, when the Queen entertains members of the foreign diplomatic corps resident in London.[59] On this occasion, all the state rooms are in use, as the royal family proceed through them[60] beginning through the great north doors of the Picture Gallery. As Nash had envisaged, all the large, double-mirrored doors stand open, reflecting the numerous crystal chandeliers and sconces, causing a deliberate optical illusion of space and light.

State banquets

Investitures, which include the conferring of knighthoods by dubbing with a sword, and other awards take place in the palace's Ballroom, built in 1854. At 36.6 m (120 ft) long, 18 m (59 ft) wide and 13.5 m (44 ft) high[51] (120' × 59' × 44' 3.5"), it is the largest room in the palace. It has replaced the throne room in importance and use. During investitures, the Queen stands on the throne dais beneath a giant, domed velvet canopy, which is known as a shamiana or a baldachin and was used at the coronation Durbar, Delhi in 1911.[57] A military band plays in the musicians' gallery as award recipients approach the Queen and receive their honours, watched by their families and friends.[58]


In 1958, the Queen abolished the presentation parties for débutantes,[55] replacing them with Garden Parties.[56]

Court presentations of aristocratic young ladies to the monarch took place at the palace from the reign of Edward VII. These young women were known as débutantes, and the occasion—termed their "coming out"—represented their first entrée into society. Débutantes wore full court dress, with three tall ostrich feathers in their hair. They entered, curtsied, performed a choreographed backwards walk and a further curtsy, while manoeuvring a dress train of prescribed length. (The ceremony, known as an evening court, corresponded to the "court drawing rooms" of Victoria's reign.)[53] After World War II, the ceremony was replaced by less formal afternoon receptions, usually without choreographed curtsies and court dress.[54]

Presentation of debutantes

Today, there is no official dress code.[51] Most men invited to Buckingham Palace in the daytime choose to wear service uniform or lounge suits;[51] a minority wear morning coats, and in the evening, depending on the formality of the occasion, black tie or white tie.

The dress code governing formal Queen Elizabeth, allowed the hemline of daytime skirts to rise.

Formerly, men not wearing military uniform would wear knee breeches of an 18th-century design. Women's evening dress included obligatory trains and tiaras or feathers in their hair (or both).

Court dress

Guests ascending the Grand Staircase in 1870.
The Ballroom is the largest room at Buckingham Palace. It was added by Queen Victoria and is used for ceremonies such as investitures and state banquets. This painting dates from 1856. The polychrome colour scheme has been replaced by mainly white decoration with gold details and red upholstery.

Court ceremonies

When paying a state visit to Britain, foreign heads of state are usually entertained by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. They are allocated a large suite of rooms known as the Belgian Suite, situated at the foot of the Minister's Staircase, on the ground floor of the North-facing Garden Wing. The rooms of the suite are linked by narrow corridors, one given extra height and perspective by saucer domes designed by Nash in the style of Soane.[50] A second corridor in the suite has Gothic influenced cross over vaulting.[50] The Belgian Rooms themselves were decorated in their present style and named after Prince Albert's uncle Léopold I, first King of the Belgians. In 1936, the suite briefly became the private apartments of the palace when they were occupied by King Edward VIII.[51]

The original early 19th-century interior designs, many of which still survive, included widespread use of brightly coloured scagliola and blue and pink lapis, on the advice of Sir Charles Long. King Edward VII oversaw a partial redecoration in a Belle époque cream and gold colour scheme.[49]

At the centre of this wing is the famous balcony, with the Centre Room behind its glass doors. This is a Chinese-style saloon enhanced by Queen Mary, who, working with the designer Sir Charles Allom, created a more "binding"[47] Chinese theme in the late 1920s, although the lacquer doors were brought from Brighton in 1873. Running the length of the piano nobile of the east wing is the great gallery, modestly known as the Principal Corridor, which runs the length of the eastern side of the quadrangle.[48] It has mirrored doors, and mirrored cross walls reflecting porcelain pagodas and other oriental furniture from Brighton. The Chinese Luncheon Room and Yellow Drawing Room are situated at each end of this gallery, with the Centre Room obviously placed in the centre.

Between 1847 and 1850, when Blore was building the new east wing, the Brighton Pavilion was once again plundered of its fittings. As a result, many of the rooms in the new wing have a distinctly oriental atmosphere. The red and blue Chinese Luncheon Room is made up from parts of the Brighton Banqueting and Music Rooms, but has a chimney piece designed by W.M. Feetham. The Yellow Drawing Room has wallpaper which had been supplied in 1817 for the Brighton Saloon, and the chimney piece in this room is a European vision of what the Chinese equivalent would look like, complete with nodding mandarins in niches and fearsome winged dragons, designed by Robert Jones.[46]

Directly underneath the State Apartments is a suite of slightly less grand rooms known as the semi-state apartments. Opening from the Marble Hall, these rooms are used for less formal entertaining, such as luncheon parties and private audiences. Some of the rooms are named and decorated for particular visitors, such as the 1844 Room, which was decorated in that year for the State visit of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, and, on the other side of the Bow Room, the 1855 Room, in honour of the visit of Emperor Napoleon III of France.[44] At the centre of this suite is the Bow Room, through which thousands of guests pass annually to the Queen's Garden Parties in the Gardens beyond.[45] The Queen uses privately a smaller suite of rooms in the North wing.

The Palace measures 108 metres (354 ft) by 120 metres (390 ft), is 24 metres (79 ft) high and contains over 77,000 m2 (830,000 sq ft) of floorspace.[40] The principal rooms of the palace are contained on the piano nobile behind the west-facing garden façade at the rear of the palace. The centre of this ornate suite of state rooms is the Music Room, its large bow the dominant feature of the façade. Flanking the Music Room are the Blue and the White Drawing Rooms. At the centre of the suite, serving as a corridor to link the state rooms, is the Picture Gallery, which is top-lit and 55 yards (50 m) long.[41] The Gallery is hung with numerous works including some by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Rubens and Vermeer;[42][43] other rooms leading from the Picture Gallery are the Throne Room and the Green Drawing Room. The Green Drawing Room serves as a huge anteroom to the Throne Room, and is part of the ceremonial route to the throne from the Guard Room at the top of the Grand Staircase.[41] The Guard Room contains white marble statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Roman costume, set in a tribune lined with tapestries. These very formal rooms are used only for ceremonial and official entertaining, but are open to the public every summer.

The Duke of Edinburgh, photographed in the Chinese Dining Room, beside one of the many ornate chinoiserie fireplaces brought from the Brighton Pavilion.
Piano nobile of Buckingham Palace. A: State Dining Room; B: Blue Drawing Room; C: Music Room; D: White Drawing Room; E: Royal Closet; F: Throne Room; G: Green Drawing Room; H: Cross Gallery; J: Ball Room; K: East Gallery; L: Yellow Drawing Room; M: Centre/Balcony Room; N: Chinese Luncheon Room; O: Principal Corridor; P: Private Apartments; Q: Service Areas; W: The Grand staircase. On the ground floor: R: Ambassador's Entrance; T: Grand Entrance. The areas defined by shaded walls represent lower minor wings. Note: This is an unscaled sketch plan for reference only. Proportions of some rooms may slightly differ in reality.


Widowed in 1861, the grief-stricken Queen withdrew from public life and left Buckingham Palace to live at Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, and Osborne House. For many years the palace was seldom used, and even neglected. In 1864 a note was found pinned to the fence of Buckingham Palace saying: "These commanding premises to be let or sold, in consequence of the late occupant's declining business."[38] Eventually, public opinion forced her to return to London, though even then she preferred to live elsewhere whenever possible. Court functions were still held at Windsor Castle rather than at the palace, presided over by the sombre Queen habitually dressed in mourning black while Buckingham Palace remained shuttered for most of the year.[39]

Before Prince Albert's death, the palace was frequently the scene of musical entertainments,[34] and the greatest contemporary musicians entertained at Buckingham Palace. The composer Felix Mendelssohn is known to have played there on three occasions.[35] Johann Strauss II and his orchestra played there when in England.[36] Strauss's "Alice Polka" was first performed at the palace in 1849 in honour of the Queen's daughter, Princess Alice.[37] Under Victoria, Buckingham Palace was frequently the scene of lavish costume balls, in addition to the routine royal ceremonies, investitures and presentations.

By 1847, the couple had found the palace too small for court life and their growing family,[32] and consequently the new wing, designed by Edward Blore, was built by Thomas Cubitt,[33] enclosing the central quadrangle. The large East Front facing The Mall is today the "public face" of Buckingham Palace and contains the balcony from which the royal family acknowledge the crowds on momentous occasions and annually after Trooping the Colour. The ballroom wing and a further suite of state rooms were also built in this period, designed by Nash's student Sir James Pennethorne.

Buckingham Palace finally became the principal royal residence in 1837, on the accession of household offices and staff, and with the design faults of the palace. The problems were all rectified by the close of 1840. However, the builders were to return within the decade.

Home of the monarch

Remodelling of the structure began in 1762.[23] After his accession to the throne in 1820, King William IV hired Edward Blore to finish the work.[26][27] At one stage, William considered converting the palace into the new Houses of Parliament, after the destruction of the existing namesake by fire in 1834.[28]

Under the new crown ownership, the building was originally intended as a private retreat for King George III's wife, Queen Charlotte, and was accordingly known as The Queen's House[21]—14 of their 15 children were born there. St. James's Palace, however, remained the official and ceremonial royal residence.[22]

From Queen's House to palace

Like his grandfather, George II, George III refused to sell the mulberry garden interest, so that Sheffield had been unable to purchase the full freehold of the site. When Sheffield sold Buckingham House, it came into the hands of the royal family.

The house which forms the architectural core of the present palace was built for the first £21,000.[20]

The palace c. 1837, depicting the Marble Arch, which served as the ceremonial entrance to the Palace precincts. It was moved to make way for the east wing, built in 1847, which enclosed the quadrangle.

Buckingham House

The improvident Goring defaulted on his rents;[18] Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington obtained the mansion and was occupying it, now known as Goring House, when it burned down in 1674.[15] Arlington House rose on the site—the southern wing of today's palace—the next year,[15] and its freehold was bought in 1702.

Arlington House

[17] The next owner was [13] Possibly the first house erected within the site was that of a Sir William Blake, around 1624.

Goring House

First houses on the site

Various owners leased it from royal landlords and the freehold was the subject of frenzied speculation during the 17th century. By then, the old village of Eye Cross had long since fallen into decay, and the area was mostly wasteland.[10] Needing money, James I sold off part of the Crown freehold but retained part of the site on which he established a 4-acre (16,000 m2) mulberry garden for the production of silk. (This is at the northwest corner of today's palace.)[11] Clement Walker in Anarchia Anglicana (1649) refers to "new-erected sodoms and spintries at the Mulberry Garden at S. James's"; this suggests it may have been a place of debauchery. Eventually, in the late 17th century, the freehold was inherited from the property tycoon Sir Hugh Audley by the great heiress Mary Davies.[12]

In 1531, King Henry VIII acquired the Hospital of St James (later St. James's Palace)[7] from Eton College, and in 1536 he took the Manor of Ebury from Westminster Abbey.[8] These transfers brought the site of Buckingham Palace back into royal hands for the first time since William the Conqueror had given it away almost 500 years earlier.[9]

In the Middle Ages, the site of the future palace formed part of the Manor of Ebury (also called Eia). The marshy ground was watered by the river Tyburn, which still flows below the courtyard and south wing of the palace.[5] Where the river was fordable (at Cow Ford), the village of Eye Cross grew. Ownership of the site changed hands many times; owners included Edward the Confessor and his queen consort Edith of Wessex in late Saxon times, and, after the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror. William gave the site to Geoffrey de Mandeville, who bequeathed it to the monks of Westminster Abbey.[6]


Buckingham House painted by an unknown English artist c. 1800.
Buckingham House, c. 1710, was designed by William Winde for the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby. This façade evolved into today's Grand Entrance on the west (inner) side of the quadrangle, with the Green Drawing Room above.



  • History 1
    • Site 1.1
    • First houses on the site 1.2
      • Goring House 1.2.1
      • Arlington House 1.2.2
      • Buckingham House 1.2.3
    • From Queen's House to palace 1.3
  • Home of the monarch 2
    • Interior 2.1
    • Court ceremonies 2.2
      • Court dress 2.2.1
      • Presentation of debutantes 2.2.2
      • Investitures 2.2.3
      • State banquets 2.2.4
      • Other ceremonies and functions 2.2.5
      • Uninvited guests 2.2.6
    • The garden, the Royal Mews and the Mall 2.3
  • Modern history 3
    • 21st century: Royal use and public access 3.1
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

The state rooms, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public each year for most of August and September, as part of the Palace's Summer Opening.

The original early 19th-century interior designs, many of which still survive, included widespread use of brightly coloured scagliola and blue and pink lapis, on the advice of Sir Charles Long. King Edward VII oversaw a partial redecoration in a Belle Époque cream and gold colour scheme. Many smaller reception rooms are furnished in the Chinese regency style with furniture and fittings brought from the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and from Carlton House. The Buckingham Palace Garden is the largest private garden in London.

. Royal Collection was built on the site and opened to the public in 1962 to exhibit works of art from the Queen's Gallery in 1837. The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the East front, which contains the well-known balcony on which the royal family traditionally congregates to greet crowds outside. However, the palace chapel was destroyed by a German bomb during World War II; the Queen Victoria and Edward Blore, who formed three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of John Nash and was known as "The Queen's House". During the 19th century it was enlarged, principally by architects Queen Charlotte as a private residence for [4]

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