In Residence: British Royal Palaces Check out this handy-dandy map of the locations of royal homes across the UK.
“Buck House” – as it is affectionately known – is the official seat of HM The Queen.
It evolved from a much smaller home that was owned by the Dukes of Buckingham, for whom it was named.
In 1761, King George III bought Buckingham House, as it was known then, for his wife Queen Charlotte. His Majesty liked the house for its close proximity to St. James’s Palace where official state business was carried out at the time. The residence then became known as the “Queen’s House”, where fourteen of George III’s fifteen children were born!
Buckingham Palace became the official residence of the sovereign in July 1837, when a newly crowned Queen Victoria moved in. It has been the official site of the Monarch and their state business ever since. It became so iconic that when it was suggested that Windsor become Queen Elizabeth II’s official residence, Winston Churchill had a good grumble about it. He insisted that Buckingham Palace was to be the site for the Head of State.
Did you know?
Though the monarch lives and works in Buckingham Palace, St. James’s remains the formal “official palace of the Sovereign” and is the most senior royal palace in the United Kingdom.
Buckingham Palace has had numerous additions throughout the years. Today, the room count stands at 775. It houses the offices of the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, and other various members of the Royal Family. It is also the scene of many official ceremonies such as Jubilees, the receiving of loyal addresses, State Visits and Investitures. Official wedding photographs of numerous Royal Family members are taken in the Throne Room.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place outside Buckingham Palace at 11:30 am every day from May to July. It takes place on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting.
Information on the opening of State Rooms: royalcollection.org.uk
Situated in the town of Windsor, it is the largest occupied castle in the world. It has been a private home as well as a piece of history, built over 900 years ago by William the Conqueror. Windsor contains the most valuable pieces of art in the world, including paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Its fourteenth-century chapel, named for England’s patron Saint George, has been the site of several memorable weddings.
The Queen, as a young princess, lived at Windsor Castle during the war years with her little sister Princess Margaret. The children had been stationed here for their own safety, far from London where the Nazis dropped continuous bombs. It was a shot to the heart for Elizabeth when, in 1992, a lamp overturned and set a curtain alight, burning a large portion of Windsor’s majestic rooms. Her childhood home suffered £30-40m worth of damage.
Thankfully, many of the paintings and tapestries were saved. To honor those who had helped battle the blaze and rescue valuable items, new stained glass was added in the chapel bearing the images of volunteers and firemen.
St. James’s Palace
The walls of this palace housed many a monarch in its time. Built in the 1530s, St. James has long been the “senior” royal palace, and is often in use for official functions. Unlike Windsor and Buckingham Palace, it is not open to the public.
King William IV, uncle of Queen Victoria, was the last Sovereign to use St. James’s Palace as a residence. It is still considered a senior royal palace and the Prince of Wales’s offices are located here, as well as the press office for Princes William and Harry.
The site was brought into the royal orbit when King Henry VIII acquired it from Eton College. He renovated the building into a ‘magnificent and goodly house’, making it the principal official palace of the Sovereign.
Over time, St. James’s has functioned as an official palace as well as a home, and sometimes it has been a private home only. Mary Tudor, Henry’s daughter with Catherine of Aragon, preferred to use St. James’s as a private residence as queen while conducting most official business at Whitehall.
Balmoral Castle is located on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It was a favorite of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. The rolling hills of Scotland reminded Albert of his native Thuringia in Germany, and they came here often with their large brood of children to escape the congested life of London.
This castle is still a firm favorite of the Royal Family, and it is their vacation spot during the summer holiday period in August and September. The Queen still “does the boxes” full of official paperwork while at Balmoral, though. A Queen’s work is never done!
The original Balmoral Castle was built in the fifteenth century, but it was considered too small for Queen Victoria and her nine children. Instead, a new castle, which we recognize as Balmoral today, was constructed near the original site.