Buckingham palace is the official London residence of Her Majesty The Queen and as such is one of the best known and most potent symbols of the British monarchy. Yet it has been a royal residence for only just over two hundred and thirty years and a palace for much less; and its name, known the world over, is owed not to a monarch but to an English Duke. Buckingham House was built for John, first Duke of Buckingham, between 1702 and 1705. It was sold to the Crown in 1762. Surprisingly, since it was a large house in a commanding position, it was never intended to be the principal residence of the monarch. Although King George III modernised and enlarged the house considerably in the 1760s and 17770s, the transformations that give the building its present palatial character were carried out for King George IY by Nash in the 1820s, by Edward Blore for King William IY and Queen Victoria in the 1830s and 40s, and by James Pennethoooorne in the 1850s. In the reign of King Edward YII, much of the present white and gold decoration was substituted for the richly coloured 19th century schemes of Nash and Blore; and in the 1920s, Queen Mary used the firm of White Allom to redecorate a number of rooms. The rooms open to visitors are used principally for official entertainment .These include Receptions and State Banquets, and it is on such occasions, when the rooms are filled with flowers and thronged with formally dressed guests and liveried servants, that the Palace is seen at its most splendid and imposing. But of course the Palace is also far more than just the London home of the Royal Family and a place of lavish entertainment. It has become the administrative centre of the monarchy where, among a multitude of engagements, Her Majesty receives foreign Heads of State, Commonwealth leaders and representatives of the Diplomatic Corps and conducts Investitures, and where the majority of the Royal Houshold, consisting of six main Departments and a staff of about three hundred people, have their offices.
The Duke of Buckingham’s house, which George III purchased in 1762, was designed by the architect William Winde, possibly with the advice of John Talman, in 1702. The new house, a handsome brick and stone mansion crowned with statuary and joined by colonnades to outlying wings, looked eastward down the Mall and westwards over the splendid canal and formal gardens, laid out for the Duke by Henry Wise partly on the site of the royal Mulberry Garden. This garden had been part of an ill-fated attempt by James I to introduce a silk industry to rival that of France by planting thousands of mulberry trees. The building and its setting were well suited to the dignity of the Duke, a former Lord Chamberlain and suitor of Princess Anne, and of his wife, an illegitimate daughter of James II, whose eccentricity and delusions of grandeur earned her the nickname of «Princess Buckingham». The principal rooms, then as now, were on the first floor. They were reached by a magnificent staircase with ironwork by Jean Tijou and walls painted by Louis Laguerre with the story of Dido and Aeneas. Under the architectural direction of Sir William Chambers and over the following twelve years The Queen’s House was gradually modernised and enlarged to provide accommodation for the King and Queen and their children, as well as their growing collection of books, pictures and works of art.
At the age of eighteen, Queen Victoria became the first Sovereign to live at Buckingham Palace. John Nash had rightly predicted that the Palace would prove too small, but this was a fault capable of remedy. The absence of a chapel was made good after the Queen’s marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when the south conservatory was converted in 1843. In 1847 the architect Edward Blore added the new East Front. Along the first floor Blore placed the Principal Corridor, a gallery 240 feet long overlooking the Quadrangle and divided into three sections by folding doors of mirror glass. It links the Royal Corridor on the south, and opens into suites of semi-state rooms facing the Mall and St James’s Park. Blore introduced into the East Front some of the finest fittings from George IY’s Royal Pavilion at Brighton, which Queen Victoria ceased to use after the purchase of Osborn House in 1845. The new building rendered the Marble Arch both functionally and ornamentally dispensable, and it was removed in 1850 to its present site at the north-east corner of Hyde Park.
Most of the principal State Rooms are located on to first floor of Bughingham Palace. They are approached from Nash’s Grand Hall which in its unusual low proportions echoes the original hall of Bughingham House. The coupled columns which surround the Hall are each composed of a single block of veined Carrara marble enriched with Corinthian capitals of gilt bronze made by Samuel Parker. The Grand Staircase, built by Nash on site of the original stairs, divides theatrically into three flights at the first landing, two flights curving upwards to the Guard room. The gilded balustrade was made by Samuel Parker in 1828-30. The walls are set with full-length portraits which include George III and Queen Charlotte by Beechey,William IY by Lawrence and Queen Adelaide by Archer Shee. The sculptured wall panels were designed by Thomas Stothard and the etched glass dome was made by Wainwright and Brothers.
The picture Gallery, the largest room in the Palace, was formed by Nash in the area of Queen Charlotte’s old apartments. Nash’s ceiling, modified by Blore in the 1830s, was altered by Sir Aston Webb in 1914. As there are many loans to exhibitions, the arrangement is subject to periodic change. However the Gallery normally contains works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Cuyp and Rembrandt among others. The chimneypieces are carved with heads of artists and the marble group at the end, by Chantrey, represents Mrs Jordan, mistress of William. From the Suilk Tapestry Room the route leads via the East Gallery, Cross and West Galleries to the State Dining Room. This room is used on formal occasions and is hung with portraits of GeorgeIY, his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
BUCKINNGHAM Palace is certainly one of the most famous buildings in the world, known to millions as Queen’s home. Yet it is very much a working building and centre of the large office complex that is required for the administration of the modern monarchy. Although foreign ambassadors are officially accredited to the Court of St James’s and some ceremonies, such as the Proclamation of a new Sovereign, still take place at St James’s Palace, all official business now effectively takes place at Buckingham Palace. In some ways the Palace resembles a small town. For the 300 people who work there, there is a Post office and a police station, staff canteens and dinning rooms. There is a special three-man security team equipped with a fluoroscope, which examines every piece of mail that arrives at the Palace. There is also a soldier who is responsible for making sure the Royal Standard is flying whenever The Queen is in residence, and to make sure it is taken down when she leaves. It is his job to watch for the moment when the Royal limousine turns into the Palace gates - at the very second The Queen enters her Palace, the Royal Standard is hoisted. Buckingham Palace is not only the name of the Royal Family but also the workplace of an army of secretaries, clerks and typists, telephonists, carpenters and plumbers etc. The business of monarchy never stops and the light is often shining from the window of the Queen’s study late at night as she works on the famous «boxes», the red and blue leather cases in which are delivered the State papers, official letters and reports which follow her whenever she is in the world. There can hardly be a single one of 600 or so rooms in the Palace that is not in more or less constant use. The senior member of the Royal Household is the Lord Chamberlain. In addition to the role of overseeing all the departments of the Household, he has a wide variety of responsibilities, including all ceremonial duties relating to the Sovereign, apart from the wedding, coronation and funeral of the monarch. .These remain the responsibility of the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk. The Lord Chamberlain’s Office has the greatest variety of responsibilities. It looks after all incoming visits by overseas Heads of State and the administration of the Chapels Royal. It also supervises the appointment of Pages of Honour , the Sergeants of Arms, the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, the Master of the Queen’s Music, and the Keeper of the Queen’s Swans. The director of the Royal Collection is responsible for one of the finest collections of works of art in the world. The Royal Collection is a vast assemblage of works of art of all kinds, comprising some 10,000 pictures, enamels and miniatures, 20,000 drawings, 10,000 watercolours and 500,000 prints, and many thousands of pieces of furniture, sculpture, glass, porcelain, arms and armour, textiles, silver, gold and jewellery. It has largely been formed by succeeding sovereigns, consorts and other members of the Royal Family in the three hundred years since the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. The Collection is presently housed in twelve principal locations open to the public, which include Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and Osborne House. In addition a substantial number of objects are on indefinite loan to the British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum and Museum of London. Additional access to the Royal Collection is provided by means of exhibitions, notably at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, opened in 1962.
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