The City of Westminster is the home of Buckingham Palace, which has been the official London-based home of the monarch since 1837, although it is owned by the state. Today, it is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch and is also used for state occasions and whenever the need arises to display traditional royal hospitality.
Originally, in 1703, Buckingham House (as the palace was once called) was built for the Duke of Buckingham. The grounds were marshy due to the close proximity of the Tyburn River. Then, in 1761, George III bought it as the private home for Queen Charlotte. Its ownership changed hands many times. During the 19th and 20th centuries, there were major structural changes to it, and what had once been the opulent home of the Duke evolved into a grand display of royal influence. It was enlarged significantly in the 1800’s. But, during the Second World War, a bomb hit the palace’s chapel, decimating it. In its place, the Queen’s Gallery was built, in which beautiful artworks were (and remain to be) exhibited. This gallery was opened to the public in 1962. The Music Room has sometimes been used for functions that would otherwise have been held in the chapel, such as the christenings of the royal children.
During its early years as the royal home, Buckingham Palace was frequently brought to life by the musical creations of famous artists, such as Felix Mendelssohn and Johan Strauss. When Queen Victoria ruled, there were many lavish balls and opulent celebrations, bringing the palace to life as it hosted some of the world’s most aristocratic figures. When Queen Victoria was widowed in 1861, however, she withdrew from the public eye, even moving from Buckingham to stay in various other locations (such as Windsor Castle and Osborne House). The palace became neglected and a place of lonely isolation for a time.
Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria Memorial London England
Today, part of the charm and intrigue of Buckingham Palace, which measures 108 metres x 120 metres and has 775 rooms, is that many of the original interior design remains to this day. Therefore, blue and pink lapis, a Belle Époque cream and gold colour scheme in areas and small reception rooms with a Chinese regency style remain to tell the tales of centuries ago. In addition, another attractive feature is that the exquisite Buckingham Palace Garden is the largest private garden in all of London. There is a suite of rooms behind the west-facing garden facade. These are the main rooms of the entire palace. In their centre is the Music Room, which is flanked by two drawing rooms. The Picture Gallery is also situated in the heart of the suite and is home to an astounding array of beautiful, original artworks. These include pieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Throne Room and the Green Drawing Room lead off from the Gallery.
The State Apartments are a suite of less formal rooms, which are used for more relaxed functions and celebrations (e.g. a spring luncheon). The state rooms are open to the public during August and September of each year, when the palace celebrates its Summer Opening.
When the Queen is alone in Buckingham Palace, she uses a suite of rooms that are situated in the North Wing. This suite is smaller and more private, allowing her the personal freedom to live away from the public eye in relative seclusion. However, when foreign heads of state come to visit, they are accommodated in the large suite of rooms known as the Belgian Suite. Narrow corridors link all of the rooms, and impressive saucer domes add extra height, giving these rooms the full impact of their regal nature.
There is no official dress code in Buckingham Palace today, as there was in years past. However, by its very nature, the palace does demand some elegance. Therefore, for day events, men will wear their service uniforms or morning coats. More formal evening events would demand a black tie or white tie, and women would don their tiaras, if they have one.
Some of the events that take place at Buckingham Palace today include:
• Investitures and the conferring of knighthoods (in the Ballroom) • State banquets (Ballroom) • Luncheons • The Queen’s Garden Parties (hosting up tom 8000 guests each!)