Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focus for the British people at times of national rejoicing and crisis. Originally known as Buckingham House, the building which forms the core of today's palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1705 on a site which had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was subsequently acquired by George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte, and known as "The Queen's House".
During the 19th century it was enlarged, principally by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, forming three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the East front which contains the well-known balcony on which the royal family traditionally congregates to greet crowds outside. However, the palace chapel was destroyed by a German bomb in World War II; the Queen's Gallery was built on the site and opened to the public in 1962 to exhibit works of art from the Royal Collection.
The original early 19th-century interior designs, many of which still survive, included widespread use of brightly coloured scagliola and blue and pink lapis, on the advice of Sir Charles Long. King Edward VII oversaw a partial redecoration in a Belle Époque cream and gold colour scheme. Many smaller reception rooms are furnished in the Chinese regency style with furniture and fittings brought from the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and from Carlton House. The Buckingham Palace Garden is the largest private garden in London. The state rooms, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public each year for most of August and September, as part of the Palace's Summer Opening.
The Palace measures 108 metres by 120 metres, is 24 metres high and contains over 77,000 m2 (830,000 sq ft) of floorspace. The principal rooms of the palace are contained on the piano nobile behind the west-facing garden façade at the rear of the palace. The centre of this ornate suite of state rooms is the Music Room, its large bow the dominant feature of the façade. Flanking the Music Room are the Blue and the White Drawing rooms. At the centre of the suite, serving as a corridor to link the state rooms, is the Picture Gallery, which is top-lit and 55 yards (50 m) long.
The Gallery is hung with numerous works including some by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Rubens and Vermeer; other rooms leading from the Picture Gallery are the Throne Room and the Green Drawing Room. The Green Drawing room serves as a huge anteroom to the Throne Room, and is part of the ceremonial route to the throne from the Guard Room at the top of the Grand staircase. The Guard Room contains white marble statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Roman costume, set in a tribune lined with tapestries. These very formal rooms are used only for ceremonial and official entertaining, but are open to the public every summer.
Directly underneath the State Apartments is a suite of slightly less grand rooms known as the semi-state apartments. Opening from the Marble Hall, these rooms are used for less formal entertaining, such as luncheon parties and private audiences. Some of the rooms are named and decorated for particular visitors, such as the 1844 Room, which was decorated in that year for the State visit of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, and, on the other side of the Bow Room, the 1855 Room, in honour of the visit of Emperor Napoleon III of France. At the centre of this suite is the Bow Room, through which thousands of guests pass annually to the Queen's Garden Parties in the Gardens beyond. The Queen uses privately a smaller suite of rooms in the North wing.
The Garden, The Royal Mews And The Mall:
At the rear of the palace, is the large and park-like garden which, together with its lake, is the largest private garden in London. Here the Queen hosts her annual garden parties each summer, and also holds large functions to celebrate royal milestones, such as jubilees. It covers 40 acres, and includes a helicopter landing area, a lake, and a tennis court.
Adjacent to the palace is the Royal Mews, also designed by Nash, where the royal carriages, including the Gold State Coach, are housed. This rococo gilt coach, designed by Sir William Chambers in 1760, has painted panels by G. B. Cipriani. It was first used for the State Opening of Parliament by George III in 1762 and has been used by the monarch for every coronation since George IV. It was last used for the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Also housed in the Mews are the carriage horses used in royal ceremonial processions.
The Mall, a ceremonial approach route to the palace, was designed by Sir Aston Webb and completed in 1911 as part of a grand memorial to Queen Victoria. It extends from Admiralty Arch, across St James's Park to the Victoria Memorial. This route is used by the cavalcades and motorcades of visiting heads of state, and by the royal family on state occasions such as the annual Trooping the Colour.
Royal Use And Public Access:
Every year some 50,000 invited guests are entertained at garden parties, receptions, audiences and banquets. The Garden Parties, usually three, are held in the summer, usually in July. The Forecourt of Buckingham Palace is used for Changing of the Guard, a major ceremony and tourist attraction (daily during the summer months; every other day during the winter).
The palace, like Windsor Castle, is owned by the British state. It is not the monarch's personal property, unlike Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle. Many of the contents from Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace and St. James's Palace are known collectively as the Royal Collection; owned by the Sovereign, they can, on occasions, be viewed by the public at the Queen's Gallery, near the Royal Mews. Unlike the palace and the castle, the gallery is open continually and displays a changing selection of items from the collection.
The rooms containing the Queen's Gallery are on the site of the former chapel, which was damaged by one of the seven bombs to fall on the palace during World War II. The palace's state rooms have been open to the public during August and September since 1993. The money raised in entry fees was originally put towards the rebuilding of Windsor Castle following the 1992 fire which destroyed many of its state rooms.
Thus, Buckingham Palace is a symbol and home of the British monarchy, an art gallery and tourist attraction. Behind the gilded railings and gates which were made by the Bromsgrove Guild and Webb's famous façade which has been described in a book published by the Royal Collection as looking "like everybody's idea of a palace"; is not only the weekday home of the Queen and Prince Philip but also the London residence of the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. The palace also houses the offices of the Royal Household and is the workplace of 450 people.