Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Buckingham Palace

Serving as the London residence and administrative headquarters for the monarch of the United Kingdom, Buckingham Palace is located in the city of Westminster.  During the Middle Ages the site, which was marsh ground due to the Tyburn River, which still runs under the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, formed part of the Manor of Ebury.  Where the river was fordable the town of Eye Cross was established.  Changing hands many times over the years, the site was notably owned by Edward the Confessor and his consort Edith of Wessex.  After the Norman conquest, William the Conquerer aquired the site and in turn went on to gift it to Geoffrey de Mandeville, the Constable of London Tower.  The site was then bequeathed by de Mandeville to the monks of Westminster Abbey.  

In 1531, after acquiring ownership of the Hospital of St James, which would later become St James' Palace, HenryVIII, took the Manor of Ebury from Westminster Abbey in 1536.  This resulted in the site of Buckingham Palace being back in Royal hands after 500 years.  James I sold of part of the Crown freehold during his reign, establishing a four acre mulberry farm to facilitate silk production on 4 acres of the kept land.  In 1624 the first house was established on the site by Sir William Blake.  The next owner of the house, Lord Goring, was an English parliamentarian and soldier who extended the original house built by Blake.  He also established and developed much of what is still the garden area of the Buckingham Palace. Goring lost the lease of the house to George III who claimed that the contract to acquire the land had not been official because it lacked the Great Seal from Charles I.  

The mansion was then acquired by Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, an English statesman.  The house burnt down in 1674 and the following year Arlington rebuilt the house, which still exists as the southern wing of today's Palace.  The lease was acquired in 1698 by John Buckingham, the Duke of Buckingham and Normandy.  Buckingham was an English poet and Tory politician who served as Lord Privy Seal and President of the Council, during the reign of the Stuart's. Architect William Winde was commissioned to build the house for the Duke, which now forms the architectural core of the  current palace.  
In 1761 King George III acquired the property for his wife Queen Charlotte.  A patrons of the arts and an amateur botanist, Queen Charlotte spent most of her time at the residence and it became known as The Queen's House.  In 1775 the property was settled for Queen Charlotte through an act of parliament, in exchange for her rights to Somerset House. 

King George IV continued working on the residence.  Following his death his brother, King William IV, commissioned British landscape and architectural artist, Edward Blore, to finish the work his brother had started.  In 1837 Buckingham Palace became the principal Royal Residence.  In 1840 after Queen Victoria had married Prince Albert, some design flaws, including ventilation issues were corrected.  The Palace was deemed too small in 1847 and Master Builder Thomas Cobitt was commissioned to enclose the central quadrangle of the Palace.  A ballroom and more state suites were designed and added by Sir James Pennethorne, a student of John Nash.  Before the death of Prince Albert,  Balls and musical concerts were often held at Buckingham Palace.  Mendelssohn and Strauss both performed at the Palace during this time.  In 1861, following the death of Albert, Queen Victoria left Buckingham Palace and lived in Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and Osborne House.  For many years Buckingham Palace was empty and neglected.

In 1901 following the accession of Edward VII new life was breathed into the Palace and the Victoria Monument was constructed.  George V and Mary, connoisseurs of the arts, restored and purchased new furnishings and art for the Palace.  Despite being bombed nine times Buckingham Palace was largely unscathed during WWII.  The Queen’s Gallery was built on the site and opened in 1962.

The Palace has 775 rooms.  There are 19 state rooms, 52 principal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.  Buckingham Palace has its own cinema, post office, swimming pool, doctors surgery and jewellery workshop.  Every year the Palace hosts 50000 people who are invited to garden parties, audiences, receptions and banquets.  The forecourt of the Palace is used for the changing of the Guards. 

Buckingham Palace is said to be haunted by Major John Gwynne, the personal secretary of King Edward VII.  Gwynne was divorced by his wife and subsequently shunned by society.  He is said to have retired to his office in the Palace and shot himself in the head.  Staff working in the vicinity of what was once Gwynne’s office have reported hearing the sound of a gunshot coming from the empty room.  The Palace is also said to be haunted by a monk who appears in chains wearing a brown cowl.  The monk is said to predate the construction of the Palace and is believed to have died in a punishment cell.  The ghost of the monk is said to appear annually on Christmas Day at the Palace.

I love Buckingham Palace but my favourite view of the beautiful building is from St James Park