In Depth

Inside Buckingham Palace: behind the scenes of the Queen's royal home

As the royal residence prepares to undergo a £369m makeover, we take a look inside the iconic landmark

From the historic prestige of Windsor Castle to the bucolic charms of Balmoral, the UK sites owned by the Royal Estate rarely fail to inspire.

But none captures the imagination quite like Buckingham Palace. One of the most visited landmarks in the world, the palace has also remained “an important location for ceremonial and political affairs in the UK”, writes Town and Country Magazine.

“The royal residence has played host to some of the most significant moments in English history,” the magazine adds. “And while Buckingham Palace itself is a fixture of British culture, there are still many secrets about the palace and its rich history that few people know.” 

This year, a ten-year refurbishment project, estimated to cost the taxpayer £369m, is due to begin.

The Queen will remain in residence throughout the works, which will see ageing cables, lead pipes, wiring and boilers replaced, many for the first time in 60 years, the Daily Express reports.

So what is the palace like on the inside?

The history

Originally built in 1703 as Buckingham House for the 3rd Earl of Mulgrave John Sheffield, King George III bought the building in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte. As a result, Buckingham House became known as the “Queen's House”.

George IV, on his accession to the throne in 1820, “decided to reconstruct the house into a pied-à-terre, using it for the same purpose as his father George III”, Royal.uk says.

“As work progressed, and as late as the end of 1826, The King had a change of heart,” the site adds. “With the assistance of his architect, John Nash, he set about transforming the house into a palace.”

The UK parliament offered the Royal Estate a budget of £150,000 to reconstruct the palace, but the king refused, instead pressing for the more realistic figure of £450,000, which he eventually secured.

The main block of the building was retained, but by adding a new suite of rooms on the garden side facing west, architects more than doubled the size of the palace, adding a French neo-classical facade to the front of the palace which is still visible today.

The building

According to the Royal website, Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, including “19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms”.

The site adds that the building is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the central quadrangle) and 24 metres high.

Overall, the building has a remarkable 252,624 sq m of floor space and features 40 acres of manicured gardens.

As a result, were it to be sold by the Royal Estate, Foxtons estate agents have estimated that Buckingham is worth in excess of £2.2bn based on its size alone.

What are the rooms like?

Upon entering the building, the State Rooms and the Grand Staircase are the first two stops, according to Business Insider. These were designed by the architect John Nash, and are lined with portraits and full of natural light, illuminated by a skylight above.

“The State Rooms have multiple drawing rooms” and are strongly themed with certain colours, the site adds. “The White Drawing Room serves as a royal reception room for the Queen and royal family members. They often meet here before official events.”

The Ballroom is used for prestigious banquets and official visits by foreign heads of state. Here, the chandelier is made up of 9,000 pieces of lead crystal and weighing over half a tonne, according to the Press Association.

However perhaps the most important of the State Rooms is the Throne Room, from which the Queen makes royal addresses on important occasions, and which was also where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge posed for their formal wedding photos after they were married in 2011.

Elsewhere, the Queen's Gallery includes works by Vermeer, Rubens, Canaletto, Duccio, and Dürer, as well as jewels that are part of the Queen's collection, according to Town and Country, but only a fraction of the 7,000 paintings, 500,000 prints and 30,000 watercolours are currently on display.

Although little has been made public about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s sleeping quarters, the two reportedly keep separate bedrooms, but “mainly because the Duke of Edinburgh likes to sleep with the windows open, even in the dead of winter”, E! Online says.

What secrets does it hold?

The palace is currently home to a number of surprising facilities, according to Hello! Magazine.

“While there is no secret underground Tube station, as many have speculated, the Palace does have secret tunnels that connect it to Clarence House and the House of Parliament,” the magazine reports.

Also present are an on-site jewellers, a doctor’s surgery equipped for operations, a swimming pool, a movie theatre and, since 2001, a cash machine in the basement for royal use only.

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