Buckingham Palace in London, England, is not only the official residence of the Queen; over the years this sprawling palace has entertained countless heads of State from around the world, issued official statements during times of war, and as of late has become a major tourist attraction. Until recently Buckingham Palace was not available for public tours, and the only guests allowed in the palace were there by royal invitation. The Buckingham Palace of today, however, welcomes travelers in for a Buckingham Palace Tour 8 weeks out of the year. Much of the rest of the year, the royal family is in residence and often conducting official palace business.
Buckingham Palace history has not always been so prim, however. In fact, the house, which forms the center of the present palace, was first built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 merely as a home. The royal family acquired the house in 1762, when King George III purchased the structure for use as a private retreat. It was his son, King George IV, who converted the sizable house to the enormous Buckingham Palace that is still present today. Buckingham Palace History reflects that at the time, the cost of this expansion was estimated to be one of the largest sums ever spent on a palace to date.
Queen Victoria was the first member of the royal family to make Buckingham Palace the principal royal residence in 1837. It was also Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, who added a large eastern wing to the palace, increasing it to massive proportions. Queen Victoria was later to move to Windsor Castle following the death of her husband in 1861, and spent the remainder of her life in Windsor.
The 20th century brought with it the reign of the current Queen, Elizabeth II, who agreed to open much of the palace up to the public for Buckingham Palace tours. A tour in Buckingham Palace will now take guests through the State Room, the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room, and the Picture Gallery that features many world-renowned works of art. A Buckingham Palace Tour may only be booked during an 8-week period spanning August and September each year, and tickets may be purchased in advance, or at the palace ticket office on Buckingham Palace Road. Ticket lines for a tour in Buckingham Palace tend to be quite long, so if you are know which day you plan to visit in advance, it is a good idea to purchase your tickets online or over the phone.
Another major Buckingham Palace attraction with a firm place in Buckingham Palace history is the Changing of the Guard. Changing of the Guard generally happens once a day at 11:30am, all year long. Tourists should note, however, that due to weather and various security precautions, the changing of the guard is sometimes canceled at the last minute. Also, though the changing of the guard is often thought to be mostly ceremonial, the guard does in actuality serve and important security role. Security in and around the Palace is taken quite seriously.
Whether you plan to take a tour in Buckingham Palace for a voyeuristic look at royal life throughout the ages, or simply marvel at its huge stature from outside the palace walls, guests of London will surely be impressed by the magnificence of this historical place.
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