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Buckingham Palace


Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. Buckingham Palace is not only the home of the Queen and Prince Philip but also the London residence of the Duke of York (Prince Andrew) and the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Prince Edward and his wife) and their daughter.

The Palace is a setting for state occasions and royal entertaining, a base for many officially visiting Heads of State, and a major tourist attraction. It has been a rallying point for the British people at times of national rejoicing, crisis or grief. «Buckingham Palace», «Buck House» or simply «The Palace» commonly refers to the source of press statements issued by the offices of the Royal Household.

Although in use for many official events and receptions held by The Queen, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to visitors every year.

The Palace is very much a working building and the centrepiece of Britain's constitutional monarchy. It houses the offices of those who support the day-to-day activities and duties of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and their immediate family.


Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of seven generations of British monarchs from the House of Hanover to the present reigning House of Windsor. The palace is now open to the public on a regular basis.

Originally known as Buckingham House, the building forming the core of today's palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 and acquired by King George III in 1762 as a private residence. It was enlarged over the next 75 years, principally by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, forming three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th century, when the large east wing facing the Mall was added, and the former State entrance, Marble Arch, was removed to its present position near Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. The east front was refaced in Portland stone in 1913 as a backdrop to the Victoria Memorial, creating the present-day public face of Buckingham Palace, including the famous balcony (picture 1, picture 2).

The Palace interior

Buckingham Palace is furnished and decorated with priceless works of art that form part of the Royal Collection, one of the major art collections in the world today. It is not an art gallery and nor is it a museum.

Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. In measurements, the building is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the central quadrangle) and 24 metres high.

Buckingham Palace is entered through the impressive Queen's Gallery Entrance Hall (Grand Hall), which has ivory painted walls with gilded coving and marble columns. Two grand broad marble staircases lead up to the State Apartments. The ornate staircase balustrade is of bronze and portaits of members of the House of Hanover line the walls, they were arranged there by Queen Victoria in 1837. Thousands of visitors each year make their way up the Grand Staircase (picture 1, picture 2, picture 3, picture 4, picture 5) to the State Rooms forming the nucleus of the working Palace and are used regularly by the Queen and members of the Royal Family for official and State entertaining.

The State Ballroom is the largest room at Buckingham Palace (36.6m long, 18m wide and 13.5m high). It was opened in 1856 with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War. It is along the East Gallery that The Queen and her State guests process to the Ballroom for the State Banquet normally held on the first day of the visit. Around 150 guests are invited and include members of the Royal Family, the government and other political leaders, High Commissioners and Ambassadors and prominent people who have trade or other associations with the visiting country. Today, this Room is used by The Queen for State banquets and other formal occasions such as the annual Diplomatic Reception attended by 1,500 guests. It is also used as a concert hall for memorial concerts and performances of the arts and it is the regular venue for Investitures of which there are usually 21 a year — nine in spring, two in the summer and ten in the autumn.

The Throne Room, sometimes used during Queen Victoria's reign for Court gatherings and as a second dancing room, is dominated by a proscenium arch supported by a pair of winged figures of «victory» holding garlands above the «chairs of state». The Throne Room is decorated in scarlet. The thrones are situated upon a dais at the far end of the room and were those used by Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at the Queen's coronation in 1953. Flanking the thrones are four magnificent gilt wood trophies, which originate from Carlton House, the London home of George IV. It is in the Throne Room that The Queen, on very special occasions like Jubilees, receives loyal addresses. Another use of the Throne Room has been for formal wedding photographs. George IV's original palace lacked a large room in which to entertain. Queen Victoria rectified that shortcoming by adding in 1853-5 what was, at the time of its construction, the largest room in London.

The State Dining Room is one of the principal State Rooms on the West side of the Palace. The room was not completed until after the death of William IV, and accordingly bears the cypher of Queen Victoria on many of the medallions which adorn its walls. Many distinguished people have dined in this room including the 24 holders of the Order of Merit as well as presidents and prime ministers.

Before the Ballroom was added to the Palace in the 1850s, the first State Ball was held in the Blue Drawing Room (picture1, picture 2, picture3, picture 4) in May 1838 as part of the celebrations leading up to Queen Victoria's Coronation. The Blue Drawing Room boasts thirty Corinthian columns painted to resemble onyx. The room derives its name from its turquoise flock wallpaper and blue satin furnishings. A large State Portrait of the Queen's grandfather, George V is on display in the room. The Blue Drawing Room was originally known as the South Drawing Room. Today it is used by guests who gather here before large luncheon parties and grand State and diplomatic occasions.

The last of the suite of rooms overlooking the gardens on the principal floor is the White Drawing Room (picture1, picture 2, picture3, picture 4). Originally called the North Drawing Room, it is perhaps the grandest of all the State Rooms. The Room also serves as a Royal reception room for The Queen and members of the Royal Family to gather before State and official occasions. The White Drawing Room is one of the most attractive rooms in the palace, decorated in white and gold. The upholstery is in gold. It has a concealed entrance, a huge mirror with a cabinet fixed to it, through which the royal family make their dramatic entrance. The room contains a large portrait of the beautiful Queen Alexandra, by Francois Flameng. Alexandra, the Queen's great-grandmother, known in the family as Alix, was the wife of Edward VII and daughter of Christian IX of Denmark.

The Bow Room is familiar to the many thousands of guests to Royal Garden Parties who pass through it on their way to the garden. It was originally intended as a part of George IV's private apartments — to be the King's Library — but it was never fitted up as such. Instead, it has become another room for entertaining and is where The Queen holds the arrival lunch for a visiting Head of State at the start of a State visit.

From the Ballroom, the West Gallery, with its four Gobelin tapestries, leads into the first of the great rooms that overlook lawn and the formal gardens — setting for the annual Garden Parties introduced by Queen Victoria in 1868. Now the Queen hosts her annual Royal Garden Parties (picture 1, picture 2, picture 3, picture 4) each summer, but since June 2002, she has invited the public into the Garden on numerous occasions (Queen's Golden Jubilee (2002) and her 80th birthday (2006). More than 50,000 people visit the palace each year as guests to banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and the Royal Garden Parties.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

A familiar sight at Buckingham Palace is the Changing of the Guard (picture1, picture 2) takes place at 10.30 a.m. on certain days in February, March and April. The Guard which mounts at Buckingham Palace is called the Queen’s Guard and is divided into two Detachments: the Buckingham Palace Detachment (which is responsible for guarding Buckingham Palace), and the St. James’s Palace Detachment, (which guards St. James’s Palace). These guard duties are normally provided by a battalion of the Household Division and occasionally by other infantry battalions or other units. When Guardsmen are on duty, the soldiers are drawn from one of the five regiments of Foot Guards in the British Army: the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, the Welsh Guards, the Grenadier Guards and the Coldstream Guards.