Buckingham Palace

Residence of the British Sovereign, Buckingham Palace stands proud at the climax of the The Mall which runs from Trafalgar Square to the Palace gates. Despite being the administrative home of the monarchy since 1837, as well as the current Queen’s residence, its technically not the official ‘Home of the Sovereign and Court. Through the peculiarities of British law, tradition and custom, the official residence is at St James Palace, which also remains the official home of the Royal Court – which is why British Ambassadors hail ‘from the Court of St James’, despite everything of significance taking place down the road in Buckingham Palace.

Technicalities aside, this remains the home of the Queen and is quite an impressive sight to behold. Originally, it was a rather large townhouse belonging to the Duke of Buckingham in the 17th Century- hence the name. George III bought it as a private personal home for his wife, Queen Charlotte, and it was known as ‘The Queen’s House’. Under Queen Charlotte and her children King George IV and King William IV the ‘House’ grew and grew into a fine London Palace. It became the official principal residence of the Monarch when Queen Victoria moved in, in 1837, and the Palace just kept on growing. The dramatic side of the Palace you see today, facing the Mall, was built for Queen Victoria’s growing family with husband Prince Albert, fully enclosing the courtyard and making for the rather imposing structure we see today. It has a total of seven hundred and seventy-five rooms, totalling seventy-seven thousand square meters of floor space. Despite this considerable size, Buckingham Palace is actually rather small when compared to other Palaces around the world. Its hard to believe but when compared to places like the Royal Palace in Madrid, Stockholm Palace and especially the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Buckingham Palace is actually rather small.

Buckingham Palace is a working institutions, home to not just the Royal Family but their administrative and personal staffs. You can still see inside the Palace, during the Summer months, The State Rooms, The Royal Mews, and the Queen’s Gallery are opened to the public.

The nineteen State Rooms, are where visiting Heads of State are greeted, ceremonies held and other official occasions are performed. They are sumptuously decorated in the Belle Epoque style, favoured by King Edward VII. Also on display in these Rooms are paintings from the Royal private Collection including artworks by, Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Canaletto. The tour ends with a walk in the Palace Gardens, the larges private Garden in London. The state rooms are open every day from 23rd July to 3rd October, opening at 9.45am and closing at 6.30pm, admission is charged: £17.50 for adults, £16 for students and pensioners, £10 for the under 17s, and the under 5’s are free.

The Royal Mews are essentially the Royal garage! All forms of Royal Transportation are housed and cared for here, right down to the horses that draw the carriages. You can see the famous golden coach, the smaller carriages and the lovely cars the Royals use to get around London. The beautiful horse are also stabled here, and you’re welcome to say hello, unless of course they’re taking a well deserved summer holiday themselves. The Royal Mews are open throughout the year: From the 3rd January to 25th March 2011, Monday to Friday from 11am to 4pm. From 26th March to 31st October 2011, when its open every day from 10am to 5pm and from
the 1st November to 22nd December 2011, Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Though it is closed during state vists and other occasions, if you are in London outside the summer months, its best to check in advance. Admission is charged: Adults £8, students and pensioner £7.25, the under 17s £5, and the under 5s go free.

The Queens Gallery is a dedicated space, displaying exhibitions made from the Royal private art collection. The Royal Family holds a wide range of treasures, and these are rotated through these galleries in special exhibitions. Previous highlights have included an exhibition of Faberge Eggs, and an exhibit focusing on the 1910 and 1914 expeditions to Antarctica is planned for 2011. The Queen’s Gallery is the open from 23rd July to 3rd October, opening at 9.45am and closing at 6.30pm, during the rest of the year its open 10am to 5.30pm every day, though it does close periodically. If you are visiting London outside of the summer months, check online at www.royalcollection.org.uk to find out the Gallery’s latest opening schedule.

If you are visiting during the summer months and wish to see all three parts of the Palace, you can buy a combined ticket starting at £28.25 for students and pensioners and £31.00 for adults. An audio-guide is included with all tickets and you can by advance online or by telephone, of course you can buy on the day.

img credit: Fredrik Nystrom

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