Established in an era that undoubtedly yielded masterpieces, the Buckingham Palace (as it was previously called) was designed in the 19th century, with moderations and renovations continuing till the 20th century by John Nash.
Calling the palace “huge” is an understatement, as it comprises 775 rooms, including 53 bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, and over 90 offices! Spanning over a floor space of 77,000 square meters, the height of 24 meters makes the palace even grander.
So, how did this “house” turn into a lavish palace that would go on to become a monumental attraction for thousands of tourists?
Let’s rewind and take a look back.
The History | John Nash
The site, located at Westminster in London, originally consisted of a mulberry plantation, with buildings catering to the rearing of silkworms and a house owned by John Sheffield, the Duke of Buckingham. Although this is how the property got its name, the house was ultimately demolished to build a new one for King George III and Queen Charlotte.
But their son George IV had a vision of turning that simple house into a masterpiece and thus, John Nash and his team of architects were brought on board. The crew began its renovation in the 1820s and was highly influenced by the architecture movement- “Neoclassicism” that had taken the world by storm post-Rococo.
John Nash and his team’s creative minds ultimately revamped the planning into a U-shaped one and added wings in the west and more branches in the north and south. Soon after considering the opulence of the project, Edward Blore took over, and his team further developed the project.
It was in 1837, that the palace was declared the official London residence of the British Monarch; post the succession of Queen Victoria.
From entry to exit and everything in between!
A square plan with a quadrangle in the center and two floors is what the palace developed into, with several additions happening over the years.
The principal gates that lead to the main entrance of the palace, stands in between the Victoria Memorial statue and the prestigious balcony on which the Royal family address the citizens.
The King was highly impressed by the French Neoclassical architecture and thus, the external façade of the palace reflects those intricate details. Supported by tall mighty columns, the symmetry in elevation is a perfect example of neoclassical characteristics. Undeniably magnificent, the façade, made of Portland stone, showcases a sophisticated and uncluttered appearance that is pleasing to the eye.
The interiors by John Nash are inspired by Baroque and Rococo features and style, with a grand central entrance and stairs and balconies on both ends. Amongst the numerous rooms lie the Music Room, Drawing Room, and Throne Room with their unique functions. The color scheme of the spaces inside is in a Belle époque cream and gold color scheme, while scagliola and blue and pink are seen in the majority.
The exclusive suites, allocated for the foreign head of states, known as the Belgian Suites are situated on the north-facing garden wing and connected via corridors. The narrow corridors have extra heights using “saucer domes”, whereas the secondary corridors have Gothic-style cross-over vaulting.
The wall decors, furniture, and motifs have a baroque finish along with several portraits and priceless artifacts from the Royal Collection which are still intact since the reign of Queen Victoria!
The Urban Fabric | John Nash
Spreading over a massive area of land, the palace and its surroundings seem like a world of their own! The urban, that is the residential and commercial side of London being dense and populated, the western and more rural end comprises palaces and royal parks. This slight division is also responsible for the characteristics of those areas- the western part reflects true British character while the urban areas have Roman citadel roots.
Together, they form the city of London.
Observing the planning and location of Buckingham Palace, it can be seen that it is surrounded by gardens and parks and is connected to the main city via The Mall road. Eventually, the parks evolved and integrated into the planning of London making it an important essence between the connection of the people and the State. The Queen’s Gallery is located closer to the main roads for easy access while the main building is situated far from the density and population.
Buckingham Palace – Today
Being the administrative headquarters of the monarch of Britain, it houses several state occasions, national celebrations and hosts plenty of visiting dignitaries. During World War II, the palace was bombed nine times and John Mowlem impressively restored the palace, which went on to become a Grade I building in 1970. The magnificent garden of the palace is used for parties and ceremonies for over 50,000 guests, while the most prestigious ceremony of “Changing of the guards” takes place in the forecourt. Being a major tourist attraction, this is held every year daily from April to July and even the staterooms are open to the public during August and September.
Interestingly in June 2002, the citizens were invited to the garden for the first time, for a concert by Brian May. Currently, the palace is the home of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip along with being the London residence of the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Apart from being a residence, the palace is also an art gallery consisting of priceless paintings and furnishings collectively known as the Royal Collection. The palace and art collection are not the private property of the Queen but rather belongs to the nation.
Apart from being a historical and political marvel, the structure is an architectural wonder that reflects the beauty and grandeur of the eras that have gone by. A lot to observe, learn, and be inspired by; Buckingham Palace has had a journey of its own. From people wanting to catch the glimpse of the Queen from the balcony, to an architectural student being awe-struck by this imperial structure, the palace is symbolic of disparate emotions.