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It's easy to see if The Queen is at home in the 18th-century Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British Head of State, as the Royal Standard flag adorns the building. If Her Majesty is elsewhere, the Union Jack is hoisted instead.
A townhouse was built by the Duke of Buckingham in 1705 on the spot where the Palace now stands. In 1826, King George IV asked the famed architect John Nash to convert the building into a palace. Unfortunately he never saw it finished as both he and his younger brother and successor, King William IV, died before the project was completed. In 1837, Queen Victoria became the first monarch to reside at the Palace.
The gigantic Royal Palace complex has 1,514 doors, 760 windows and 775 rooms. It contains a whopping 19 State rooms, 92 offices, 52 bedrooms and guest rooms for royal visits, 188 employee bedrooms and 78 bathrooms. While visitors are not allowed everywhere in the Palace, in the summer (when the Royal Family is not present) the 19 beautifully decorated State rooms can be toured; these are where all important State receptions take place. The walls are decorated with some of the greatest treasures in the Palace, including paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer. Also note the sculpture of Antonio Canova, the Sèvres porcelain and the beautiful authentic English and French furniture.
Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA
Throughout most of the year you can visit the extraordinary Queen’s Gallery on the west side of the Palace. This is the location of various temporary exhibitions each showcasing around 450 works of art from the Royal Collection. The space used to be a chapel until it was destroyed during World War II. The Queen’s Gallery was built on the ruins and underwent a major renovation around the turn of the millennium. In 2002, the gallery was reopened to celebrate the Golden Jubilee.
Changing the Guard in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace is always a fascinating spectacle. In the months of May, June and July, the Palace Guards in their typical black fur hats and red uniforms exchange duty every day. In the other months, the ceremony can be seen every other day weather permitting. There is something magical about seeing the immobile Guards suddenly come to life as they exchange duty with the new guard.