British Royal Homes: Buckingham Palace


Figure 1.--.

Buckingham Palace, especially Prince Albert's balcony, is one of the world's most familiar buildings and more than 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as guests to banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and the Royal Garden Parties. The Palace has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since Victoria ascened to the throne in 1837. The History of Buckingham Palace began in 1702 when the Duke of Buckingham had it built as his London home. King George III, Victoria's grandfather, bought Buckingham House in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte to use as a comfortable family home close to London's St. James's Palace, where many court functions were held. Buclingham House became known as the Queen's House, and 14 of George III's 15 children were born there. In 1762 work began on remodelling the house to the King's requirements, to designs by Sir William Chambers. George IV, on his accession in 1820, decided to reconstruct the house into a pied--terre, using it for the same purpose as his father George III. However, as work progressed, and as late as the end of 1826, the King had a change of heart and with the assistance of his architect, John Nash, he set about transforming the house into a palace. Its original entrance was the Marble Arch, now removed to Marble Arch near Oxford Street. Queen Victoria, at the age of 19 years and just 3 weeks after her accession, made it her official home. Facilities at Buckingham Palce were still extremely limited when Albert arived in 1840. The inadequate accomodations resulted in diplomatic rowes and numerous narrowly averted gaffes. Albert devised many engenious alterations and gave special attention to the servant's quarters. The balcony looking up the Mall which has become almost a symbol for the British monarchy (it was here that George VI with his family and Churchill received the people of London on VE-Day), was devised by Albert as a new facade for the palace. It was first used by Victoria after the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851. It was a bit of an effort to get Parliament to pay for the alterations. Albert's plan was helpful, but Parliament inmsisted that George IV's beloved Pavilion be sold. [Bennett, pp. 124-125.] The facade was refaced in 1912 and the palace remains the same today. During State visits, the Queen meets her guests at Victoria Station, and they ride to Buckingham Palace in a colorful procession of horse drawn carriages and Horse Guards, while in Hyde Park Corner, the cannoneers perform filling the air with their thunderous salute.

Background

Buckingham Palace, especially Prince Albert's balcony, is one of the world's most familiar buildings and more than 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as guests to banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and the Royal Garden Parties. The Palace has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since Victoria ascened to the throne in 1837.

The Duke of Buckingham

The History of Buckingham Palace began in 1702 when the Duke of Buckingham had it built as his London home. It was thus first called Buckingham House.

George III

King George III, Victoria's grandfather, bought Buckingham House in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte to use as a comfortable family home close to London's St. James's Palace--which as the time was the official royal residence in London. Court functions at the time were held in St. James Palace. Buckingham House became known as the Queen's House, and 14 of George III's 15 children were born there. In 1762 work began on remodelling the house to the King's requirements, to designs by Sir William Chambers.

George IV

George IV, on his accession in 1820, decided to reconstruct the house into a pied--terre, using it for the same purpose as his father George III. However, as work progressed, and as late as the end of 1826, the King had a change of heart and with the assistance of his architect, John Nash, he set about transforming the house into a palace. Its original entrance was the Marble Arch, now removed to Marble Arch near Oxford Street.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria, at the age of 19 years and just 3 weeks after her accession, made it her official home. Facilities at Buckingham Palce were still extremely limited when Albert arived in 1840. The inadequate accomodations resulted in diplomatic rowes and numerous narrowly averted gaffes. Albert devised many engenious alterations and gave special attention to the servant's quarters. The balcony looking up the Mall was to become a symbol for the British monarchy. It was devised by Prince Albert as a new facade for the palace. It was first used by Victoria after the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851. It was a bit of an effort to get Parliament to pay for the alterations. Albert's plan was helpful, but Parliament inmsisted that George IV's beloved Brighton Pavilion be sold. [Bennett, pp. 124-125.] Much of the rest of the history of Buckingham Pallace are the famous events for which the suceeding royal families gathered on Prince Albert's balcony to share monentous events with the British peiople.

Edward VII

Buckingham Palace was extensively renovated for the new king and queen. King Edward VII had some difficulty getting Queen Alexandra to move out of Marlbourough House and into Buckinham Palce. She was not very familiar with the palace and had infrequently visited Queen Victoria there. Queen Alexandra was very attached to Marlborough House and had everything there perfectly arranged for her tastes. Most of her children were born a Marlborough House and she had many fond meories there. The move would also involve packing up and then finding a place for all her little treasures which virtually littered Maelborough House. It the end tge queen relented. She had a sunny sitting room with a big bay window along with a large collection of framed family photographs, but also one of her favorite prime minister-Gladstone. [Battiscombe, pp. 219-220.]

George V

The facade was refaced in 1912 and the palace remains the same today.

George VI

Prince Albert's balcony looking up the Mall was never more a a symbol for the British monarchy and indeed the British nation when George VI with his family and Churchill received the people of London on when the Germans surrenedered ending World War II in Europe (VE-Day). Churchill of course gave his "V" for victory salute. Princess Elizabeth was still in her World War II uniform.

Elizabeth II

The facade of Buckingham Palace as well as much of the interior has remained unchanged since 1912. During State visits, the Queen meets her guests at Victoria Station, and they ride to Buckingham Palace in a colorful procession of horse drawn carriages and Horse Guards, while in Hyde Park Corner, the cannoneers perform filling the air with their thunderous salute.

Sources

Battiscombe, Georgina. Queen Alexandra (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1969).

Bennett, Daphne. King Without a Crown: Albert Prince Consort of England, 1819-1861 (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1977).

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times (1972).







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Created: May 14, 2001
Last updated: August 18, 2002