Buckingham Palace is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today. It serves as both the office and London residence of the Queen and also as the busy administrative headquarters of the monarchy. Probably it has the most famous and recognizable facade of any building in the world. It is the venue for great Royal ceremonies, State Visits and Investitures, all of which are organized by the Royal Household.
During summer, visitors can take a tour around the nineteen State Rooms, which are decorated with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection, which includes paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Poussin, Canaletto and Claude; sculpture by Canova and Chantrey, exquisite examples of Sevres porcelain, and some of the finest English and French furniture in the world.
The Changing of the Guard takes place at the front of the Palace. During the summer it is one of the popular events for visitors, occurs at 11:30 every day. Since 1660, Household Troops have guarded the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces. The Queen’s Guard usually consists of Foot Guards in full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins.
Buckingham Palace’s site formed part of the Manor of Ebury, in the Middle Ages. Many times, it was changed by ownership, and between the owners figures Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror and Geoffrey de Mandeville who bequeathed it to the monks of Westminster Abbey.
The first house erected within the site was of Sir William Blake, around 1624. Lord Goring, the next owner, extended and developed much of today’s garden and was known as Goring Great Garden. During the possession of Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, the house burned down in 1674 and bought around 1702.
Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 by the Duke of Buckingham as his home in London. The style was a large, three-floored central block with two smaller flanking service wings. Years later, the house was sold to George III by the Duke’s son. In 1774, it was renamed “Queen’s House” due to the Queen Charlotte resided there.
Many renovations and alterations have suffered the Palace, the first of which was in 1820 when Nash was commissioned by George IV. The architect Nash added a new suite of rooms facing west into the garden, which doubled the size of the building. The first monarch to take up residence in Buckingham Palace was Queen Victoria in 1837. Today the palace is used for the administrative work of the monarchy. Around 18th centuries new wings were added to the palace.
The Palace was opened to the Public for the first time in 1993. Usually it opens at 9:30am and the last admission at 4:30pm, with a timed-ticket system of admission every 15 minutes throughout the day.
In 1999 the Royal Collection Department reported that the palace contained 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms in a book published.
The palace contains 77,000 square metres of floor space. The principal rooms are contained on the piano nobile behind the west-facing garden facade at the palace rear. At the centre is the Music Room with the dominant feature of the facade and the Blue and White Drawing rooms flank this room. Picture Gallery at the centre of the suite, serving as a corridor to link the state rooms which is top-lit and 50 m long. The Gallery is hung with numerous works; other rooms leading from the Picture Gallery are the Throne Room and the Green Drawing Room. The Green Drawing room serves as a huge anteroom to the Throne Room, and is part of the ceremonial route to the throne from the Guard Room at the top of the Grand staircase. Every summer these very formal rooms are open to the public but usually they are used only for ceremonial and official entertaining. The Chinese Luncheon Room and Yellow Drawing Room are situated at each end of this gallery, with the Centre Room obviously placed in the centre.
Today, Buckingham Palace is not only the weekday home of the Queen and Prince Philip but also the London residence of the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. The palace also houses the offices of the Royal Household and is the workplace of 450 people. On all formal occasions the ceremonies are attended by the Yeomen of the Guard in their historic uniforms, and other officers of the court such as the Lord Chamberlain.