Buckingham Palace and the Albert Memorial from St. James's Park

Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British monarch. It is one of four primary residences the Queen maintains, along with Windsor Castle in Windsor, Sandringham House in Norfolk and Balmoral Castle, in Scotland. Originally known as Buckingham House, it became the official royal residence when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837. Following extensive renovation by her uncle, King George VI, Queen Victoria chose to live there rather than the smaller and less grand Kensington Palace, designating it Buckingham Palace shortly thereafter.


Buckingham House was built in 1703 as a town house for the Duke of Buckingham, who gave it its name. The third house to be built on the property, although the land has been occupied since the Middle Ages, and was once the site of a village known as Eye Cross, located on the River Tyburn; the river still runs underground through the palace gardens.

The land passed in and out of royal hands more than once before the First Duke of Buckingham built a modest three-story house with two small wings, which still form the core of the existing palace there. In 1761, Buckingham House was sold to King George III to be converted to a residence for his wife, Queen Charlotte. The house took on the name The Queen's House, and renovations began the next year. Although nearby Lambeth Palace was the official royal residence at the time, 14 of Queen Charlotte's 15 children were born at the Queen's House.


Georgian architecture in Bath.

The first informal use of the name Buckingham Palace began as early as 1791. In 1820, King George IV ascended the throne, and hired noted architect John Nash to continue renovation of the house. Nash was one of the preeminent architects of the period, and would eventually lay out much of Regency London under the patronage of the Prince Regent, who was by that time King George IV. The exterior facade was modified to resemble the neoclassical designs favored at the time, a style that became known as Georgian architecture. Featuring columns, pediments and other architectural features associated with ancient Greece and Rome, the style flourished in cities such as Bath, and in country residences. Nash's renovations were extensive, and costly, and he was eventually removed as architect.

In 1830, George VI died and his younger brother, William IV ascended the throne. William hired a second architect, Edward Blore, to complete the renovations. He died in 1837 before they were completed.

Conversion to Royal Residence

Buckingham Palace 1837

Buckingham Palace in 1837.

Queen Victoria moved to Buckingham Palace shortly after her accession in 1837. The palace faced east, with state rooms in the central west wing, and residential or offices in the north and south wings. The east side of the palace opened onto an open courtyard facing the Mall, accessed via a white marble arch.

The recent renovations left problems behind; newly introduced gas lighting had not been installed, the house was poorly ventilated, the chimneys smoked and the house was glacially cold. The household staff of the time, who had little respect for the new Queen, made little effort to keep the house clean, and it was infested with vermin, notably rats.


The Royal Family on the East Front balcony during the Queen's Jubilee.

In 1840, following the Queen's marriage, her new husband, Prince Albert took on the task of household reorganization and the repairs needed to make the palace clean and habitable, a task he accomplished in less than a year. However, by the late 1847s, Victoria and Albert found the palace too small for their family, and undertook to add another round of major renovations, enclosing the courtyard with a new wing known as the East Front, with additional state rooms and the balcony from which the sovereign greets the public.

Marble Arch looking toward Hyde Park

The final renovations were undertaken by Sir James Pennethorne, a student of Nash. At that time, the white Marble Arch was removed to the northeastern corner of Hyde Park, where it remains to this day.

The modern palace has 775 rooms, including 19 state rooms, 52 major bedrooms and 92 offices. As of late 2016, the house was preparing to undergo extensive refurbishment to modernize the plumbing, heating and electrical systems; work is set to begin in April 2017.[1]


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