Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace (UK: ) is a royal residence in London and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning.

Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today's palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on a site that had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became known as The Queen's House. During the 19th century it was enlarged by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, who constructed three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace became the London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 183...Read more

Buckingham Palace (UK: ) is a royal residence in London and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning.

Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today's palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on a site that had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became known as The Queen's House. During the 19th century it was enlarged by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, who constructed three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace became the London residence 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 centuries, including the East Front, which contains the well-known balcony on which the royal family traditionally appears to greet crowds. A German bomb destroyed the palace chapel during the Second World War; the Queen's Gallery was built on the site and opened to the public in 1962 to exhibit works of art from the Royal Collection.

The original early-19th-century interior designs, many of which survive, include widespread use of brightly coloured scagliola and blue and pink lapis, on the advice of 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 palace has 775 rooms, and the garden is the largest private garden in London. The state rooms, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public each year for most of August and September and on some days in winter and spring.


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.[1] 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 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.[a]

In 1531, Henry VIII acquired the Hospital of St James, which became St James's Palace,[2] from Eton College, and in 1536 he took the Manor of Ebury from Westminster Abbey.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Needing money, James VI and I sold off part of the Crown freehold but retained part of the site on which he established a four-acre (1.6 ha) mulberry garden for the production of silk. (This is at the north-west corner of today's palace.)[6] 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 Hugh Audley by the great heiress Mary Davies.[b]

First houses on the site (1624–1761)  Engraving of Buckingham House, c. 1710

Possibly the first house erected within the site was that of William Blake, around 1624.[7] The next owner was George Goring, 1st Earl of Norwich, who from 1633 extended Blake's house, which came to be known as Goring House, and developed much of today's garden, then known as Goring Great Garden.[8][9] He did not, however, obtain the freehold interest in the mulberry garden. Unbeknown to Goring, in 1640 the document "failed to pass the Great Seal before Charles I fled London, which it needed to do for legal execution".[10] It was this critical omission that would help the British royal family regain the freehold under George III.[11] When the improvident Goring defaulted on his rents,[12] Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington was able to purchase the lease of Goring House and he was occupying it when it burned down in 1674,[9] following which he constructed Arlington House on the site – the location of the southern wing of today's palace – the next year.[9] In 1698, John Sheffield acquired the lease. He later became the first Duke of Buckingham and Normanby.[13] Buckingham House was built for Sheffield in 1703 to the design of William Winde. The style chosen was of a large, three-floored central block with two smaller flanking service wings.[14] It was eventually sold by Buckingham's illegitimate son, Charles Sheffield, in 1761[15] to George III for £21,000.[16][c] Sheffield's leasehold on the mulberry garden site, the freehold of which was still owned by the royal family, was due to expire in 1774.[17]

From Queen's House to palace (1761–1837)

 The house in 1819, by William Westall

Under the new royal ownership, the building was originally intended as a private retreat for Queen Charlotte, and was accordingly known as The Queen's House. Remodelling of the structure began in 1762.[18] In 1775, an Act of Parliament settled the property on Queen Charlotte, in exchange for her rights to nearby Somerset House,[19] and 14 of her 15 children were born there. Some furnishings were transferred from Carlton House and others had been bought in France after the French Revolution[20] of 1789. While St James's Palace remained the official and ceremonial royal residence,[19][d] the name "Buckingham Palace" was used from at least 1791.[21] After his accession to the throne in 1820, George IV continued the renovation intending to create a small, comfortable home. However, in 1826, while the work was in progress, the King decided to modify the house into a palace with the help of his architect John Nash.[22] The external façade was designed, keeping in mind the French neoclassical influence preferred by George IV. The cost of the renovations grew dramatically, and by 1829 the extravagance of Nash's designs resulted in his removal as the architect. On the death of George IV in 1830, his younger brother William IV hired Edward Blore to finish the work.[23][24] William never moved into the palace. After the Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834, he offered to convert Buckingham Palace into a new Houses of Parliament, but his offer was declined.[25]

Queen Victoria (1837–1901)  Buckingham Palace c. 1837, showing Marble Arch at left, a ceremonial entrance. It was moved next to Hyde Park to make way for the new east wing in 1847.

Buckingham Palace became the principal royal residence in 1837, on the accession of Queen Victoria,[26] who was the first monarch to reside there; her predecessor William IV had died before its completion.[27] While the state rooms were a riot of gilt and colour, the necessities of the new palace were somewhat less luxurious. It was reported the chimneys smoked so much that the fires had to be allowed to die down, and consequently the palace was often cold.[28] Ventilation was so bad that the interior smelled, and when it was decided to install gas lamps, there was a serious worry about the build-up of gas on the lower floors. It was also said that the staff were lax and lazy and the palace was dirty.[28] Following the Queen's marriage in 1840, her husband, Prince Albert, concerned himself with a reorganisation of the household offices and staff, and with addressing the design faults of the palace.[29] By the end of 1840, all the problems had been rectified. However, the builders were to return within a decade.[29]

By 1847, the couple had found the palace too small for court life and their growing family[30] and a new wing, designed by Edward Blore, was built by Thomas Cubitt,[31] 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 after the annual Trooping the Colour.[32] The ballroom wing and a further suite of state rooms were also built in this period, designed by Nash's student James Pennethorne.[33] Before Prince Albert's death, the palace was frequently the scene of musical entertainments,[34] and the most celebrated 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] Under Victoria, Buckingham Palace was frequently the scene of lavish costume balls, in addition to the usual royal ceremonies, investitures and presentations.[37]

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, 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 persuaded the Queen to return to London, though even then she preferred to live elsewhere whenever possible. Court functions were still held at Windsor Castle, presided over by the sombre Queen habitually dressed in mourning black, while Buckingham Palace remained shuttered for most of the year.[39]

Early 20th century (1901–1945)
The east wing public façade, enclosing the courtyard, was built between 1847 and 1850; it was remodelled to its present form in 1913.

In 1901, the new king, Edward VII, began redecorating the palace. The 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 were 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 Edward's heavy redecorations were at odds with Nash's original work.[40]

The last major building work took place during the reign of George V when, in 1913, Aston Webb redesigned Blore's 1850 East Front to resemble in part Giacomo Leoni's Lyme Park in Cheshire. This new refaced principal façade (of Portland stone) was designed to be the backdrop to the Victoria Memorial, a large memorial statue of Queen Victoria created by sculptor Thomas Brock, erected outside the main gates on a surround constructed by architect Aston Webb.[41] George V, who had succeeded Edward VII in 1910, had a more serious personality than his father; greater emphasis was now placed on official entertainment and royal duties than on lavish parties.[42] He arranged a series of command performances featuring jazz musicians such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1919; the first jazz performance for a head of state), Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong (1932), which earned the palace a nomination in 2009 for a (Kind of) Blue Plaque by the Brecon Jazz Festival as one of the venues making the greatest contribution to jazz music in the United Kingdom.[43][44]

During the First World War, which lasted from 1914 until 1918, the palace escaped unscathed. Its more valuable contents were evacuated to Windsor, but the royal family remained in residence. The King imposed rationing at the palace, much to the dismay of his guests and household.[45] To the King's later regret, David Lloyd George persuaded him to go further and ostentatiously lock the wine cellars and refrain from alcohol, to set a good example to the supposedly inebriated working class. The workers continued to imbibe, and the King was left unhappy at his enforced abstinence.[46]

George V's wife, 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.[47] This room, 69 feet (21 metres) long, previously known as the South Drawing Room, has a ceiling designed by Nash, coffered with huge gilt console brackets.[48] In 1938, the northwest pavilion, designed by Nash as a conservatory, was converted into a swimming pool.[49]

Second World War External videosvideo icon  Buckingham Palace Bombed (1940) – Newsreel of damage to the palace and chapel (1:08)

During the Second World War, which broke out in 1939, the palace was bombed nine times.[50] The most serious and publicised incident destroyed the palace chapel in 1940. This event was shown in cinemas throughout the United Kingdom to show the common suffering of the rich and poor. One bomb fell in the palace quadrangle while George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) were in the palace, and many windows were blown in and the chapel destroyed.[51] Wartime coverage of such incidents was severely restricted, however. The King and Queen were filmed inspecting their bombed home; 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".[52] The royal family were seen as sharing their subjects' hardship, as The Sunday Graphic reported:

By the Editor: The King and Queen have endured the ordeal which has come to their subjects. For the second time a German bomber has tried to bring death and destruction to the home of Their Majesties ... When this war is over the common danger which King George and Queen Elizabeth have shared with their people will be a cherished memory and an inspiration through the years.[53]

On 15 September 1940, known as Battle of Britain Day, an RAF pilot, Ray Holmes of No. 504 Squadron RAF rammed a German Dornier Do 17 bomber he believed was going to bomb the palace. Holmes had run out of ammunition and made the quick decision to ram it. Holmes bailed out and the aircraft crashed into the forecourt of London Victoria station.[54] The bomber's engine was later exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in London. The British pilot became a King's Messenger after the war and died at the age of 90 in 2005.[55] On VE Day—8 May 1945—the palace was the centre of British celebrations. The King, the Queen, Princess Elizabeth (the future queen) and Princess Margaret appeared on the balcony, with the palace's blacked-out windows behind them, to cheers from a vast crowd in The Mall.[56] The damaged palace was carefully restored after the war by John Mowlem & Co.[57]

Mid 20th century to present day  The Victoria Memorial during a dress rehearsal for Trooping the Colour in 2015, seen from within the Palace

Many of the palace's contents are part of the Royal Collection; they can, on occasion, be viewed by the public at the Queen's Gallery, near the Royal Mews. The purpose-built gallery opened in 1962 and displays a changing selection of items from the collection.[58] It occupies the site of the chapel that was destroyed in the Second World War.[13] The palace was designated a Grade I listed building in 1970.[59] Its state rooms have been open to the public during August and September and on some dates throughout the year since 1993. The money raised in entry fees was originally put towards the rebuilding of Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire devastated many of its staterooms.[60] In the year to 31 March 2017, 580,000 people visited the palace, and 154,000 visited the gallery.[61] In 2004, the palace attempted to claim money from the community energy fund to heat Buckingham Palace, but the claim was rejected due to fear of public backlash.[62]

The palace used to racially segregate staff. In 1968, Charles Tryon, 2nd Baron Tryon, acting as treasurer to Queen Elizabeth II, sought to exempt Buckingham Palace from full application of the Race Relations Act 1968.[63][64] He stated that the palace did not hire people of colour for clerical jobs, only as domestic servants. He arranged with civil servants for an exemption that meant that complaints of racism against the royal household would be sent directly to the Home Secretary and kept out of the legal system.[64]

The palace, like Windsor Castle, is owned by the reigning monarch in right of the Crown. Occupied royal palaces are not part of the Crown Estate,[65] nor are they the monarch's personal property, unlike Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle.[66] The Government of the United Kingdom is responsible for maintaining the palace in exchange for the profits made by the Crown Estate.[67] In 2015, the State Dining Room was closed for a year and a half because its ceiling had become potentially dangerous.[68] A 10-year schedule of maintenance work, including new plumbing, wiring, boilers and radiators, and the installation of solar panels on the roof, has been estimated to cost £369 million and was approved by the prime minister in November 2016. It will be funded by a temporary increase in the Sovereign Grant paid from the income of the Crown Estate and is intended to extend the building's working life by at least 50 years.[69][70] In 2017, the House of Commons backed funding for the project by 464 votes to 56.[71]

Buckingham Palace is a symbol and home of the British monarchy, an art gallery and a tourist attraction. Behind the gilded railings and gates that were completed by the Bromsgrove Guild in 1911,[39] lies Webb's famous façade, which was described in a book published by the Royal Collection Trust as looking "like everybody's idea of a palace".[39] It has not only been a weekday home of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip but is also the London residence of the Duke of York and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. The palace also houses their offices, as well as those of the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra, and is the workplace of more than 800 people.[72][73] Charles III lives at Clarence House while restoration work continues, although he conducts official business at Buckingham Palace, including weekly meetings with the Prime Minister.[74] Every year, some 50,000 invited guests are entertained at garden parties, receptions, audiences and banquets. Three garden parties are held in the summer, usually in July.[75] The forecourt of Buckingham Palace is used for the Changing of the Guard, a major ceremony and tourist attraction (daily from April to July; every other day in other months).[76]

^ Goring, p. 15. ^ Goring, p. 28. ^ Goring, p. 18. ^ "Chapter 1: The Acquisition of the Estate". Survey of London: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair. Vol. 39. London County Council. 1977. pp. 1–5. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2009. ^ Wright, pp. 76–78. ^ Goring, pp. 31, 36. ^ Wright, p. 83. ^ Goring, Chapter V ^ a b c Harris, p. 21. ^ Wright, p. 96. ^ Goring, p. 62. ^ Goring, p. 58. ^ a b "Who built Buckingham Palace?". Royal Collection Trust. Archived from the original on 24 June 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2016. ^ Harris, p. 22. ^ Robinson, p. 14. ^ Mackenzie, p. 12 and Nash, p. 18. ^ Mackenzie, p. 12. ^ Harris, p. 24. ^ a b Old and New London. Vol. 4. Cassell, Petter & Galpin. 1878. pp. 61–74. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2009. ^ Jones, p. 42. ^ Burke, Edmund, ed. (1791). The Annual Register. p. 8. Retrieved 25 September 2016. Buckingham-palace was the dwelling house of the king. ^ Harris, pp. 30–31. ^ Harris, p. 33. ^ "The Royal Residences > Buckingham Palace > History". www.royal.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 28 March 2010. ^ Ziegler, Philip (1971). King William IV. Collins. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-0021-1934-4. ^ "The Royal Residences > Buckingham Palace". www.royal.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 27 March 2010. ^ Hedley, p. 10. ^ a b Woodham-Smith, p. 249. ^ a b Rappaport, p. 84. ^ Harris, de Bellaigue & Miller, p. 33. ^ Holland & Hannen and Cubitts – The Inception and Development of a Great Building Firm, published 1920, p. 35. ^ Owens, Ed. "Buckingham Palace's balcony: a focal point for national celebration". Immediate Media/BBC. Archived from the original on 22 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017. ^ King, p. 217. ^ Hedley, p. 19. ^ Healey, pp. 137–138. ^ Healey, p. 122. ^ "Who has lived at Buckingham Palace?". Royal Collection Trust. Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017. ^ John Gardiner (2006). The Victorians: An Age in Retrospect. A&C Black. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-8528-5560-4. ^ a b c Robinson, p. 9. ^ Robinson (Page 9) asserts that the decorations, including plaster swags and other decorative motifs, are "finicky" and "at odds with Nash's original detailing". ^ Harris, p. 34. ^ Healey, p. 185. ^ "Buckingham Palace hits right note with jazz fans". London Evening Standard. 3 August 2009. Archived from the original on 26 April 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010. ^ Stephen Bates (3 August 2009). "By royal approval: Buckingham Palace's place in jazz history". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2010. ^ Rose, Kenneth (1983). King George V. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pp. 176–177. ISBN 978-0-2977-8245-2. ^ Rose, pp. 178–179. ^ Healey pp. 221–222. ^ Harris, p. 63. ^ Allison and Riddell, p. 69. ^ "Letter from Queen Elizabeth to Queen Mary describing the bombing of Buckingham Palace, 13 September 1940". Royal Collection Trust. Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2016. ^ Thornton, Michael (1984). Royal Feud. M. Joseph. p. 216. ^ Davies, Caroline (12 September 2009). "How the Luftwaffe bombed the palace, in the Queen Mother's own words". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 April 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2021. ^ The Sunday Graphic, 18 September 1939, p. 1. ^ 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. ^ "Pilot who 'saved Palace' honoured". BBC News. 2 November 2005. Archived from the original on 7 December 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2009. ^ "On This Day: 8 May: 1945: Rejoicing at end of war in Europe". BBC News. Retrieved 19 June 2023. ^ "Sir Edgar Beck". The Telegraph. London. 9 August 2000. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 5 June 2012. ^ "About the Royal Collection". Royal Collection Trust. Archived from the original on 20 June 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2016. ^ Historic England. "Buckingham Palace (Grade I) (1239087)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 November 2016. ^ "Windsor Castle – five years from disaster to triumph". BBC. 17 November 1997. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2016. ^ Royal Collection Enterprises Limited (28 September 2017). "Full accounts made up to 31 March 2017". Companies House. p. 3. Archived from the original on 7 February 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2018. ^ Gabbatt, Adam (24 September 2010). "Queen asked for poverty grant to heat palaces". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2023. ^ Pegg, David; Evans, Rob (2 June 2021). "Buckingham Palace banned ethnic minorities from office roles, papers reveal". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 March 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022. ^ a b Vanderhoof, Erin (11 June 2021). "Why the Scandal Around Buckingham Palace's Racist 1960s Hiring Policy Still Resonates". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 23 October 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2022. ^ House of Commons Treasury Committee (2010). The Management of the Crown Estate: Eighth Report of Session 2009–10. Vol. 1. Stationery Office. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-2155-5322-5. Archived from the original on 29 September 2022. Retrieved 6 February 2021. Windsor Castle is an occupied Royal Palace and therefore not part of the Crown Estate. ^ "Royal Property". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 252. United Kingdom: House of Commons. 16 January 1995. col. 301W. [1] ^ HM Treasury. "Sovereign Grant Act: frequently asked questions relating to the Act and on general issues". The National Archives. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2016. ^ Bailey, Martin (23 March 2017). "Emergency repair work to Buckingham Palace's State Dining Room nears completion". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 8 March 2021.[permanent dead link] ^ Gordon Rayner (18 November 2016). "Queen to remain in residence as Buckingham Palace gets £369m taxpayer-funded facelift to avert 'catastrophic building failure'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 18 November 2016. ^ "Buckingham Palace to get £369m refurbishment". BBC News. 18 November 2016. Archived from the original on 18 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016. ^ "Buckingham Palace repairs funding approved by MPs". BBC News. 15 March 2017. Archived from the original on 22 November 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018. ^ Cite error: The named reference fact was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Hill, Erin (14 March 2019). "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Have Split Royal Households from Kate Middleton and Prince William". People. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019. ^ "King Charles III's favourite Buckingham Palace childhood feature he'll be keen to restore". HELLO!. 28 September 2022. Archived from the original on 12 October 2022. Retrieved 12 October 2022. ^ "About Buckingham Palace". Royal Collection Trust. 8 March 2016. Archived from the original on 2 October 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2016. ^ "Changing the Guard". Royal Collection Trust. Archived from the original on 24 June 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2016.

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