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Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace has its origins in the eighteenth century, in a rather sorry tale of a fairly minor nobleman named Lord Mulgrove, who took an interest in young Princess Anne, daughter of James II. At the time efforts were being made to marry off seventeen year old Princess Anne, but the interest of John Sheffield, Lord Mulgrove, was considered inappropriate. He was sent off to Tangiers to get him out of the way. Mulgrove was a womaniser and something of a scoundrel, but even so Anne retained a soft spot for him. Years later, as Queen Anne she was to make him Duke of Buckingham. The new duke was also granted part of St James's Park, where he built Buckingham House.

Buckingham House was then bought by George III in 1761 as a London home. He felt that this secluded house down at the end of the Mall would be a more relaxing place to live than his other royal palaces. Work began on extending the property. Particular care went into building four libraries, the South, East, Octagon and Great Libraries. A huge collection of books was stored here, including an original Gutenberg Bible, folios of Shakespeare, many first editions, including Milton's Paradise Lost, state papers, a collection of musical books, as well as work by contemporary writers. The collection was eventually to number 65,000 books. While the king would enjoy the library himself, he would also allow other readers in by application. Samuel Johnson was a visitor. George III's biographer Christopher Hibbert describes Samuel Johnson sitting beside the fire studying a book, looking up to find the king beside him. They then had a chat about books. According to Hibbert, George III always intended the Buckingham Palace collection to be a public rather than private institution. Although the library is no longer at the palace, George's vision was realised when the collection was transferred to the British Museum where it can still be seen.

George III's son, George IV was famously extravagant. He wanted to knock down Buckingham Palace and start again. Parliament would not vote the necessary money for this, so George contented himself with extending and remodelling, employing John Nash, his favoured architect. The work was unfinished when George IV died in 1830, with his successor William IV asking Edward Blore to complete the project. It might come as a surprise now to learn that the resulting building was heavily criticised at the time of its completion. The politician Thomas Creevey wrote:

"It has lost a million of money and there is not a fault which has not been committed in it. You may be sure there are rooms enough, and large enough, for the money; but for staircases, passages etc I observed that instead of being called Buckingham Palace, it should be called 'Brunswick Hotel'. The costly ornaments of the state rooms exceed all belief in their bad taste and every species of infirmity. Raspberry coloured pillars without end, that quite turn you sick to look at it..." (From A Selection of the Letters and Papers of Thomas Creevey quoted in Victoria The Young Queen by Monica Charlott P 102)

Buckingham Palace was completed at a time of social confusion. In many ways ideas of social equality were becoming much more powerful, particularly since the French Revolution of the 1790s. Creevey reflects this in his criticism of Buckingham Palace as a waste of money: And yet this was the age of the Industrial Revolution when social aspiration drove demand. It was necessary to have symbols of aspiration for people to strive towards, buying things as they went to reflect their passage upwards. This meant people still desired grandeur, and ironically after saying that Buckingham Palace was a waste of money, Creevey also implies that rather than being too grand, the building was not grand enough: "for staircases, passages etc I observed that instead of being called Buckingham Palace, it should be called 'Brunswick Hotel'." Rebuilding work continued up until the First World War, giving the palace we see today.

Buckingham Palace continues as the London home of the royal family. Today Buckingham Palace is regarded, in the words of Penny Junor, as head office to the royal family firm. "It is no cosy home... The palace is like a small village; it even has its own post office, doctor's surgery and travel agency. Accommodation takes up a high percentage of the building: there are 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms... 19 glorious state rooms and 92 offices... The rest of the palace is given over to all the paraphernalia that goes with running a huge catering and hospitality operation; great kitchens, store rooms, cellars, boiler rooms and a labyrinth of underground passages with pipes and heating ducts, not unlike the lower decks of an ocean going liner." (The Firm by Penny Junor P12)

Opening Times: Changing of the guard happens daily at 11.30am from May to the end of July and then on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting. During October the changing of the guard takes place on even numbered dates e.g. 2nd, 4th etc. During November it takes place on odd numbered days e.g. 1st, 3rd. During December it is odd numbered days until 23rd and then 26th, 28th and 30th. The ceremony takes about forty minutes. The schedule may change so please check before visiting. During very wet weather the changing of the guard may not take place.

Buckingham Palace state rooms can be visited at certain times in the year. Tickets are available on the day of visiting from the Ticket Office at the Visitors Entrance, Buckingham Palace. Alternately tickets can be booked online or by telephone using the number below. Please use contact details below for more information.

 

 

 

Directions: Buckingham Palace is at the bottom of The Mall. The nearest underground station to Buckingham Palace is Victoria. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on Buckingham Palace.

Address: Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA

Access: There is level, or ramped access in the public areas.

Contact:

telephone: 020 7766 7300.

fax: 020 7930 9625

e-mail: bookinginfo@royalcollection.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Mews: The working stables at Buckingham Palace offer a permanent display of state vehicles, including the Gold State Coach used for coronations.

Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

Closed during State Visits.

Access: access is good.

Contact:

telephone: 020 7766 7302

fax: 020 7930 9625

e-mail : bookinginfo@royalcollection.org.uk

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