British Royalty: Victoria--Royal Homes

Figure 1.--Princess Alexandra is seen here with Prince Eddy and Prince George, I think on the Sandringham estate. It would have been about 1866.

The official London residences of the royal family became Buckingham Pallace amd Windsor Castle. Victoria was the first British monarch to designate Buckingham Palace as a royal residence. It was Prince Albert that built the famous balcony where the royal family celebrate great events. like VE-Day, with the British people. Windsor provided the perfect setting for receiving foreign visitors, in Victoria's case te royal mob as she called them. The royal family needed somewhere to go to be away from the lime light. There two favored retreats were Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Osbourne House on the Isle of Wright. Balmoral was the Queen's favorite as she so adored Scotland. Both were designed and built under Albert's supervision. He did his best to avoid official duties at Osbourne and devote himself to the Queen and children. Several interesting group photos were taken at Osbourne, but fewer images seem to exist from the other residences--perhaps an indicator that more family time was spent at Osbourne. Marlborough House and of course Sandringham wre purchased for Edward VII, adding to the list of royal residences.


One of the best purchases the royal family ever made was the purchase of their Scottish estate--Balmoral. Balmoral Castle has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852, having been first leased in 1848. The castle was a hunting lodge of a Jacobite. By 1855 a renovated and enlarged castle in Scottish Banorial style was almost finished. Balmoral was a favored retreat of Victoria and Albert and generations of kilt glad British royals have romped over the extensive estate. The original Estate of Balmoral consisted of 4,500 hectares (over 11,000 acres) of hill, woodland and small tenant farms. Over the years, further land was acquired, expanding the area to about 20,000 hectares (just over 50,000 acres) at present.The princes had been outfitted in kilts before Balmoral was finished. When the estate was opened the boys always wore kilts during the visits and on many other occasions as well. Even Prince Albdert would appear in kilts. I'm not sure, however, what they thought about their kilts. Before Balmoral, the princes mostly wore kilts as younger boys. The original castle was considered too small for the needs of the Royal Family and under the supervision of Prince Albert a new building was designed. The castle was built from granite obtained in a the neighboring quarries of Glen Gelder, which produced a near white stone. On 28th September 28, 1853 the foundation stone of the new castle was laid by Queen Victoria and building was finally completed in 1856. (By this time Bertie was 15 years old.) The original castle was demolished and the position of the front door of the old castle is marked by a plaque on the front lawn. When Queen Victoria died in 1901 Balmoral Estates passed, under the terms of her will, to King Edward VII and from him to each of his successors. It is still used by the royal family.

Brighton Pavilion

The building most associated with the Prince Regent or George IV was the gloriously whimsical Brighton Pavillion. It was sold in the 1850s to help pay for the alterations that Prince Albert was insisting on for Buckingham Pallace. We had thoughtthe Pavillion was torn down, but one of our readers writes, "Having lived in Brighton for a time and toured the Royal Pavilion on several occasions, I would point out that the Royal Pavilion was not in fact torn down in 1850 but was purchased and preserved by the City of Brighton. It is now open to the public, with its spectacular interior, decorated in the Chinese style), furnished with period furniture on loan from the present Queen. Among its many points of interest are secret doors concealed in the walls of the Royal Bedroom and a reputed hidden tunnel to the nearby house of Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert, the mistress and later clandestine wife of the Prince Regent." [Green]

Buckingham Palace

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-ŕ-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 insisted 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.

Frogmore House

Frogmore House is situated in the tranquil setting of the Home Park at Windsor Castle. While it has been the country residence of various monarchs since the 17th century, the house is most commonly associated with Queen Victoria. The building and lovely gardens were one of Queen Victoria's favourite retreats. In the gardens is the Mausoleum where Queen Victoria buried her husband Prince Albert and on her death in 1901 was buried herself.

Hampton Court

Kensington Palace

Kinsington was a mannor as early as the 11th century and is now a London metropolitan borough. Set in the middle of the graceful Kensington Gardens its is near the fashionable shopping districts of Kensington, Knighstbridge and Chelsea. Kensington Palace continues to be a working Royal residence. The palace is of great historical importance. It was the favorite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760. Kensington Palace was once the home of some of Britain's most famous kings and queens and the setting for many great events in royal history. Nottingham House, as it was first called, had been built in 1661 for King William III's Secretary of State, the Earl of Nottingham. Kensington Palace, is a rather unpalatial building located on the west side of Kensington Gardens. It did not bercome a royal palace until William III decided the air at Kensington might benefit his lungs. At the time, the unpredictable drains of Whitehall Palace could produce foil smells. King William bought the house from the Earl of Nottingham in 1689 and had it remodelled. Architects Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor were commissioned to make various improvements to and enlarge the Jacobean house. King William and Queen Mary moved from Whitehall just in time for Christmas 1689 and established their count there. The Orangery, built in 1695 sporting finely carved interior panels by Grinling Gibbons, and the King's Gallery, built in 1704, were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. George I ordered further modifications. William Kent introduced palatial splendor, despite the small size of the rooms, to the palace with his magnificent trompe l'oeil ceilings, Colen Campbell's Staircase and lavishly decorated State Apartments. Kent, acting under the instruction of Queen Anne, also laid out the gardens which were made from land taken from Hyde Park. Queen Caroline, wife of George II also used part of Hyde Park to complete the 275 acre Kensington Gardens after adding Round Pond and Long Water. Princess Victoria lived in Kensington Palace. She was born there in 1819 and was baptized in the fabulous Cupola Room. The Cupola Room is the most splendid of the 1720's additions. It was intended to be the main State Room, it is decorated with pilasters and gilded statues of Roman gods and emporers. It was her childhood home. After her accession to the throne on June 20, 1837, she made an unprecedented move to Buckingham Palace and ruled from there. Kensinfton Gardens were the site of the Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Palace more recently has been best known as the home for Princess Diana. Kensington Palace was the scene of the tremendous public outpouring of sympathy following her 1997 death in the form of hundreds of thousands of bouquets of flowers piled upon the palace gates.Today Kensington Palace accommodates the offices and private apartments of several members of the Royal Family. The Palace is home to Princess Margaret, Princess Alice the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. It is now managed by Historic Royal Palaces, but continues to be furnished with items from the Royal Collection. Several state rooms are open to the public. A wide variety of trees are the backdrop for sculptures by G.F. Watts, Henry Moore and George Frampton- whose fairytale image of Peter Pan is near the Long Water. The statue of William III in front of the south facade was a gift to the subject by Kaiser Wilhelm.

Marlbourough House

Marlborough House has the destinction of being designed, but nor entirely built by Sir Christopher Wren, or more likely his son Christoopher. It was to be first Duke of Marlborough, the illustrious relation of Winston Churchill. It was his wife Duchess Sarah who had the idea of a London town house. She obtained a lease of the site from Queen Anne and chose Sir Christopher Wren as her architect. Her husband has chosen Sir John Vanbrugh to build Blenheim Palace. Sarah was a strong-willed woman and had her own ideas about the house. The Duchess laid the foundation stone in 1709 and the house was completed in 1711. She quarled with Wren and fired him. She then persoanalized completion. After the Duke died, Sarah lived for many years at Marlborough House until her death in 1744. The house was a simple, dignified design, verging on the plain. Its most impressive feature was the magnificent historical paintings of the Duke’s great battles which are displayed on the walls of central salon and the staircases. Fittingly, red Dutch bricks brought to England as ballast in the troop transports that had carried soldiers for the Duke’s army in Holland, were used in the construction. The Dukes of Marlborough occupied the house until 1817. In that year, Marlborough House was given to Princess Charlotte, only daughter of the future King George IV and heir presumptive to the throne, who had married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1816. It was to be their London hime. , Marlborough House was given to them as their London home. After the Princess’s death, Prince Leopold stayed on in England continued to use Marlborough House. He played a major role in introducing his nephew Allbert to the young Queen Victoria and was an important part of the royal family's family as well as a trusted adviser. He left Marlbourough House in 1831 to become King of the Belgians. King William IV in the same year came to the throne. Parliament provided that his consort Queen Adelaide should have Marlborough House for life in the event of her husband's death. After William died, the Queen Dowager spent much time at Marlborough House. She gave a wedding banquet after the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Shortly after Queen Adelaide's death, the house was settled on the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII), for his official residence when he reached age 18. The building was used for a variety of public purposes during the 1850s. Some of them were exhibitions that eventually culminated in one of Prince Albert's greatest achievements--the Great Exhibition of 1851. The extensive alterations needed to prepare the house for the Prince of Wales in 1863 were put in the hands of Sir James Pennethorne, chief architect of the Office of Works. His wife Princess Alexandra fell in love with it when she first saw it. After Edward was crowned in 1901, Marlborough House was allotted to his second son, the Duke of York, who soon became Prince of Wales (and eventually King George V). George moved in during April 1903. When King Edward VII, his widow Queen Alexandra returned to Marlborough House. Queen Mary, in her turn, moved to Marlborough House on the death of King George V in 1936. She died there in 1953. Queen Elizabeth II in September 1959 donated Marlborough House to the British Government as a Commonwealth centre.


Victoria and Albert felt the need to get away and be by themselves. In October 1844 the royal couple decided to go to the Isle of Wright which had aroused Albert's interest when he had sailed by the way to Eu. They rented a house and were delighted by the intimacy and coziness. The crowds that had spoiled other holiday excursions to (Brighton Pavilion and Walmer Castle) were not to be found on the Isle of Wright. So Albert and Victoria decided this would be a perfect site for a new home. A home was bought in 1845, with an estate of about 800 acres from Lady Blachford and was eventually enlarged to 2,300 acres. The house was too small for the rapidly expanding royal family and was demolished. Albert soon sent about creating Osborne House where the royal family was to spend so much time. Osbourne House was designed by Prince Albert, with advice from the builder Thomas Cubitt. It is modeled on an Italian villa overlooking the Bay of Naples. Construction began in June 1845, and finished 15 months later, although the servants accommodation was not finally completed until 1851. Albert's personality is stamped all over Osbourne House. He attempted to incorportate every modern device and equipment, such as a sewage plant, with varying degrees of success. Part of the grounds were set aside for the chikdren. A model fort was erected so the boys could practice military tactics. A Swiss chalet was equipped with a kitchen so the girls could learn to cook. Albert did his best to keep Osbourne just for the family and not to conduct business. There were very few exceptions--once Emperor Napoleon III asked to visit. Osborne House tells us much more about Albert's character than Balmoral. He simply adopted a Scottish laird's way of life, in part to please Victoria. Osbourne was his very own creation. [Bennett, pp. 123-124] Osbourne House was where Queen went to mourn the death of Prince Albert in 1861. During the next 40 years of her reign, she tried to keep the house, and grounds, unaltered in memory of Albert. Since her death the house, and grounds, have been kept as near as possible as they appeared when Prince Albert was alive. Their son, Edward VII, who was all to ready to be rid of it presented the house to the nation in 1904. Parts of the house and estate were converted into the Naval Training School. In fact the stables were converted into dormotories that were to house two future monarchs--Edward VIII and Gerorge VI.

Ranger's House

Ranger's House is located in Chesterfield Walk, Blackheath, London or more commonly described as Greenwich. It has lovely panoramic views to the West, North and East. The building is an attractive red brick villa on the edge of Greenwich Park. It was built in the early 18th century by Admiral Hosier, its most illustrious occupant was Philip, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. The building acquired it's name when it became the official residence of the Ranger of Greenwich Park. George III appointed the Princess of Wales Charlotte to live there as the Royal Park Ranger. The Prince and his wife did not get on well together, but the King liked her at least during his more lucid periods. Later Queen Victoria's son Prince Arthur was installed there short after the death of his father. One wonder if Queen Victoria decided to get him from under foot. Prince Arthur's had lived with the family, but in 1862 when he was 12 years old he was installefd at Ranger's House under the supervision of a tutor. Looking back he rembers being very linely. He was 'called at 6.45 a.m., my studies began about 7.15 and I worked till about 9 a.m., when I breakfasted, work being resumed at 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Then I had a short walk and lunched at 2 p.m. In the afternoon I walked and twice a week boys came from various schools to play with me. We played football, hockey, etc. Lessons were again resumed at 5 p.m. until 7.30 p.m. Supper at 8 p.m. and afterwards I prepared lessons until about 10 p.m. for the following day.’ What the Prince does not mention, perhaps he did not know, was that the boys who came were carefulkly sellected. Their job was to amuse the OPrince. They usually played war games and were instructed to loose to the Princev when the time came to die.

St. James Palace

St. James Palace was for years the residence of the British royal family. This is why the British court is referred to as the Court of St. James. St. James was last used by King William IV. Queen Victoria moved the royal residence to Buckingham Palace. St. James Palace is currently the official residence of the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.


Sandringham was bought for the Prince of Wales in 1862. It is set in 25 hectares (over 60 acres) of grounds with an Estate of some 8,000 hectares (nearly 20,000 acres). Sandringham has been the private home of four generations of Sovereigns. The house was originally a Georgian structure. It was a rather undestinguished building. Its remote location far from London in Norfolk on the Wash did provide considerable privacy. While dubious at first Princess Alexandra came to love Sandringham. The Prince selected Humbert who had worked with father on Osborne and Balmoral. The main features of the new building were nbay windows which helped lighten the interior. Samuel Saunders Teulon later made further rennovations, adding a wonderful porch and conservatory. It had by 1870 had been almost totally rebuilt. The new building was a red-brick, Victorian-Tudor mansion, designed with the family's comfor in mind. Despite the size of Sandringham and the spaciouness of the main rooms, the living quarters weere quite cramped. Princes Eddie and George, for example, had very small bedrooms. The spacious grounds, however, provided room for Queen Alexandra's growing menagiere of horses, dogs, cats, farmyard turkies, and other animals--including a large but gentle ram rescuded from an Egyptian butcher. The animals of course enchanted the children and in turn her grandchildren. The children of George V used to love to visit Sandringham and their grandparents. A stuffed baboon in the great hall with a tray for calling cards was another favorite of the chuldren. [Battiscombe, pp. 110-11.] Both but especially Queen Alexandria loved to dote on them. The atmopsphere was far different than at home, especially when their father was about. The kennels were a particular delight to the children. Since the death of Edward VII, Sandringham has been used as a popular holiday retreat for successive members of the Royal Family. It was at Sandringham that King George VI died in 1952. Since that time, Queen Elizabeth's custom has been to spend the anniversary of her father's death and her own Accession privately with her family at Sandringham. It is her official base until February each year. The house was first opened to the public in 1977, and there is a museum with displays of Royal life and Estate history.

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace was almost totaly destroyed in a 1834 fire. It was used as a site for the House of Parliament located next to Westminster Abbey.

White Lodge

Edward VIII was born at White Lodge. He was the only one of George V's children not to be borm at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate.

Whitehall Palace

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is an official residence of The Queen. The Castle has been a royal palace and fortress for over 900 years and remains a working palace today. William the Conqueror chose the site, high above the River Thames and on the edge of a Saxon hunting ground. It was a day's march from the Tower of London and intended to guard the western approaches to the capital. Since those early days Windsor Castle has been inhabited continuously and improved upon by successive sovereigns. Some were great builders, strengthening the Castle against uprising and rebellion; others, living in more peaceful times, created a palatial royal residence. Nine centuries after its foundation, the Castle continues to perform its prime role as one of The Queen's official residences. Pivotal to this role are the State Apartments, which are the formal rooms used for Court ceremonial and State and official occasions. They range from the smaller intimate rooms of Charles II's Apartments to the vast area of the Waterloo Chamber, built to commemorate the famous victory over Napoleon in 1815. The rooms are furnished with some of the most important works of art in the Royal Collection, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens, Holbein and van Dyck as well as magnificent French and English furniture and porcelain. Windsor Castle provides a step back into history. St. George's Chapel at Windsor was built in the 14th century and one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Britain, within its precincts stands St George's Chapel, the resting place of 10 sovereigns. Founded by Edward IV in 1475 and completed by Henry VIII, the Chapel is dedicated to the patron saint of the Order of the Garter, Britain's highest Order of Chivalry, and ranks among the finest examples of late medieval architecture in the United Kingdom. Many royal weddings have taken place here, most recently that of The Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones in June 1999.

York Cottage

York Colltage is besy known as the home of the Prince George (Duke of York), the future George V. It was there that the Yorks spent their honnymoon, a not very romantice choice. We suspect that this was the Prince George's idea. Prince George, and his growing family while his father and mother lived at Sandringham, lived nearby in York Cottage on the Sandingham grounds. Almost all of their children were born at York Cottage. It was, however, a very strange choice for a royal residence. It was small and poorly planned. Many families at the time would have rejected it even they had not been royals. As a residence for the heir to the throne it was almost ludicrous. One might have thought that this was the work of the Princess of Wales who was delighted with the choice as it meant in effect that she would not be separated from Prince George. The choice was in fact that of the Prince himself. The Prince of Wales had given his son the cottage as a wedding gift and he had been delighted by it, not seeing ant reason why his wife might be displeased to have her mother-in-law perpetually underfoot or just where they were going to put the six children that were to come. His wife was agast at the cottage' plainess if not ugliness. Prince George had grown up at Sandringham and was delighted that at York Cottage he and his family could stay there. Once installed at York Cottage, Prince George kept all the clocks set 30 minutes fast to give him extra daylight for shooting. One estimate suggests that he may have killed up to a million birds, but not the white peasant that his mother so treasured.


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).

Green, Mike. E-mail message, March 9, 2004.

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


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Created: May 14, 2001
Last updated: 6:58 AM 6/20/2004