The Story of Buckingham Palace

As the Queen celebrates an incredible 70 years on the throne with her Platinum Jubilee, we’re taking a look at her most famous residence, and one of the most famous homes in the world, Buckingham Palace.

The History of Buckingham Palace

Berkeley Inspiration, The Story of Buckingham Palace, History

The first thing to mention is that Buckingham Palace hasn’t always been the official main residence of the British Royal Family. In terms of the monarchy’s history, it has played this role for a relatively short period of time, beginning in 1837 with the accession to the throne of Queen Victoria. 

Before then, the monarch’s residence was at St. James’ Palace for more than 300 years. It still plays an important role in Royal life as the residence of several members of the family and it regularly hosts events.

The land where the Palace now sits had been owned by historical figures like William The Conqueror and the monks of Westminster Abbey, before the Duke of Buckingham bought it in the late 17th Century. He built Buckingham House there and it was bought by King George III in 1761.

The most important development took place when George IV hired John Nash to expand Buckingham House into a building fit to be the official royal residence. He transformed it into most of the palace that we know today, but ended up being fired for spending too much money while George’s successor William IV didn’t want to move there and tried to give it up as the new Houses of Parliament.

Of course, that didn’t happen, and his niece Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace when she took the throne. That wasn’t the end of the changes though, with architect Edward Blore hired to add an extra wing to provide more room for the Queen’s growing family and generally improve a palace that had become dirty and lacked basic ventilation.

One of his biggest changes was to remove a ceremonial entrance, which ended up near Hyde Park and is well known today as Marble Arch. Blore’s changes shaped the modern Buckingham Palace, but even after this point, its future wasn’t guaranteed. Victoria and her family had used it as a home and venue for parties, but when her husband Prince Albert died in 1861, she fled London and refused to return.

Buckingham Palace fell almost into disrepair in her absence and while she eventually returned on a partial basis, it wasn’t until the reign of Edward VII that redecorating began, while George V made the final changes to the exterior, introducing the east wing’s public facade, which is the recognisable frontage that we all know as Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace Today

Berkeley Inspiration, The Story of Buckingham Palace, Today

So how much do you actually know about Buckingham Palace? Here’s some amazing facts about it: 

There are 775 rooms in the palace, including 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 78 bathrooms and 19 state rooms. There’s also a cinema, swimming pool, post office, police station, doctor’s clinic and there’s even a cash machine, although the Queen of course, never carries cash.

Buckingham Palace has the largest private garden in London, covering 42 acres with room for a helipad, a lake and a tennis court, as well as space to host many garden parties.

The Mall, which leads to Buckingham Palace and will be front and centre for Jubilee events, was completed in 1911 as part of tributes to the late Queen Victoria.

At least 12 people have managed to break into Buckingham Palace over the years, including a boy called Thomas Jones who did it three times during the reign of Victoria.

Michael Fagan famously found his way into Queen Elizabeth II’s bedroom, though stories vary as to whether he had a conversation with her or whether she just ran out of the room.

The oldest part of the Palace are the wine vaults, which date back to the original Buckingham House.

There have often been rumours of secret tunnels and passages around Buckingham Palace, but there is at least one confirmed secret passage, which leads from the Queen’s private chambers to the White Drawing Room, where she often entertains guests. She is the only person allowed to use the passage and is said to enjoy making a dramatic entrance through a hidden door disguised as a mirror and cabinet.

If you’re feeling inspired by this iconic London address, find your own royal home by looking at our latest London developments