Blog > History of Buckingham Palace

January 20, 2013

In the history of London Buckingham Palace has a relatively short story.  Today it is the home of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. The Palace is located in the city of Westminster on the far end of St. James Park and is not far from Safestay Hostel.  Although it has been a setting for many occasions in recent British history the building itself is only just a bit over 300 years old. 

It was built in the first decade of the 18th century for the Duke of Buckingham on ground that was in private ownership for at least 150 years.

Before this construction the site had changed hands many times.  During the history of London owners would include William the Conqueror, Edward the Confessor and the monks of Westminster Abby in the Middle Ages.

Henry VIII would actually own the property during his reign in the 1500's.

James I  successor to Elizabeth I in the early 1600's would sell most of the property because he was in need of money.  He did retain 4 acres to establish a mulberry garden to set up a silk industry. Today this area makes up the northwest part of the palace building.

The original part of the building constructed for the Duke consisted of a large townhouse that would be sold to King George III in 1761.  It became the private residence for Queen Charlotte and was known as The Queens House. The purchase price at the time was 21,000 pounds in 2013 that would be 3 million pounds or a bit under 5 million in United States dollars.

During the early 19th century it would be enlarged to form 3 wings around a central courtyard.

George IV with the help of his architect John Nash decided on an external facade that was French

Neo-Classic. The cost of these extravagant renovations grew so dramatically that Nash was eventually removed from the job in 1829.

The following year the new king, William IV (younger brother to George) would hire Edward Blore to finish the work. 

At one stage William IV considered converting the Palace into the new Houses of Parliament after they had burned in 1834.

It only became the official residence of the monarch with the accession in 1837 of Queen Victoria.

Later additions would be made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  This would include the East Front where the royal family will gather to greet the public on the annual Trooping the Colour and special occasions.

Edward VII did a refurbishment in 1901 of portions of the palace in the Belle Epoque style.  This gives many of the important areas of the Palace the cream and gold coloring scheme.

The last major change to the building would take place during the reign of King George V in 1913.  The East Front facade was redesigned to its present appearance.

A major addition to the property was the Queen's Gallery which was built in 1962 to exhibit works of art from the vast Royal Collection.  It is on the site of the Palace Chapel that had been bombed and destroyed in World War II.

Buckingham Palace has 5 floors and a total of 775 rooms. These would include 19 state rooms and 52 principal bedrooms.  There are also 78 bathrooms, 92 offices, and 188 staff bedrooms.

The rear of the Palace is the site of a lake and a well groomed garden that is the largest private garden   in the city of London. It covers 40 acres (16 hectares).

Nearby are the Royal Mews where the royal carriages are housed.  This includes the Gold State Coach first used by George III in 1762 and has been used for every coronation since George IV. 

Buckingham Palace for the first time opened to the public in 1993 during the months of August and September when the Queen would be on vacation. This was the first time in the history of London that the public would be able to visit the main residence of the reigning monarch. This was done to help pay for the 40 million pound cost of restoring Windsor Castle.  It had been damaged by fire in the fall of 1992.

In 2009 the Palace became open to the public for more than the former 60 days a year including even when the royals are in residence.  The additional opening was a result of a deal struck that provided 4 million additional pounds a year.  This helped to deal with a backlog of maintenance and repair issues.

As a result the British Government now currently provides 15 million pounds for the upkeep of the Palace and grounds.