Visit London Blog » buckingham palace summer opening Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:05:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Visiting The Past: Buckingham Palace Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:00:56 +0000 As Buckingham Palace is due to open its doors to the public on 26 July for its yearly Summer Opening, the Museum of London‘s Senior Curator of Fashion Beatrice Behlen explores the history of the world-famous royal residence.

Buckingham Palace in 1913, captured by photographer Christina Broom.

It is unlikely that John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby (1648-1721) expected his name still to be associated with the main residence of the English monarch almost 300 years after his death. The original Buckingham House was built for the Duke in 1703 and still forms the core of the building that first became a royal home when King George III acquired it for his wife, Queen Charlotte in 1761.

Over the years several architects were involved in enlarging the building, most notably John Nash – also responsible for Regent Street – who was hired in 1826 but fired in 1829 for being too extravagant in his designs. Nash’s successor Edward Blore finished the work in time for Queen Victoria to move in on her accession in 1837.

Even before the addition of the east wing, now providing the main façade of the palace, the enormity of the building was noted. One German critic, a certain Dr. Gustav Waagen, thought that the palace looked ‘as if some wicked magician had suddenly transformed some capricious stage-scenery into solid reality’.

In 1843, a contributor to Charles Knight’s book on London admired the ingenuity involved in ‘preventing a pile of such large dimensions from appearing large’.  The palace was made even larger, 108 metres wide and 120 metres deep to be precise, once the wing facing The Mall was added in 1847. The creation of the forecourt including gates and railings in 1911, and the addition of white Portland stone to the façade in 1913 made the palace into what Londoners and visitors to the capital can now gaze at in wonderment.

Buckingham Palace 1913, by Christina Broom

If you are interested in facts and figures, have a look at this helpful list provided by the royal household, where some of the contents of the palace are mentioned, including a tennis court, doctor’s surgery, cinema and, most intriguingly, a swimming pool. This was added in 1938 when the north-west pavilion, originally designed as a conservatory and changed in 1911-13 into a rackets court, was converted. It is said that the Princesses Margaret and Diana were keen swimmers and today royal household staff are allowed to use the facility as long as they leave once a member of the royal family appears, unless invited to stay.

Each year, large numbers of guests gain access to the palace and its large grounds during garden parties, receptions, audiences and banquets. Since 2009 the palace is also open to the public during the summer, with changing temporary exhibitions arranged in some of the principal rooms. This year, unsurprisingly, the focus will be on royal childhood. Despite the fact that Prince Philip is said to have taught his children swimming there, the pool, for now at least, will not be part of the public route.

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Buckingham Palace Summer Opening 2013 Tue, 30 Jul 2013 14:42:35 +0000

The arrival of a royal baby, a new prince third in line to the throne, comes in the same year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of his great grandmother’s coronation.

At Buckingham Palace this summer, as part of the opening of the state rooms, an exhibition allows you to step back in time and fully immerse yourself in the experience of the coronation from start to finish.

The palace was at the heart of the celebrations on Coronation Day and the tour begins at the quadrangle, where the carriage procession to Westminster Abbey departed, culminating in the Gold State Coach, carrying The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

Head back inside and up the grand staircase and begin the tour of the state rooms, learning how individual rooms in the palace were used. The first room you enter, for example, is the Green Drawing Room, where Cecil Beaton took his famous coronation portraits of The Queen, using a backdrop to recreate the inside of Westminster Abbey.

The exhibition, where the atmosphere of the historic day is recreated, takes you from the 18 months of planning through to the ceremony itself.  A black and white film projected onto the vast wall shows the months of preparation, alongside replica 1950s TVs which show how the nation prepared and celebrated throughout the country. Other footage in the exhibition includes the coronation itself, plus members of the royal family joining The Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to face hundreds of thousands of well-wishers following the ceremony. In the Throne Room see family portraits alongside behind the scenes footage of them being taken.

This is the largest exhibition ever mounted about the coronation and on display is an unprecedented array of the dress, jewels, uniform, and robes worn on the day. In the Palace Ballroom see those worn by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen Mother, as well as a two year old Princess Anne and a four year old Prince Charles. In the centre of this magnificent room is the dress and robes worn by Her Majesty The Queen.

The Coronation State Banquets were held at Buckingham Palace in the Ballroom on the evenings of 3 and 4 June 1953 and tables in the State Dining Room have been dressed to evoke this, including the magnificent settings of porcelain, silver-gilt and flowers.

Continue through the rest of the state rooms admiring the incredible décor and learning how the rooms are still used today. Finally enter out on to the terrace where the tour ends; by which point feeling as if you experienced the actual coronation for yourself.

Buckingham Palace State Rooms are open until 29 September.  Book tickets.

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Kate Middleton’s Wedding Dress to be Displayed at Buckingham Palace Mon, 06 Jun 2011 15:10:41 +0000

There’s an extra reason to visit Buckingham Palace this summer as Kate Middleton’s Royal Wedding dress will be on display from 23 July to 3 October 2011.

The famous dress, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, is made of ivory and white satin-gazar and features a 2.7 metre (9 ft) train.

The Buckingham Palace display will be the first chance for the public to see the dress up-close and appreciate the intricate embroidery detail; it’s covered in lace appliqué flowers, some of which are as small as 5p coins!

Kate’s wedding shoes, veil, diamond earrings and Cartier tiara lent by the Queen will be displayed with the wedding dress. The couple’s wedding cake will also be on display.

This year’s summer opening also features an exhibition of The Queen’s Faberge collection.

In other Royal Wedding news, it was revealed today that Kensington Palace will be the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s temporary London residence.

Buckingham Palace Summer Opening runs from 23 July to 3 October 2011. Book tickets here

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