You’ve admired it through the large iron gates countless times – now’s your chance to visit Buckingham Palace as one of London’s most iconic buildings once again throws open its doors to the public.
Buckingham Palace is both the office and London residence of Her Majesty the Queen and with a history as a royal residence stretching back to 1837, the building has a wealth of history and many stories to tell.
The modern palace actually contains some 775 rooms, but only 19 of them, the State Rooms, are open to the public. These rooms are the grandest in the Palace however and they are furnished with many rare and precious objects from the Royal Collection.
The State Rooms are used by Her Majesty for ceremonial occasions and for official entertaining. The rooms were also the setting for a reception after the marriage of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The rooms were first opened to the public in 1993 after the Queen decided that members of the public would be able to visit Buckingham Palace in August and September each year. It was hoped that revenue from the move would help to restore Windsor Castle, which had been damaged in a fire the previous November.
Highlights of the tour include John Nash’s magnificent Grand Staircase. The staircase was created by the famous architect as part of his work to refurbish the house on behalf of spendthrift King George IV.
The rebuilding job took place between 1825-1830 and the result was a dramatically enlarged building with a grand ceremonial entrance complete with its own triumphal arch (the Marble Arch).
Nash also extended the central block of the palace and the two eastern wings were rebuilt. However, the ambitious scale of the scheme meant that costs soon spiralled and after the death of the King, Nash was quickly dismissed from the project and the work handed to Edward Blore. Under Blore’s supervision, the State Rooms were finished in late 1834. The new rooms were furnished with objects taken from George IV’s former home, Carlton House.
The State Rooms are full of delightful interiors, furniture and art. Look out in particular for the beautiful balustrade which features a stunning design of acanthus, oak and laurel leaves. Also keep an eye out for the old masters. The palace is full of precious artworks and in the State Rooms alone you can see works by Canaletto, Rubens, Vermeer, Poussin and Van Dyck.
Visitors to the palace often reserve their greatest words of praise for the grand Throne Room. This room has been used for a vast array of ceremonial duties over the Queen’s long reign and it is here where Prince William and Katherine Middleton took their wedding photos in 2011.
If you’d like to visit Buckingham Palace, the State Rooms are open for 10 weeks each summer. Tours normally last for two and a half hours.
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