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Highlights of Buckingham Palace

Discover the highlights of a visit to the State Rooms of the official London residence of Her Majesty The Queen. 

The State Rooms

White Drawing Room

White Drawing Room ©

The State Rooms are the public rooms in the Palace where The Queen and members of the Royal Family receive and entertain their guests on State, ceremonial and official occasions. There are 19 State Rooms, which mainly reflect the taste of George IV, who commissioned the architect John Nash to transform Buckingham House into a grand palace in 1825. The State Rooms are furnished with many of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection, including paintings by Van Dyck and Canaletto, sculpture by Canova, Sèvres porcelain, and some of the finest English and French furniture in the world.

Many of the State Rooms have particular uses today. The Throne Room is used by The Queen for court ceremonies and official entertaining, and was the setting for the wedding photos of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The White Drawing Room, perhaps the grandest of all the State Rooms, serves as a royal reception room for The Queen and members of the Royal Family to gather before official occasions.

 

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The Throne Room

Throne Room

Throne Room ©

The Throne Room's dramatic arch and canopy over the thrones was the masterpiece of the architect John Nash, and was greatly influenced by his background in theatre set designs.

Central to the room is the pair of throne chairs which are known as Chairs of Estate, and were used for the coronation ceremony of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in 1953. There are also chairs made for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937, and a single throne chair made for Queen Victoria in 1837.

The chair embroidered with 'EIIR' was used by The Queen at the beginning of the Coronation, up until the point that she was crowned. After the crowning ceremony she sat in the Throne Chair, which is on display in the Garter Throne Room at Windsor Castle.

 

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The Picture Gallery

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace ©

The Picture Gallery inside Buckingham Palace displays some of the greatest paintings in the Royal Collection.  It was created by the architect John Nash as part of his transformation of Buckingham House into a palace for George IV from 1825.

The 47-metre room was designed as a setting for the King’s picture collection. The paintings in the Picture Gallery are changed quite regularly, as The Queen lends many works of art to exhibitions around the UK and overseas. Currently you can see Italian, Dutch and Flemish works mainly from the 17th century, grouped by subject and artistic nationality. Among the artists represented are Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and Claude.

The Picture Gallery has always been used for official entertaining.  Today it is the setting for receptions hosted by The Queen and members of the Royal Family to recognise achievement in a particular walk of life or sector in the community.  It is also here that the recipients of honours wait before being led into the Ballroom for their investiture.

The Ballroom

Ballroom

The Ballroom set for a banquet ©

Throne Canopy

Statues stand on top of a triumphal arch, flanked by sphinxes and enclosing the throne canopy. ©

This enormous room, the largest of the State Rooms, was completed in 1855, during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was originally known as the Ball and Concert Room and features a musicians’ gallery complete with an organ. Today, the Ballroom is used for official purposes, including investitures and State Banquets.

There are two thrones in the Ballroom which were made for the coronation ceremony of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902. The thrones are located in a dramatic setting. Statues by William Theed stand on top of a triumphal arch, flanked by sphinxes and enclosing the throne canopy. The winged figures at the top of the arch symbolise History and Fame and support a medallion with the profiles of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

 

The Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase ©

When you visit the Palace during the summer, you enter the State Rooms by walking up the Grand Staircase. Designed by John Nash and inspired by his experience working in London theatres, it provides a sense of excitement and expectation for the rooms that follow.

Full length portraits of immediate members of Queen Victoria's family decorate the upper part of the staircase.  These include her grandparents George III and Queen Charlotte, by Sir William Beechey, her parents the Duke and Duchess of Kent, by George Dawe and Sir George Hayter, and her uncle, William IV, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. 

 

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Palace Garden

Garden at Buckingham Palace

Garden at Buckingham Palace ©

The garden is open to walk through at the end of your visit during the summer in daylight (evening tours do not include the garden). The Garden Café also provides beautiful views over the Palace lawns at the end of your visit.

For a more in-depth view of the garden make sure you also book a Garden Highlights Tour with your Palace ticket. Features among the 16-hectare garden include the 150 metre herbaceous border, a summer house, rose garden, the enormous Waterloo Vase and the Palace tennis court, where King George VI and Fred Perry played in the 1930s. The garden is best-known as the setting for The Queen's garden parties, usually held in July.

Changing the Guard

Guard Change at Buckingham Palace

Guard Change at Buckingham Palace ©

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace encompasses colourful spectacle and British pageantry.

During the Changing the Guard ceremony, also known as ‘Guard Mounting’, one regiment takes over from another. The Queen’s Guard is made up of the St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace detachments. The New Guard, who during the course of the ceremony become The Queen’s Guard, march to Buckingham Palace from Wellington Barracks with musical accompaniment.

When can I watch it?

The ceremony takes place, weather permitting, at 11.00 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and daily in the summer. For detailed schedules see the British Army website. Please note that this schedule is set by the British Army and is subject to change. If you have any queries about the schedule contact the British Army through their website. 

Treasures in the Palace

Vase in State Rooms

Vase in the State Dining Room at Buckingham Palace ©

Each room in Buckingham Palace is filled with furniture, paintings, and objects with a story. Discover more about these objects online with our room-by-room listing explaining which objects from the Collection are currently on display.