Buckingham Palace is currently the official London residence of the monarch and has been since the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837. It has played an important role as the focal point for national celebrations and commemorations. The Palace measures 108 metres long by 120 metres deep, and it’s 24 metres high.
The Palace’s Origins
The Palace originated as a townhouse known as Buckingham House, built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham. Sixty years later it was purchased by George III as a private residence for his wife, Queen Charlotte, and it became known as the Queen’s House. Following the death of George III, the Palace was enlarged and remodelled by the architects John Nash and Edward Blore.
Figure 1 – Buckingham House, early 18th Century
Source: Adriaen van Diest. Credit: The Royal Collection
Renovations to the Palace were eventually completed by start of Queen Victoria’s reign. Victoria used it as a family home and a place of entertainment, but after Prince Albert’s death in 1861 the Palace became somewhat neglected. On the accession of her son, Edward VII, to the throne in 1901, Buckingham Palace was revived as a place of royal entertaining and played a central role in ceremonial events throughout the twentieth century.
Buckingham Palace was a symbol of resilience during World War Two; George VI and Queen Mary remained in residence for the duration of the War and were home when a bomb hit a part of the east side in September 1940. On the day victory was announced, five years later, the Royal Family and the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, walked out onto the balcony to a jubilant crowd. Street celebrations outside the Palace continued into the night.
Figure 2 – King George VI and Queen Mary looking at the bomb damage to Buckingham Palace, 1940
Source: BBC website/ Getty Images
Footage of Buckingham Palace after being hit by a German bomb, British Pathé (1940): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxbV8EcaSkk
Footage of crowds outside Buckingham Palace on VE Day, British Pathé (1945): https://www.britishpathe.com/video/ve-day-celebrations/query/buckingham+palace+ve+day
The Royal Balcony
The balcony of Buckingham Palace is an iconic feature. Appearances by the Royal family on the balcony began in 1851, when Queen Victoria greeted crowds following the opening of the Great Exhibition. Since then, the monarch and their family have congregated on the balcony for an array of special occasions, such as Royal Weddings, Jubilee celebrations, and the Trooping of the Colour, many of which include a fly past from the famous Royal Air Force Red Arrows.
The Palace Today
Buckingham Palace has a total of 775 rooms. These include 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 bedrooms for employees, and 78 bathrooms. The Palace is also home to 19 State rooms and 92 offices. Today, Buckingham Palace continues to be a working Palace, serving as venue for royal ceremonies and events. Each year around 50,000 people are invited to visit the Palace to take part in State banquets, receptions, dinners and garden parties.
Footage of the Queen’s Garden Party, British Pathé, 1952: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/VLVA9E6G54SVF7MVKBYNZIJZ1JSHD-ROYAL-QUEEN-HOSTS-GARDEN-PARTY-AT-BUCKINGHAM-PALACE/query/buckingham+palace
Find out more
“Who built Buckingham Palace?”. Royal Collection Trust. 2018. <https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace/who-built-buckingham-palace#/>
E. Healey, The Queen’s House: A Social History of Buckingham Palace (London, Penguin Group, 1997)
P. Wright, The Strange History of Buckingham Palace (Stroud, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1996)
Opening times/ access
The gardens and 19 State rooms are open to the public in the summer each year, usually between July and September.