On the April 29th, all eyes were on Buckingham Palace and that famous balcony. Half a million people gathered in front of Buckingham Palace waiting hours or even overnight, to join the excitement first-hand. Another million plus well-wishers lined the royal procession route from Westminster Abbey. Eight thousand members of the foreign press corps joined thousands more UK-based journalists to report back to an estimated 2.4 billion people viewing on television or watching live streamed images on the web.
Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge can now loosely consider it home, as it is the official London residence of her husband's grandmother, and quite possibly her own future home. The official website of the British monarchy informs that George III bought Buckingham Palace in 1761 so that Queen Charlotte would have a "comfortable family home" for their 15 children. At over 828,000 square feet from cellar to ceilings, this residence is more than 15 times larger than the White House.
Buckingham Palace is one of the world's only working palaces. It is the ultimate live/work space, with no fewer than 775 rooms, 19 State Rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 78 bathrooms, 40 acres of garden with a swan lake and a team of 800 full-time household staff. Fair enough, since there are 40,000 lightbulbs to change, 760 windows to keep sparkling clean and 350 clocks to wind daily. There's a chapel, a cinema, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a post office and a helicopter landing area. Naturally, the inner workings at Buckingham Palace operate as a well-oiled machine should. A massive table fully extended for a State Banquet will seat 78, for which preparations to lay the table begin two days in advance.
While the mid-morning Changing the Guard is a top London attraction and a worthwhile spectacle, it pales in comparison to the pomp and circumstance the world witnessed for Prince William's wedding. That spectacle was the finest example of the full regalia at the disposal of the British monarchy and is being called the re-launch of "Brand Britain" by the media. This impeccable performance has left a taste for more in the minds of many. Interest in seeing the interiors of Buckingham Palace will likely grow as a result.
You may recall in July 1982, a Buckingham Palace intruder reached Queen Elizabeth's bedroom, where he sat on her bed barefoot wearing a T-shirt, asked her for a cigarette and chatted with her for 10 minutes before security finally arrived. It is no surprise that security has since been tightened - this is surely not the recommended route of entry nor a comfortable way to exit!
Every summer there are three garden parties hosted by Queen Elizabeth II for 8,000 invited guests attending each. The gentlemen among these 24,000 subjects arrive at 3:00 pm dressed in morning coat, uniform or national costume, with hats and gloves for the ladies. They come from all walks of life, but must be recommended to be considered for tea and sandwiches served under the giant marqu©e in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen.
This is the 19th year that members of the public can gain access to the interior of Buckingham Palace for eight weeks, scheduled for July 23 - October 3, 2011 for which tickets are sold online at £17.50 (about $28.00) normal adult admission charge. State rooms are on view, art treasures from the royal collection including works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Canova, Canaletto and Guardi, the latter of which I remember being told is the Queen's personal favorite. There is a Royal Faberg© exhibition and a splendid visit to the garden and the Garden Caf© where the tour ends.
I recall being absolutely dazzled, interested to see the place where knighthood ceremonies take place and being able to enjoy my visit at a moderate pace, as an audio guide is included and tickets are distributed by timed entry. There are special tours for children and families.
The new guard shift, accompanied by a marching band, arrives at the palace forecourt at 11:30am daily in summer months. So, if you time your visit to Buckingham Palace carefully, you should be able to see Changing the Guard as well as the interior. If you are planning to visit London for the Summer Olympics in 2012, this would be a great add-on to that visit, so check ahead for next year's ticketing information.
Congratulations on getting inside Buckingham Palace - and out again - a simpler way than Kate Middleton's way.