12 Interesting Facts About Buckingham Palace
The royals claimed the land before they had plans to build a palace.
Edward the confessor owned the village that stood there before the Norman Conquest. Henry VIII then reclaimed the land in 1531. In the early 1600s James I planned to plant a mulberry garden to rear silkworms, but had used the wrong variety and had to abandon his idea.
It is named after a politician
John Sheffield of the Tory party became the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. He built Buckingham House as a place to stay during his travels to London. Architect John Nash, who was subsequently fired for going way over budget, transformed Buckingham house into a palace in 1820.
The house passed into Royal hands in 1761
George III paid $32,784 ($4.7 million now) to buy Buckingham House for his wife Queen Charlotte, who gave birth to all but one of their 15 children there. However, Queen Victoria was the first monarch to name the palace her official residence when she moved there after her coronation in 1837.
Queen Victoria was plagued by an unusually determined trespasser when she lived in the palace.
Known to the press as “the boy Jones,” teenage Edward Jones was caught in the palace three times during Victoria’s reign, but probably sneaked in more often than that. The trespasser stole food and pieces of Queen Victoria’s underwear, and claimed to have sat on the throne. The government eventually caught him and sent him to Brazil. When he escaped and returned, they imprisoned him on a ship for six years, and then sent him to Australia. He worked there as a town crier before his death on Boxing Day in 1893.
Buckingham Palace is not just home to royalty.
Over 800 members of staff live on the grounds, including a flagman, fendersmith, and clockmaker. The latter must keep busy, as the palace contains 350 clocks and watches. Two horological conservators, whom work full-time to keep them ticking along, wind the clocks up every week.
The grand Ballroom is the palace’s pride.
The grand Ballroom is the largest room, at 36.6m long, 18m wide, and 13.5m high. The first event held in the Ballroom was a celebration marking the end of the Crimean War in 1856. The palace is not all ballrooms and banquet halls, there is also a post office, police station, doctor’s surgery, cinema, and pool.
Part of the palace was temporarily transformed into an operating room.
Months before his coronation in 1902, Edward VII contracted peritonitis, a dangerous stomach infection. A room overlooking the garden was quickly adapted for surgery, which was fortunately a success.
The palace suffered through the Blitz with the rest of London.
During World War II, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth publicly refused to leave the palace, which made it an appealing target. The buildings and grounds suffered nine hits during the raids. The Queen Mother described one bomb as causing “a tremendous explosion” but cheerfully added “everybody remained wonderfully clam.” ()
They work hard to keep it light.
The palace has 760 windows that are cleaned every six weeks. The fabulous grand Ballroom was the first room to have electricity installed in 1883. Lightening was extended to the rest of the palace over the next four years, and there are now more than 40,000 light bulbs.
It was the HQ for a Guide company (the UK version of Girl Scouts)
In 1937, Princess Elizabeth joined the 1st Buckingham Palace Guide Company, alongside other royal children and the daughters of the staff. Princess Elizabeth was the second in charge of her patrol. The activities were suspended when World War II broke out in 1939, but were reformed at Windsor 1942.
It is easy to tell if the Queen is home
The palace flies the Union Flag when the Queen is not in, and the Royal Standard when she is home. You might also spot that latter one fluttering from Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster. This signifies the Queen is in Parliament.
It is built on secret tunnels
There are passageways that run beneath the surface that connect the building to nearby streets. Unsurprisingly, the Queen Mother and King George VI couldn’t resist exploring. On one excursion, they met a very polite man from Newcastle, who was living in the tunnels.