Buckingham Palace is the official residence and country retreat of Queen Elizabeth II, who also serves as the resident monarch of 16 Commonwealth countries known collectively as the Commonwealth Realms. The palace is located on The Mall in London.
The building was originally a small hunting lodge in 1618 when it was acquired by King James I of England. It has since been expanded with each subsequent monarch. After World War II, George VI had almost completed an ambitious project to turn Buckingham Palace into Royal Air Force quarters, but this plan did not proceed because he died in 1952.
Buckingham Palace is the setting of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and tragedy.
Although parts of Buckingham Palace are open for public tours, only the staterooms are open all year. Thus, the palace is closed to tourists (except for tours). However, on August 14 of every year (the day after her official birthday), visitors open it at 11:00 AM for a special ceremony in which The Queen unveils her official portrait to mark her official birthday.
Buckingham Palace contains 775 rooms, 32 staircases, 22 fireplaces, 69 chimneys, and 78 bedrooms. The building is the largest private residence in London and one of the largest official residences outside Italy and Russia.
The palace is made up of over 775 rooms, the Great Hall, the Throne Room, and several other rooms on top of a series of “piers” (like classical temples), most notably The State Apartments, which contains many stately pieces such as the Dining Room (rehearsal) and Music Room (national concert venues), along with more modern pieces such as The Presence Chamber (THE Queen’s bedroom) and The Red Drawing Room. The Throne Room is adorned in gold and white leather. There are also 30 State Dining Rooms in the palace, upstairs and downstairs, used for dinner parties. In addition, the Palace contains portraits of many of the monarchs that have lived at the palace over the centuries.
The Chapel Royal is located in the Palace, which King Charles II originally built in 1683 to house his mausoleum. Unfortunately, the King’s mausoleum was destroyed during the English Civil War. Charles’s mother, Henrietta Maria, arranged to be rebuilt with two chapels on each side of a private entranceway through it. The King’s first wife, Catherine of Braganza, is buried in the eastern chapel. The other chapel is dedicated to the memory of both Queen Mary (wife of George V) and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who are entombed together in the central chapel.