Famous Buildings: Buckingham Palace
In downtown London, surrounded by two large parks, lies one of the most iconic buildings in all of England, Buckingham Palace. Long before it became the national symbol that it is today, the grounds were in use, first as a mulberry garden and then later as the Queen’s House. Today, thousands of people visit Buckingham Palace every year.
What’s in the Palace?
With more than 800,000 square feet of living space spread across five stories, Buckingham Palace is so large that it has its own postal code. The building has 775 rooms, including 78 bathrooms. Another 92 are offices, 52 are bedrooms for the royal family and their guests, 19 are state rooms, and 188 are staff bedrooms. Visitors can tour some of these rooms when the monarch isn’t in residence, most often during the summer. The tour includes the picture gallery, the throne room, the ballroom, the music room, some of the state rooms, and parts of the 39-acre garden. From outside of the palace, visitors can observe the changing of the guard and see the famous balcony. Other rooms include:
- A movie theater
- A jeweler’s workshop
- Several drawing rooms, including the White Drawing Room, Centre Room, Yellow Drawing Room, and Blue Drawing Room
- The Regency Room
- A doctor’s office
- A post office
- The Audience Room, where meetings with the prime minister take place
- A chapel
- A dining room
- A police station
- A staff cafeteria
- Nine elevators
- A swimming pool
- Underground tunnels
History of Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is named after the man who had it built in 1703, John Sheffield, the duke of Buckingham. Then, it was called Buckingham House. King George III bought the house in 1761 as a retreat for Queen Charlotte. Fourteen of the queen’s 15 children were born there, and it became known as the Queen’s House.
- King George IV had the building converted into a palace in the 1820s.
- Architect John Nash went so far over budget on the palace that he was fired.
- Queen Victoria was the first monarch to use the palace as a residence.
- Queen Victoria hosted the first ball held in the palace, which celebrated the end of the Crimean War.
- Only King Edward VII was born and died in the palace.
- Bombs hit Buckingham Palace nine times during World War II. Despite this, the royal family refused to leave.
- Queen Victoria started the tradition of making public appearances on the balcony.
What Happens in Buckingham Palace?
Buckingham Palace is the headquarters of the British monarchy. Some members of the royal family live at Buckingham Palace during most of the year, although they may stay in other homes on weekends and over the summer. Some staff also live at the palace to maintain it and help with events. Every week, the prime minister meets with the ruling monarch at the palace. In the summer, more staff fill the palace as they prepare for tourists to flood in.
Buckingham Palace Trivia
- You can tell whether the monarch is in residence by looking at the flagpole. If the British flag is flying, the monarch is not there. If they are, their royal standard will be flying instead.
- More than 50,000 people are invited to the palace each year for garden parties, banquets, and parties.
- More than 40,000 light bulbs light the palace.
- The palace was supposed to be renovated starting in 2020, but the start of the project was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Planned renovations include upgrading the lifts to provide reliable elevator access to every floor.
- The palace garden has a helipad, which Queen Elizabeth II ordered built in 2000.
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