The Queen’s House
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The Queen’s House
The Duke of Buckingham’s house, which George III purchased in 1762, was designed by the architect William Winde, possibly with the advice of John Talman, in 1702.
The new house, a handsome brick and stone mansion crowned with statuary and joined by colonnades to outlying wings, looked eastward down the Mall and westwards over the splendid canal and formal gardens, laid out for the Duke by Henry Wise partly on the site of the royal Mulberry Garden. This garden had been part of an ill-fated attempt by James I to introduce a silk industry to rival that of France by planting thousands of mulberry trees.
The building and its setting were well suited to the dignity of the Duke, a former Lord Chamberlain and suitor of Princess Anne, and of his wife, an illegitimate daughter of James II, whose eccentricity and delusions of grandeur earned her the nickname of «Princess Buckingham».
The principal rooms, then as now, were on the first floor. They were reached by a magnificent staircase with ironwork by Jean Tijou and walls painted by Louis Laguerre with the story of Dido and Aeneas.
Under the architectural direction of Sir William Chambers and over the following twelve years The Queen’s House was gradually modernised and enlarged to provide accommodation for the King and Queen and their children, as well as their growing collection of books, pictures and works of art.
QUEEN VICTORIA’S PALACE
At the age of eighteen, Queen Victoria became the first Sovereign to live at Buckingham Palace.
John Nash had rightly predicted that the Palace would prove too small, but this was a fault capable of remedy. The absence of a chapel was made good after the Queen’s marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when the south conservatory was converted in 1843.
In 1847 the architect Edward Blore added the new East Front. Along the first floor Blore placed the Principal Corridor, a gallery 240 feet long overlooking the Quadrangle and divided into three sections by folding doors of mirror glass. It links the Royal Corridor on the south, and opens into suites of semi-state rooms facing the Mall and St James’s Park. Blore introduced into the East Front some of the finest fittings from George IY’s Royal Pavilion at Brighton, which Queen Victoria ceased to use after the purchase of Osborn House in 1845.
The new building rendered the Marble Arch both functionally and ornamentally dispensable, and it was removed in 1850 to its present site at the north-east corner of Hyde Park.
THE STATE ROOMS
Most of the principal State Rooms are located on to first floor of Bughingham Palace. They are approached from Nash’s Grand Hall which in its unusual low proportions echoes the original hall of Bughingham House. The coupled columns which surround the Hall are each composed of a single block of veined Carrara marble enriched with Corinthian capitals of gilt bronze made by Samuel Parker.
The Grand Staircase, built by Nash on site of the original stairs, divides theatrically into three flights at the first landing, two flights curving upwards to the Guard room. The gilded balustrade was made by Samuel Parker in 1828-30. The walls are set with full-length portraits which include George III and Queen Charlotte by Beechey,William IY by Lawrence and Queen Adelaide by Archer Shee. The sculptured wall panels were designed by Thomas Stothard and the etched glass dome was made by Wainwright and Brothers.
The picture Gallery, the largest room in the Palace, was formed by Nash in the area of Queen Charlotte’s old apartments. Nash’s ceiling, modified by Blore in the 1830s, was altered by Sir Aston Webb in 1914.
As there are many loans to exhibitions, the arrangement is subject to periodic change. However the Gallery normally contains works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Cuyp and Rembrandt among others. The chimneypieces are carved with heads of artists and the marble group at the end, by Chantrey, represents Mrs Jordan, mistress of William.
From the Suilk Tapestry Room the route leads via the East Gallery, Cross and West Galleries to the State Dining Room. This room is used on formal occasions and is hung with portraits of GeorgeIY, his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
THE PALACE AT WORK
BUCKINNGHAM Palace is certainly one of the most famous buildings in the world, known to millions as Queen’s home. Yet it is very much a working building and centre of the large office complex that is required for the administration of the modern monarchy.
Although foreign ambassadors are officially accredited to the Court of St James’s and some ceremonies, such as the Proclamation of a new Sovereign, still take place at St James’s Palace, all official business now effectively takes place at Buckingham Palace.
In some ways the Palace resembles a small town. For the 300 people who work there, there is a Post office and a police station, staff canteens and dinning rooms. There is a special three-man security team equipped with a fluoroscope, which examines every piece of mail that arrives at the Palace.
There is also a soldier who is responsible for making sure the Royal Standard is flying whenever The Queen is in residence, and to make sure it is taken down when she leaves. It is his job to watch for the moment when the Royal limousine turns into the Palace gates - at the very second The Queen enters her Palace, the Royal Standard is hoisted.
Buckingham Palace is not only the name of the Royal Family but also the workplace of an army of secretaries, clerks and typists, telephonists, carpenters and plumbers etc.
The business of monarchy never stops and the light is often shining from the window of the Queen’s study late at night as she works on the famous «boxes», the red and blue leather cases in which are delivered the State papers, official letters and reports which follow her whenever she is in the world.
There can hardly be a single one of 600 or so rooms in the Palace that is not in more or less constant use.
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