10 Things You Didn’t Know About Buckingham Palace
We all know that Buckingham Palace is a stunning architectural monument, the biggest tourist attraction in London and one of the most recognisable palaces in the world. But I am going to enlighten you about 10 interesting things you may not know, which I find quite intriguing about the Palace.
Here is my list. But let me warn you, it’s not all tea and tiaras!
Buckingham Palace is one of the few remaining fully functioning royal palaces in the world, being the home and offices of the Monarch of the UK. Many other countries lost their royal families long ago and the old palaces are now museums for the most part.
It is named after the Duke of Buckingham who built Buckingham House, as it was previously known, when he became Duke in the early 1700s. Then it was purchased by the royal family in 1761, enlarged and renamed Buckingham Palace.
3. Queen Vic
Queen Victoria made it the royal residence officially in 1837. But parts of the Palace were a bit shabby. There were problems with ventilation and smells. The staff were lazy and the Palace was less than clean. After extensive renovations, Victoria brought the Palace to life, hosting lavish balls, ceremonies and musical performances by famous artists at the time.
4. Deserted Palace
In the 1860s the Palace was virtually deserted and neglected by the grieving Queen Victoria who left following the death of her beloved Prince Albert. She didn’t want it! But was convinced by the people to return. Her monument (pictured above) sits proudly outside the front gate.
Today the Palace is valued at about £2 Billion, however, this figure varies from different sources. It is not owned by the Queen personally, but held in trust for the Sovereign by the State. In other words, the people of London own it. Lucky them? I’m not so sure.
But what happens if the new Sovereign doesn’t want to live there? Speculation has it that Charles won’t want a bar of it, save for official business purposes only. I don’t think he will be forced to live there like his mother was forced by Churchill.
This regal abode has 775 rooms and more bathrooms than necessary, surely, 78 of them in fact! And guess what? None of them are ensuites. What? I hear you say. I know… Anyway, let’s not dwell on the bathrooms.
There are 800 staff employed, many of which reside at the Palace. Now, you would think living at the Palace, their accommodation would be luxurious, right? Wrong! They are similar to student dormitories and aren’t free.
Interesting trivia: 2 staff are employed full time to keep all 350 clocks in the Palace in working order at all ‘times’ (pardon the pun). What do you think their job title is? Horological Conservators. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it.
Apart from the fancy State Rooms, much of the Palace is currently in dire need of restorations, with wiring, plumbing and painting still the same for more than 50 years, which actually makes it a fire hazard, amongst other things. Also, it is mouse-infested (a big NO from me) and has asbestos too.
What is the cost of the works taking place, you ask? Wait for it … £370 million. Wow! And furthermore, it will take 10 years to finish. OMG! (Um, I hate to state the obvious, but a certain someone might not live to see its completion … cough, cough.)
The Queen has been asked to open the Palace for tours all year round in order to help fund the exorbitant cost of the restorations, but apparently that’s not feasible, so taxpayers will have the pleasure of footing the bill (since, they own it).
You can only visit the palace when the Queen is away during the summer, in July and August (HRH doesn’t want to be there when the riff-raff are let loose). Tours are available for the State Rooms, Throne Room and Gallery only, and take about 2 to 3 hours. No photography is allowed in the rooms.
Changing of the Guards at the front gates occurs every morning in summer for 45 minutes and is free to watch, if you can get a good spot.
9. Dress code
As you can imagine the Palace has very strict codes of dress for formal visitors. But, when Mahatma Gandhi visited Buckingham Palace in 1931 to see King George, he refused to change from his usual attire of loin cloth (dhoti) and sandals, which represented the poor of India, and he added only a large shawl for warmth. Afterwards, he said that ‘his majesty more than made up for both of us’ (i.e. he was overdressed).
Interesting trivia: The then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill called him ‘a naked fakir’ (I’ll tell you what it means, cos I can read your mind – it’s a religious man with few belongings).
The land on which the Palace is built was originally swamp land, where King James planted a mulberry garden to grow silkworms, in order to compete with the high quality french silk.
Other interesting facts (because I just can’t stop at 10):
- The Palace has an Art Gallery;
- There is an ATM machine;
- A Police Station is on site;
- There is a cinema;
- Some rooms have Chinese decor, furniture and artefacts (I’m not sure why);
- 40,000 light bulbs are fitted in the Palace;
- In WWII the Palace survived 9 bombing attacks, yes 9, and the chapel was completely destroyed;
- Every year 50,000 VIP guests are entertained at the Palace,
and my favourite,
- Secret tunnels exist under the Palace that lead to other places in London. Oooh!
For spooky tales of London’s history, check out the famous Tower of London.
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