Buckingham Palace is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth I. It’s been the administrative headquarters of the British monarchy since 1837 but its history goes back much further than that. Today, it’s the focal point for most national and royal celebrations, but how clued up are you on this iconic landmark?
How long did it take to build Buckingham Palace?
When was Buckingham Palace built?
Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 but it didn’t become an official royal residence until Queen Victoria’s reign. She moved the family into the palace in 1837. Full construction was completed in 1853. In total, it took around 150 years to build Buckingham Palace.
Who built Buckingham Palace?
Buckingham Palace didn’t start off royal, it was built by John Sheffield, 3rd Earl of Mulgrave and Marquess of Normandy. William Winde and John Fitch built the original structure and completed the works around 1705. He became the Duke of Buckingham in the same year and decided to re-name his splendid new house ‘Buckingham House’.
When did it become a royal palace?
For more than 300 years, the King of England’s official royal residence in the capital city was the St. James’ Palace, around a quarter of a mile from Buckingham Palace. However, the Royal Family had owned the land on which Buckingham Palace sits for more than 400 years. Apparently, King James, I liked the area and purchased it as a park for royals and planted a four-acre grove of mulberry trees here.
In 1761, almost six decades after it was originally constructed, George III purchased Buckingham House for his wife Queen Charlotte as a more convenient and comfortable pad close to St James’s Palace. Of the royal couple’s 15 children, 14 were born at the house.
How much did it cost?
We don’t know how much the Duke of Buckingham paid for the land, but sources say that the original construction cost £7,000. We know that at some point between construction and its royal residents the British Museum briefly considered purchasing it. The owners wanted a hefty £30,000 for it – too much for the museum. We also know that when George III moved in, he commissioned a £73,000 renovation of the structure.
We also know that John Nash spent an estimated £400,000 renovating the palace for George IV in the 1820s too.
Who has lived there?
After George III’s death in 1820, an elderly George IV came to the throne. He’d grown up in Buckingham Palace and wanted to make it an official residence, hiring the prominent architect John Nash to expand and renovate the building. When George IV died in 1830, William IV ascended to the throne. He postponed moving the royal residence to Buckingham Palace, despite being born here, since he preferred Clarence Palace. After his death in 1837, Queen Victoria assumed the throne and became the palace’s first royal resident.
Since then, it has been the home of every ruling monarch. Edward VII is the only monarch to have both been born and died at Bucking Palace. Elizabeth II gave birth to Prince Charles and Prince Andrew here too.
What’s it made of?
Most of the building is oolitic limestone. John Nash famously quarried stone from Bath too.
How big is Buckingham Palace?
Buckingham Palace measures 108 metres (354-feet) by 120 metres (390 feet), reaching a height of 24 metres (79 feet). It boasts more than 77,000 square metres (830,000 square. feet) of floor space.
How many rooms are there?
Today, the palace features an impressive 775 rooms in total. This includes 18 staterooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. The music room has been used for royal christenings, with Prince Charles, Princess Anne, the Duke of York and Prince William christened here by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In case you were wondering, there are also 760 windows and 1,514 doors.
How much has it changed over the years?
The original three-story Buckingham House still forms the core of the modern palace. John Nash constructed three wings around this central courtyard and added an external facade in the French neoclassical style. He also built a triumphal arch, an imposing entrance for visiting dignitaries, featuring images depicting recent military victories at the centre of the forecourt. Parliament dismissed Nash after George IV’s death for grossly exceeding the budget.
Queen Victoria, eight years after ascending the throne and moving in, complained to Prime Minister Robert Peel about the lack of space for accommodation and entertaining. Edward Blore was tasked with adding a new wing and the balcony. Then, in 1855, James Pennethorne added the Ball and Concert Room, the Ball Supper Room, and the galleries to Nash’s State Appartments. He also moved the triumphal arch to where it stands today. Electricity was first installed in 1883.
Finally, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the gates, railings and forecourt were added.
Electricity was first installed in the Ball Room of Buckingham Palace in 1883.
The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early-20th centuries. In 1911, the gates, railings and forecourt were created. Sir Aston Webb redesigned the east front looking out onto the Mall too.
In 1962, the Duke of Edinburgh commissioned The Queen’s Gallery from the bombed-out ruins of the former Private Chapel. In 2002, to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the gallery was renovated too. It’s possible to visit the gallery all year round.
What about the Royal Balcony?
It’s one of the most famous balconies in the world, but like the palace itself, it’s a fairly modern addition. Queen Victoria hired Edward Blore to take on renovation works in 1845, using proceeds from the sale of Brighton Pavilion in 1846. He designed the central balcony on the new main façade. It was from here that Queen Victoria watched her troops depart for the Crimean War.