When I was standing on the Mall at last year’s Royal Wedding, I heard someone in the crowd refer to the Palace as “Buck House”. As it turns out, the structure that we know as Buckingham Palace, was once owned by the Duke of Buckingham, and it was called Buckingham House. He sold it to George III (Queen Victoria’s grandfather) in 1761. Under the reigns of George IV and William IV it was remodeled and expanded (with the chief architect being, for some time, the renowned John Nash), adding wings and a courtyard.
Queen Victoria moved here (from Kensington Palace) when her reign began, and she became the first sovereign to use the property as a royal residence. During her reign, the palace’s courtyard was enclosed with what we now know to be the east façade, the structure that faces the Mall and includes that famous balcony where members of the Royal Family present themselves on grand occasions. One thing I didn’t know was that in creating this new façade, Marble Arch had to be moved. Marble Arch was John Nash’s ceremonial entrance to Buckingham Palace, and it now stands near the corner of Hyde Park and Oxford Street.
The interior of Buckingham Palace was never open to the public until 1993. The initial opening was to raise funds to help rebuild that part of Windsor Castle that burned down in the 1992 fire. It continues to remain open (generally in August and September, when the Queen goes to Balmoral, Scotland) and the funds raised help maintain the residence. You get to see the State Rooms (where sovereigns meet invited guests and dignitaries) along with magnificent artwork.
Outside events at Buckingham Palace include the famous “Changing of the Guard” ceremony which happens almost daily, which is open to the public, and garden parties, which are decidedly private. The Queen hosts 3 garden parties each year, with invitees generally having provided some type of public service. They usually take place in the summer and about 8,000 people attend. The Queen actually attends and mingles. That’s quite a party!
Then again, wasn’t the ultimate party what we just witnessed at the Jubilee concert? To me, the best was the group Madness performing on top of the Palace. (CHECK IT OUT - http://youtu.be/8hufTxPLQw0 ) Hats off to Trunk Animation, who provided the amazing projections on the Palace during their set. Another memorable Buckingham Palace moment!