Known around the world as the home of the Queen of England, the focus of national and royal celebrations as well as the backdrop to the regular Changing the Guard ceremony, the iconic building of Buckingham Palace, standing in the centre of Westminster City is surrounded by the lavish St. James and Green Park. Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today's palace was a large townhouse built by English architect William Winde in 1703, for Duke Buckingham. Eventually, Buckingham's illegitimate son, Sir Charles Sheffield, sold the property to George III in 1761, who acquired it for a private residence for his wife Queen Charlotte and it came to be known as the Queen’s House.
George IV, on his accession in 1820, initiated the conversion of the Buckingham House into a palace with the help of his architect John Nash, who retained the main block but enlarged its size by adding a new suite of rooms on the garden side facing west. However, the north and south wings were rebuilt on a larger scale, after demolishing the original wings and a triumphal arch, the Marble Arch was added as the majestic core part of an enlarged courtyard, to commemorate the British victories at Trafalgar and Waterloo.
Buckingham Palace became the London residence of the British monarch, when Queen Victoria took it up as her residence, after her accession in July 1837. She made extensive changes, including the Eastern front which contains the well-known balcony on which the royal family traditionally congregates to greet the waiting crowds outside. But, after her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, the newly married queen was badly in need of a nursery, as well as a few more rooms for their visitors. As a result, to construct a fourth wing of the palace and thereby creating a quadrangle, the Marble Arch was shifted in the northeast corner of Hyde Park, where it still stands.
The Mall front, or Fore Court, in the east side of the palace, was expanded in 1847 by Edward Blore and much later, the Portland stone facade, that overlooks the Mall today, was redesigned and added by removing the old stonework in 1913 by Sir Aston Webb, during the reign of King George V, as a background for the Queen Victoria Memorial statue. During World War II, a German bomb destroyed the palace chapel and the Queen’s Gallery was built on the site, which was opened to the public in 1962, to exhibit different works of art from the Royal Collection.
The front of the Buckingham Palace with over 830,000 sq ft of floor space, contains 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Opened in 1856 with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War, the 120 feet (36.6 m) long, 60 feet (18 m) wide and 45 feet (13.5 m) high Ballroom is the largest room in the Palace is the Ballroom, where Investitures take place, which include the conferring of knighthoods by dubbing with a sword. Apart from that the state banquets also take place in the Ballroom. However, larger lunch parties often take place in the curved and domed Music Room or the State Dining Room. Sometimes, royal christenings have also taken place in the Music Room, as the palace chapel was destroyed during World War II.
The Music Room is flanked by the Blue and the White Drawing Room. The Green Drawing Room is, in fact, a huge anteroom to the Throne Room and it serves as a part of the ceremonial route to the throne from the Guard Room, located at the top of the Grand Staircase and containing the white marble statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Roman costume. The Picture Gallery is located at the centre of the suite, serving as a corridor to link the state rooms. The 164 feet (50 m) long room, equipped with the original Nash circular roof-lights and Blore's central square roof lights, contains four marble chimneypieces, each with a pair of female figures holding palettes and brushes. The walls of the Gallery are hung with numerous paintings, some by Anthony van Dyck, Johannes Vermeer, Guido Reni, Rembrandt and others, as arranged by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Today, it exhibits some of the greatest works of art from throughout the Royal Collection on rotation.
The present Royal Mews, where the royal carriages are housed, was designed by John Nash and located to the south of Buckingham Palace Garden, near Grosvenor Place. All the state coaches like, the Irish State Coach, the Scottish State Coach, the Australian State Coach, the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, Queen Alexandra’s State Coach, the Glass State Coach and other carriages are kept there, along with about 30 horses and the fleet of modern motor cars. In addition to all of these, it carefully preserves the gilted Gold State Coach, which was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1760 and decorated with painted panels by GB Cipriani.
For the first time, it was used by George III in 1762, for the State Opening of Parliament and has been used by the monarch for every coronation since George IV. For the last time, it was used for the Golden Jubilee celebration of Elizabeth II. Apart from the carriages, the maintenance and provision of the modern motor vehicles are also a part of the work of the Royal Mews. The State Cars and the semi-state cars are all painted in black over claret, known as Royal Claret and five State Cars are without number plates.
There is a huge garden, the largest private garden in London, at the rear of the palace. Covering an area of 40 acres (1,742,400 square feet), it includes a helicopter landing area, a lake and a tennis court. It is used as the venue for the annual summer garden parties hosted by the Queen and other royal celebrations and charity events.
The changing of the guard takes place on the forecourt, generally every morning from May through July and every other morning during the rest of the year. When the royal standard, representing the Sovereign and the United Kingdom, is flown over the palace, it indicates that the sovereign is in residence. However, when the Union Flag flies from the flagpole over the Buckingham Palace, it signals that the Sovereign is not in residence. However, apart from being the official residence of the sovereign of the UK since 1837, today it also serves as the administrative headquarters of the monarch.