Buckingham Palace, one of several palaces owned by the British Royal family, is one of the major tourist attractions in London. The Changing of the Guard in front of the palace always attracts plenty of spectators.
The original building was constructed as a country house in 1705 by the duke of Buckingham, John Sheffield. King George III bought the house in 1761 for his wife and had it altered by William Chambers.
In 1826, King George IV asked famed architect John Nash to expand the house – then known as Buckingham House – into a palace. Meanwhile, St. James’s Palace was still the principal palace used by the royals for ceremonies and receptions.
King George IV as well as his younger brother and successor, King William IV, both died before the palace was completed. Queen Victoria was the first to reside in the palace. In July 1837, three weeks after her accession to the throne, she moved from Kensington Palace, where she grew up, to the new Buckingham Palace.
The palace was expanded in 1850 with a new east wing. The wing added a large number of rooms to the palace, including an expansive forty meter (131 ft.) long ballroom. The monumental facade of the east wing was built in 1913 by Aston Webb. It is this facade, facing the Mall and St James’s Park, which is now known by most people.
Changing of the Guard
The changing of the guard takes place daily at eleven o’clock in front of Buckingham Palace. A colorfully dressed detachment, known as the New Guard, parades along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace and during a ceremony replaces the existing, Old Guard. The ceremony, which is accompanied by music played by a military band, always attracts throngs of onlookers.
A Royal Residence
A part of the palace is still used by the Royal family and is the official residence of King Charles III, who, in November 2022, moved from his former home at Clarence House to Buckingham Palace. A flag is hoisted each time King Charles III is in the palace. The palace is not only home to the royal family, there are also a number of staff members living here. The palace has about six hundred rooms, including a throne room, a ballroom, picture gallery and even a swimming pool.
Some of these rooms can be visited during a couple of months in the summer – when the Royal Family is not in the palace – including the lavishly decorated State Rooms: the Throne Room, Green Drawing Room, Silk Tapestry Rooms, Picture Gallery, State Dining Room, Blue Drawing Room, Music Room and White Drawing Room are all part of the tour around the Buckingham Palace.
Queen’s Gallery & Royal Mews
Another interesting part of the palace that is open to visitors is the Queen’s Gallery, where works of art from the royal collection are exhibited on a rotating basis.
The palace’s stables, the Royal Mews, can also be visited. Here you’ll find not just horses, but also a number of royal horse-drawn carriages. The fanciest of them all is the Gold State Coach, which is elaborately decorated with gilded sculptures.
Queen Victoria Memorial
Right in front of the building is the Queen Victoria Memorial, designed by Sir Aston Webb and built in 1911 in honor of Queen Victoria, who reigned for almost sixty-four years. The white marble monument stands 25 meters (82 feet) tall.