After weeks of wait, Duchess of Cambridge put to bed, a baby boy last Monday at a London hospital. Weighing 3.8 kilogrammes, he has been named, George Alexander Louis. Prince George of Cambridge, the new prince is third in line to the British throne after Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth’s 11’s eldest son and heir, and his eldest eldest son, Prince Williams. Queen Elizabeth II, the 87-year-old monarch made a short trip from Buckingham Palace by chauffeur-driven Bentley and spent about half an hour visiting with her grandson. The baby is her third great-grandchild and the third in line to the British throne. If he eventually, Prince George inherits the throne, he would reside at the Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace, the British monarch’s administrative headquarters, has been their official London residence since 1837. The Palace is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the quadrangle) and 24 metres high. The total floor area of the Palace, from basement to roof, covers over 77,000 square metres.
According to sources, the site where Buckingham Palace now stands was originally a mulberry garden planted by King James I (r. 1603-25) to rear silkworms. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong kind of mulberry bush, and silk production never took off in Britain.
The marshy countryside on which Buckingham Palace now stands has had a long association with royalty. Before the Conquest it belonged to King Edward the Confessor and supported a small village called Eye Cross.
After the Norman invasion, William the Conqueror bequeathed it to the monks of Westminster Abbey. Five hundred years later, in 1531, Henry VIII reclaimed it for the royals.
Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to live in Buckingham Palace.
The building was originally called Buckingham House and it started off as a private house built in 1705 for the Duke of Buckingham.
It is close to the centre of London, at the intersection of Constitution Hill, The Mall and Birdcage Walk. The Mall is a long tree lined avenue, traditionally used for Royal parades and funerals processions.
The core of the modern building, Buckingham House, was built in 1703 as the country home of Tory politician and poet John Sheffield, the first Duke of Buckingham and Normanby.
It returned to royal control in 1751, when the Sheffield family sold it to George III for £21,000. George bought it for Queen Charlotte to use as a family home.
In 1820 it was transformed into a palace by the architect John Nash, but he overspent wildly and was fired.
William IV considered turning the expensive white elephant into the new Houses of Parliament after they burned down in 1834.
It wasn’t until the accession of Victoria, in 1837, that Buckingham Palace replaced St. James’s Palace as the official London residence of the British monarch (although foreign visitors are still welcomed to the Court of St. James).
In 2009, the Sydney Morning Herald’s travel blog listed Buckingham Palace as the most disappointing British tourist attraction – a rating repeated in many other surveys. It dismissed it as “just a big grey building”. But that’s nothing to what Victoria and Albert found inside.
Lazy, insolent staff, no bathrooms, and fires that smoked so badly they had to be kept very low made the palace cold, malodorous and unwelcoming. They began a decade-long improvement programme which included the building of the east wing – the one with the famous balcony, first used for a royal wave at the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851.
The existing entrance – Marble Arch – was moved to the north east end of Hyde Park, where it still stands.
Today, Buckingham Palace has a chapel, post office, swimming pool, cafeteria, doctor’s surgery and cinema.
There are 775 rooms; these include 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. The largest room in the Palace is the Ballroom, where Investitures and State banquets take place today. It is 36.6m long, 18m wide and 13.5m high. It was opened in 1856 with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War. Crowds often gather around Buckingham Palace for occasions of national celebration. At the end of World War II, hundreds of thousands cheered King George VI and Winston Churchill on the balcony. To mark The Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, over one million people crowded into the area in front of the Palace and down the Mall.
It homes 800, including a clockmaker, flagman and fendersmith. It has the largest private garden in London: at 40 acres it is the size of four Wembley Stadiums.
The Union Flag is flown over Buckingham Palace when the Queen is out (not in, as some people think). A flag sergeant has the role of raising and lowering the right flag as the Queen arrives at, or departs from, the palace.
There are secret tunnels under the streets of London connecting Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of Parliament.
There are more than 350 working clocks and watches in Buckingham Palace. The palace also has its own chapel, post office, movie theatre and swimming pool.
Electricity was first installed in the Ball Room of Buckingham Palace in 1883, and between 1883 and 1887 electricity was extended throughout the Palace. Today there are over 40,000 light bulbs in the Palace. Over 450 people work at the palace.
There are 1,514 doors and 760 windows in Buckingham Palace. All windows are cleaned every six weeks to keep them clean. One of the brightest rooms is the ballroom, which is 100 feet long and almost 50 feet high.
Over 50,000 people visit Buckingham Palace each year as guests of the Queen. Some famous visitors over the last 250 years have included Mozart, Gandhi, President Kennedy and Neil Armstrong.
The only monarch to be born and die at Buckingham Palace was Edward VII (born 1841, died 1910). William IV was also born at Buckingham House. The Queen gave birth to Prince Charles and Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace. Notice of Royal births and deaths is attached to the railings at Buckingham Palace for members of the public to read. This custom is still followed – even in the age of mass media, when Royal births and deaths are also announced on the Royal web site.
Changing the Guard takes place on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11.30am (on alternate days during autumn and winter). In this ceremony the soldiers who have been on duty at Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace are relieved by the ‘New Guard’. A military band plays music, which ranges from military marches to Abba’s greatest hits. On Royal birthdays the band plays ‘Happy Birthday’.
One regular ritual which most tourists do not see is the daily ‘dragging’ of the gravel on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. It is cleaned and combed using mechanical equipment first thing daily – even on Christmas Day. Later in the day two more inspections take place just in case there is any rubbish to clear away. This helps to ensure that the forecourt always looks spick and span.
More than 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as The Queen’s guests at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and garden parties. The Buckingham Palace kitchen is able to serve a sit-down meal to as many as 600 people at a time. Since 1993, the State Rooms of the Palace have also been open to members of the public to visit during August and September, while The Queen is not in residence.