Royal Palaces

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace in London, England Buckingham Palace in London, England

Buckingham Palace is probably the most famous palace in the world, this is the official residence of the Queen in the heart of London and where she resides from Monday to Friday. This is where the Queen carries out her duties as a monarch and it is the place for state visits by visiting heads of state. The Palace is owned by the British State.

Buckingham House as it was then known was built for the Duke of Buckingham at the start of the 18th century. It has been a royal palace since it was bought by George III in 1761 as a family home for his Queen Charlotte and his children. The Queen threw open the doors of the Palace so people could enjoy a tour of the State Rooms during her absence in August and September, when she resides at Balmoral Castle for a much earned break.

You can also visit Buckingham Palace for an exclusive pre-booked tour between 22nd December and 3rd February 2013. Enjoy a guided tour around the State Rooms to see some of the masterpieces from the Royal Collection and the opulent furniture, porcelain and sculptures. On special occasions you can witness public royal appearances on the balcony from the Mall.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Gardens is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. It has been used as a royal residence since the 17th century. The last reigning monarch who lived in the Palace was George II. Queen Anne resided here and she employed Christopher Wren to complete the Queen's Apartments. He also designed the staircase, known as 'The Queen's Entrance.' The beautiful Orangery was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1704. Sir Christopher Wren designed the pavilions.

It was the home of Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived there from 1981 when she split from the Prince of Wales, until her death in 1987. It is now the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and lots of other royals have got apartments there. It was the home of Princess Margaret until she died in 2002. You can visit the State rooms of Kensington Palace, which are open to the public.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is in Berkshire and the Queen's official country residence. She comes here most weekends when she is in the country. She also stays here for a month over Easter and a week in June when the family gather for Royal Ascot and the service of the Order of the Garter. It is set in the town, on the edge of the vast Windsor Great Park, which used to be a famous hunting ground for medieval kings.

Windsor Castle was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. He designed it to dominate the landscape as a motte and bailey, so he could easily oversee the Thames and the outskirts of London to protect his newly acquired dominance. But it was first used a royal residence by Henry I in the 12th century. Henry III built the grand palace and Edward III rebuilt it again to its present glory. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I used the castle for diplomatic receptions. The Waterloo Chamber is the banqueting hall. It is now the longest occupied palace in Europe.

The current exhibition at Windsor Castle is The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch, which will run until the 9th of June 2013, depicting the many portraits she has sat for, from Cecil Beaton to Lucian Freud.

Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh

This is the official Scottish residence of the Royal Family, where they stay when they have official duties in Scotland. They spend a week here in July, to undertake official duties, host official engagements. The Palace is set at the end of the Royal Mile and in the shadow of the magnificent hill Arthur's seat.

The State Apartments are open to the public and you can see the Throne Room where people are knighted, the Morning Drawing Room where the Queen gives private audiences and the Great Gallery, which is the largest room in the Palace. You can also see the historic apartments: Mary, Queen of Scots' Chambers and the Darnley Rooms, where Mary, Queen of Scots resided. In the grounds you can see the ruins of Holyrood Abbey.

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