Buckingham Palace – A Splendid Residence
Two days ago I visited one of the most famous palaces in the world. If you guessed Buckingham Palace, home of Queen Elizabeth II, you are absolutely correct. This was my second visit to Buckingham Palace. Last year I took the standard day tour with audio guide. This year, I took the Guided Exclusive Evening Tour – I and 29 other people viewed the State Rooms without being jostled. The queen, alas, was not in residence. The public rooms and office quarters are most impressive – well worth a look.
Queen Elizabeth II opened Buckingham Palace State Rooms to visitors [otherwise known as the public] in 1993 to defray the costs of restoring Windsor Castle after a very destructive fire. Until then taxpayer money supported the queen’s various households. The restoration of Windsor Castle was a different story, with a total cost of £37 million (US $59.2 million). Visitors to Buckingham Palace paid 70 per cent of the cost, with the remaining funds coming from Grant-in-Aid funding from Parliament. Interested? More information on Windsor Castle is at http://www.royal.gov.uk/TheRoyalResidences/WindsorCastle/History.aspx
To continue — The first tickets to tour Buckingham Palace State Rooms cost £8. Today, the same basic tour costs £18 ($29.00). In 2011 over 600,000 people visited the palace – though it is difficult to be sure which was the greater draw, the State Rooms or the display of the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown. Either way, it was a very successful year. Here’s the math: 18 x 600,000 = £10,800,000 ($17,437,621.81). Income is used to pay expenses for Buckingham Palace and other palace properties owned by the Royal Family.
This year’s special exhibition is the Queen’s private diamond collection. These stones are not part of the Crown Jewels on permanent display at the Tower of London http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/ The diamonds belong to the queen and have never been displayed before. Many are set in tiaras and crowns, with a few brooches and necklaces to add variety. The most notable stones are cut from the Cullinan Diamond, also known as the Great Star of Africa. The original stone of over 3,000 carats, and was cut into nine significant stones. [For pictures of the jewels, see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2144720/All-ONE-stone-Jewellery-worlds-largest-diamond-goes-display-Buckingham-palace.html ]
Buckingham Palace closes its summer season on Friday. If you like history, opulence, and palaces, plan on visiting the site next season. Schedules, prices, and other information is on the official website at http://www.royalcollection.org.uk
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.