Palaces in the UK
Mention the word ‘Palace’ and the mind immediately conjures up images of fairytales, trapped princesses, and dashing knights in shining armour on horseback. Whilst the reality is a little more sobering in the UK attractions that bear such a title, they still carry an air of magic and glamour from days of yore.
Buckingham Palace, the official home of Britain’s monarchy, stands at the head of the Mall in London, and has been at the centre of many modern fairytales, most notably that of the life and death of Diana – Princess of Wales. A focal point in much of the UK’s recent history, the people of Britain meet here with the royals during times of celebration and tragedy. Buckingham Palace is open to the public during the summer months.
Hampton Court Palace in Surrey is one of only two surviving palaces that were owned by serial husband, and church reformer, King Henry VIII. Famous for its maze, real tennis court, grapevine, kitchens and gardens, the Palace has been open to the public since Queen Victoria paid for its restoration in 1838.
Kensington Palace in London was home to Princess Diana, and has become something of a shrine since her death in 1997. Formerly it was a favourite residence of royals, and was the birthplace and home of Queen Victoria. Today it is a working royal residence, housing a number of apartments that are still used by members of the royal family when they are in London. Kensington Palace is not open to the public
Situated between the Mall and Pall Mall, St. James's Palace serves as the senior Palace of the Sovereign, with an extensive history as a Royal residence. It is the London home of Charles, Prince of Wales and home to several other members of the Royal Family and their household offices. St James’s Palace is often used for official functions and is not open to the public.
Other less well-known palaces (but by no means less grand or important in their own right) include the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Winston Churchill’s birthplace, and even the diminutive Eltham Palace in South East London. Britain’s palaces make up an important part of the history and legend of the nation, and are all popular UK attractions.
The childhood home of Henry VIII and site of an outstanding example of Art Deco design, Eltham Palace, in the Royal London Borough of Greenwich, is one of the most charming London attractions.
Infamous English King Henry VIII was born in Greenwich Palace (now the site of the Royal Observatory Greenwich) but raised and schooled a couple of miles away in Eltham Palace. Once famed for its hunting grounds, in the 1930s the site was bought by the wealthy Coultauld family who built an opulent Art Deco mansion next to the Eltham Palace’s Great Hall. Today the site is owned and run by English Heritage and is open to visitors in search of, and finding, a truly unique experience.
Eltham Palace was originally given as a gift to King Henry II in 1305. It remained a royal residence from that time until the 16th century. At the start of the 15th century it hosted the only Byzantine emperor ever to visit England, who was entertained by knights in armour jousting – trying to knock each other off their respective horses uses lances. The jousting site, or tilt yard as it was known, is still in evidence today.
Set in over two thousand acres of landscaped countryside, Blenheim is for many visitors the only UK attraction that truly deserves the title Palace. Built in the early eighteenth century, Blenheim Palace was the birth place of Great Briton Sir Winston Churchill. Today Blenheim is still the home of the Dukes of Marlboro but it is also a leading UK attraction famous for its gardens, park, fishing and even musical concerts.
Buckingham Palace is the official London home of the British Royal Family, and therefore, in the public eye at least, the seat of the British monarchy. It was first built in the early 1700s as a town house by the Duke of Buckingham, but was soon converted to a royal residence.
Since Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace in 1836, its east faÁade facing the Mall has become something of a British icon, often finding itself at the centre of British history.
Today visitors are allowed in, and can tour the State Rooms, which feature some of the finest French and English furniture in existence. This is a suitably grand set for the granting of knighthoods. Buckingham Palace really is the jewel in the crown of London attractions.