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The most famous address in England.
Buckingham Palace (London)
Member Name: garymarsh6
Buckingham Palace (London)
Advantages: Mind boggling view of the life behind the massive facade of the palace.
Disadvantages: Packed with tourists.
I recently visited Buckingham palace making this my fifth visit to the palace taking relatives or visitors to the palace when they have stayed with us. On this occasion it was a special treat for some friends who had never been and had wanted to go. You might think that it would not be interesting having been a few times. Nothing could be further from the truth. The first time visiting the palace you are absolutely in awe of the interior and the opulence that is contained within the palace walls and you fail to notice the finer details. Each time I have visited I have noticed more and more things which I had not noticed from the times before.
The front of Buckingham palace is probably one of the most recognisable views associated with London alongside the houses of parliament and Stonehenge. It is the official residence of the British Monarchy in London. This review is pretty long but there is so much more unsaid about the Palace lots more information that I have omitted, that is for you to discover! For example did you know that there is in fact a river that runs underneath the palace right under the Quadrangle?
The history of Buckingham Palace.
There have been three houses built on the site of Buckingham palace the first being called Goring house which was built in 1624 and burnt down in 1674. In its place a second grand house was built called Arlington house. In 1703 the Duke of Buckingham needed a town house in London and had the house built in the style of a main residence with two wings on either side. Eventually the Dukes descendent sold it to George III who intended it to be the home of Queen Charlotte. Of their fifteen children 14 of them were born in the house. It became known as the Queens house.
In 1820 King George IV decided to expand the palace and employed John Nash as architect however the King died before the work was completed. Renovations continued under the eye of King William IV however he was never to live in the palace and died at Windsor castle in 1837.
Queen Victoria was the first British Monarch to live in Buckingham palace and on her succession at the age of 18 she moved from Kensington Palace into Buckingham Palace. Although the state rooms were gilt and colourful the actual living quarters or as they were known as the queens apartments were drab and cold. The chimney system in the palace was such that it filled the palace with smoke. The gas supply was such that there were grave concerns that people living in the palace could be overcome by gas and die.
In 1840 the queen married Prince Albert who took to reorganising the palace and making it more habitable and by 1847 as their family increased the house became too small for the growing family. He then employed another architect to design and build the front wing which enclosed the palace and created the quadrangle courtyard. The front wing is the view of the house that most people are familiar with and it is on the Balcony of the front wing where members of the Royal family come out to wave to the crowds after state occasions and after the Royal weddings.
Directly in front of Buckingham palace stood Marble Arch but once work started on the East wing it had to be moved and was moved to its current site. It was designed by John Nash. The Victoria Memorial is directly in front of the Palace forming a roundabout at the end of the Mall. The Mall is a ceremonial route to the palace from Admiralty arch up to the Victoria Memorial. The road is a reddish colour due to the iron oxide in the material which is supposed to give the impression of a red carpet running the length of the Mall.
Come with me as I walk you around the palace.
Entry to the palace is by timed ticket. I pre booked our visit for 12:45 the plan being to watch the changing of the guard but unlucky for us it was absolutely belting down so we missed this even so we still were drenched going into the palace. You need to be in the queue to enter the palace at least 15 minutes before the allotted entry time so that you can go through an airport style security check where your bags are put through an X-ray machine you also have to walk through a metal detector. Here you are issued with an audio device to guide you around the palace on your visit.
Entry is via the Ambassador's entrance, up a few stairs and along a corridor around the perimeter of the quadrangle. You are not rushed and can stop and take your time at your leisure to look at and admire the fine works of art and anything else that catches your eye. The courtyard looks very impressive even when it is pouring down with rain.
On this occasion the entrance to the palace itself was via a side door beside the Grand covered entrance whereas before it was through the entrance into the large ornate reception room where the Queen meets her guests. There are large Chinese urns dotted around this area and a few chairs. The carpet is all red and it certainly sets the scene of grandeur of the State rooms of the palace.
To the left hand side is the grand staircase which looks directly up towards the state apartments however half way up the central staircase the stairs bifurcates splitting in two going up in a circular direction so that you come back on yourself to reach the first floor and the state rooms. The staircase is all gold gilt and there is a kind of parapet that overlooks the staircase. Around the walls are large paintings of close relatives of Queen Victoria. At the top of the staircase there is a frosted glass dome that helps flood the staircase with light. Each pane has been acid etched and there are angels at the base of the panes.
Entering through the first room which is a small guard room there are marble statues either side of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dressed in Roman clothes after which you enter the green room.
The Green Room.
The green room is decorated in green with matching furniture and large wall to ceiling windows leading out to a small balcony. The ceiling is vaulted and adorned with gold leaf against a cream background. There is a massive crystal chandelier in the centre of the room. This room acts as an ante chamber for people waiting to enter the next room which is the throne room.
The Throne Room.
The next room you enter is the throne room which is decorated in red with two chairs ahead of you on a small raised dais. The two chairs have the initials ER and P embroidered in gold against a red background and the royal insignia which were specifically made for the Queen for her coronation. There are also chairs in this room that were made for Queen Victoria and King George V and the Queen Mother. On the walls either side of the throne chairs are four gold trophies that belonged to King George IV and were brought to Buckingham Palace from Carlton house in 1795.
There is an exceptionally large chandelier in the centre of the room and four smaller ones in each of the four corners. The ceilings are cream with gold shields representing the United Kingdom of Scotland, Ireland and England. There are also gilt roses representing the war of the roses. Around the top of the room there is a white frieze of various battles. The throne area is separated by two columns at the top of which are marble angels.
The wall paper is red and so are the curtains with gold braiding along the edges of the curtains. In the centre of the room is a large marble fireplace with a gilt mirror above it. In front of the mirror is a large gold coloured clock from 1800. Queen Victoria used it for balls and entertaining. Its current use is for official photographs following State occasions, weddings and christenings and investitures.
The picture gallery.
After coming out of the Throne room you enter the picture gallery which is 50 meters long. The walls are bestowed with precious works by Canaletto, Rueben and Van Dyke. There are fireplaces along the corridor which have electric bar fires in them. Electric sockets are hidden under discs that are the same colour and texture of the wall paper. This room is splendid and is nice and bright due to the frosted glass ceiling which lets in natural light. Right near the end of the long gallery to the left hand side is a display room displaying the Faberge pieces.
The Faberge exhibition.
A special viewing room has been set up in an anti room which is painted black and contains approximately ten glass display cabinets. In the cabinets are pieces of jewellery acquired over the years from various auction houses throughout Europe. Some of the pieces were given as gifts to the Royal family by the Russian Royal family prior to their assasination. The Queen and Prince Charles own some exquisite pieces such as flowers, small animals such as frogs. There are cigarette cases, small boxes and trinkets, enamelled and jewel encrusted picture frames. The colours are absolutely fabulous bright burgundy; Azure blues. There are some Faberge Eggs one of which contained a small elephant that is automaton. It moves its legs and its head moves from side to side. When you consider how small and fine the jewellery work is it's no wonder many of the fine jewellers were practically blind in later life. It is so worth seeing these things often unseen by others and remains part of the Queens private collection.
The East Gallery.
The East gallery takes you across to the rear side of the palace passing into the Ball room and passing a large painting of Queen Victoria's coronation.
The Ball room.
The ballroom was added to the palace by Queen Victoria and was at the time the largest room in London. It was here that grand balls are held and investitures. At one end of the ballroom there is a large organ. It is in this room that the dress of the Duchess of Cambridge is on display. It is displayed behind a black net and is finely embroidered. At the top of the dress is the veil and the Tiara loaned to the Duchess by the Queen for the wedding. In a separate cabinet are the shoes and the bouquet. State banquets take place in the State ballroom due to its size and it is able to accommodate up to 150 guests.
The State Dining room.
The state dining room is beautiful the walls being covered with red embossed paper whilst around the walls are paintings of senior members of the royal family including George III, Queen Charlotte, George IV amongst others. There is Sevres pottery on dressers around the side of the dining room as there are also in other rooms. This year the wedding cake is on display. Although there is a cut in the cake the cake was actually not cut up. It consisted of 17 separate cakes and the workmanship in this cake as absolutely stunning. Such fine icing, lattice work, flowers to represent Scotland the thistle, Shamrock for Ireland, roses for England and Lilly of the valley. It really is a masterpiece.
The Blue Drawing room.
Prior to the building of the ballroom this room was used to hold balls. There are thirty columns in this room which were originally a raspberry colour the walls were covered in crimson damask and the curtains were red. Queen Mary insisted that the room be re decorated and the thirty columns were painted to resemble onyx and the walls hung with Blue flock wallpaper. In the centre of the room there is a large marble fireplace with a massive clock on the mantle. Either side of the fire place are life size paintings of Queen Mary and King George V. There are four large crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. At the top of the walls are plaster casts of figurines and the ceiling is indented with gold leaf.
The Music room also known as the Bow Room.
The music room is where Royal christenings have taken place notably that of Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince William and Harry. Prince Edward was christened at Windsor castle in the private chapel. The room overlooks the gardens at the rear. It has columns that are painted to resemble Blue lapis lazuli. The ceilings are domed and ingrained in blues and gold leaf. The floor is a marquetry wood and there is a grand piano in the room.
The final State room is the white drawing room.
This has to be one of the most beautiful rooms in the palace. The decor is bright and airy and the furniture is yellow and gold. It is in this room that the Queen will meet distinguished guests. The room has four ebony veneered cabinets two at each end of the room. Above each cabinet there is a large mirror. One of the cabinets is a concealed doorway through which the Queen makes her entrance mostly unbeknown to her guest. It is quite a dramatic entrance and certainly would be a talking point. There is also a large writing bureau in this room which is very ornately decorated.
This concludes the tour of Buckingham palace. You leave the state rooms via a staircase which brings you to the long corridor at the rear of the house which has more paintings and marble heads on pillars along the passage way. You then go into the lovely bow room which is directly under the music room with fine dinner services in display cabinets then out to a patio area and the gardens at the rear where you hand your audio machine back. There are toilet facilities at the rear a cafe on the patio and a very large shop selling nick nacks although I cannot see any reason to buy some of the things for sale. It would be rather tacky in my opinion to buy overpriced mugs or china or a dinner service with the Royal coat of arms plastered across the plate or Buckingham Palace printed on them. There was a small carriage clock for sale for £1500 and generally I thought the prices were quite expensive for the items on sale. The tented shop is much larger than on previous years.
In total there are over 755 rooms in Buckingham Palace of which 19 are state rooms, 52 are Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 Staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Over 800 people work in the palace ranging from jobs as housemaids to office assistants. Two people are employed to wind up the 300 plus clocks every week.
Compared to the state apartments the queen lives quite frugally in the North wing of the palace and is often seen going around the palace switching off lights.
Would I recommend a visit to Buckingham Palace?
Yes I would if you are interested in stately homes and historical places. It is absolutely stunning and the pieces of art on display are absolutely beautiful. You are not hurried or rushed to get around the palace and you can take as much time as you like. We were there for approximately three hours before we came out of the palace. Throughout the review I have described details that I have observed which may or may not be totally accurate because I am not a good judge of colours but generally I think you will get a very good idea of how beautiful it looks inside. A lot of the antiques and valuables and art work have been moved around the palaces to adorn the palace. Many pieces came from Brighton Pavilion which Queen Victoria detested. Many of the gifts and furniture belong to the Nation. You are not permitted to take photographs inside the palace but you may do so once you come out into the gardens. The exit is quite a long walk through the gardens of the palace which brings you out into Buckingham palace road.
There is so much more to learn about Buckingham palace which I find absolutely fascinating.
In 2012 the year of the Queens Diamond Jubilee to mark her 60th Year on the throne the exhibition will be based on Diamonds belonging to the Queen and the Nation which should be a spectacular exhibition.
My one criticism on this visit was the connecting doors between the wings were left open. These doors are mirrored which makes the palace seem even bigger. I found it a bit off putting that you could see into the other rooms which distracted your attention from the room you were actually in. There are several guides in each of the rooms who are quite happy to answer any questions you may have. I was bemused to see that some of the paintings were quite glossy and I noticed that at the top they seemed to be matt. I asked a guide about this and it seems that they are covered in plastic to prevent any damage from members of the public as they are priceless. Once the season is over they will be removed.
I booked our tickets up on line through the Royal collection web site which contains all the information you need for booking.
Admission is £17 and for pensioners £16. Once you have visited you can get your ticket stamped which will give you free admission again whilst the palace is open up to one year from the date of admission. I think that £17 is good value for money as you are not rushed or hurried during the tour. I absolutely love Buckingham palace it is well worth a visit although I would add that it is probably not suitable to take young children as they would probably get quite bored by it. For those who are wheelchair bound it is rather special in that you can gain entry to the Palace through the front of the palace after obtaining your tickets which is on the right hand side of the palace and a special lift is available to take you upstairs.
Summary: Excellent opportunity to see stunning decor and history belonging to the Nation and the Queen.
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