Buckingham Palace is the official London home of the British Royal Family, and therefore in the public’s eyes at least, the seat of the British monarchy. Starting life in the early 1700s as a town house owned by the Duke of Buckingham, Buckingham Palace has since evolved into the official residence of the British monarch with 775 rooms filled with myriad finery.
Today, much of the mystique surrounding Buckingham Palace has dissipated as visitors are now allowed in during the summer months where they can see the State Rooms with some of the finest French and English furniture on the planet, and where knighthoods take place. As such, Buckingham Palace really is the jewel in the crown of London attractions.
King George III purchased the then Buckingham House for his wife, Queen Charlotte, for use as a family home – consequently it became known as the Queen’s House where 14 of the rampant King’s 15 children were born.
King George IV, with the help of architect of the day, John Nash, had Buckingham House reconstructed and transformed into a palace with Parliament picking up a bill for works in the region of a then staggering half a million pounds. Faced with Bath stone, most of the work took place o the west side as the Palace took on a neo-classical French style and began to evolve into something more akin to iconic UK attraction we know so well today.
Nash’s extravagance and soaring costs cost him his job, and following the death of George IV in 1830, he was replaced by William IV by William Blore. William never actually moved into Buckingham Palace – the honour of being the first sovereign to live there, befittingly falling to Queen Victoria in 1837.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert soon put their stamp on Buckingham Palace – a forth (east) wing now recognisable as the front of Buckingham Palace facing the Mall. This was also designed by Blore, with works funded by the sale of George IV’s folly – the Brighton Pavillion.
Buckingham Palace features 19 State rooms, 240 bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. It is a working palace and it is from here that the majority of the Queen’s, and other members of her family’s, civil duties are planned and discharged.
Buckingham Palace also holds State visits and banquets for visiting heads of state, Investitures, and the three Garden Parties held every year in the summer, meaning the Palace and palace staff have to look after the needs of over 50,000 official visitors every year.
Since Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace, its east façade facing the mail has become something of a British icon, often finding itself at the centre of British history.
On any major royal occasion the Royal Family gather on the east balcony in full ceremonial dress to wave and be waved to by an adoring British public.
Like so much of London, Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Luftwaffe, damage which the Royal Family wore like a badge of honour as so much of the aerial fury of Hitler rained down on the UK capital’s poorer areas – especially London’s East End. It was also outside Buckingham Palace that crowds gathered to celebrate the end to hostilities in Europe in 1944
The Palace was central throughout the public life of Princess Diana, providing the backdrop to the tragedy from engagement, through to her weeding to Prince Charles, and finally her funeral in 1997.
This was something of a low point in popularity for Queen Elizabeth II, but it was soon forgotten as the public once again thronged to the Palace’s gates to celebrate her 50 years on the throne at her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002.
Visiting Buckingham Palace
An exclusive guided tour is available and gives a special insight into the history and use of the State Rooms, and the works of art on display. The cost per person is £65.00 and includes a copy of the official guidebook, 20% discount in the Royal Collection shop and a glass of champagne served in the Grand Entrance. These tours are only available on 9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 25, 30 January and 1 February. The tour begins at 17:00 on a Friday and 16:00 on a Sunday and lasts for approximately 2 hours. There is limited availability, with a maximum number of 30 places on each tour. Advanced booking required.
Standard admission takes place between 1 August - 27 September 2009.
09:45 - 18:00 (last admission 15:45)
Admission is by timed ticket with entry every 15 minutes throughout the day. Tickets are valid only on the date and at the entrance time specified on the ticket. Visit last between 2 and 2½ hours.
The State Rooms, Buckingham Palace
(includes audio guide)
Over 60/ Student (with valid ID) £15.00
Under 17 £9.50
Under 5 Free
Family £44.00 (2 adults and 3 under 17s)
A Royal Day Out
(This ticket gives admission to three sites:
The State Rooms, the Royal Mews and The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace)
(only available 1 August - 27 September 2009)
Over 60/ Student (with valid ID) £26.50
Under 17 £16.50
Under 5 Free
Family £78.00 (2 adults and 3 under 17s)
Tickets can be bought online or by telephone (+44) (0)20 7766 7300. A booking fee of £1.25 per ticket applies. All major credit cards accepted. Buying a ticket on the day can be done at the ticket office at the Visitor Entrance, Buckingham Palace Road, open 09:15-17:00, 12 July to 27 September.
Victoria (Victoria, District and Circle lines), Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines) and Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line).
Numbers 11, 211, 239, C1 and C10 stop on Buckingham Palace Road.