Anyone visiting London for the first time is certain to list Buckingham Palace at the top of their sightseeing to-do-list.
Photos by Esther Colavecchio
In 2014, we were no different, despite us being there at a time of year when the State Rooms were NOT open to the public. We were keen to visit the iconic building and drink in the magnificent sight of its familiar white Portland stone façade.
Mum and Dad had always longed to visit the UK, and specifically, Buckingham Palace too. In 2009, they WERE there at the right time of year to step inside.
I asked them to pen some thoughts on what it was like to walk through this hallowed place. This is what they had to say.
“Our appetite for all things royal was whetted by attending Even Song, at Westminster Abbey, the night before our visit to Buckingham Palace. We were almost seated under the very pulpit from which the eulogies were delivered at Princess Diana’s funeral. The colourfully clad and beautifully sounding Even Song choir were a blessing to behold.
Tours of Buckingham Palace are only available for a short season each year, around the month of September. We had booked before leaving Australia and had reserved the last afternoon tour for the season. We were sure that Her Majesty would invite us in for a cuppa, since we were the last to leave. Alas, this didn’t happen as HM wasn’t even home.
Despite no sovereign being there and the Royal Standard not being atop the flag pole, the aura of passing through the gates under the eye of the famous guards was something to behold. Nothing could diminish the grandeur and beauty of the place and our feeling of incredulity as we entered the precinct’s famous walls.
Our audio tour, with headsets, meant that we could see the sights in any order we chose and linger over things that we especially liked.
The rooms are vast and beautifully decorated. From the exquisitely panelled ceilings to the sumptuous antique furnishings, the aura is one of elegance and rich history. The grand staircases, along with the sight of Kings and Queens past, in brilliant art pieces, are breathtaking.
Every corner of the palace oozes with history and ceremony, from the courtyard to the throne room. It was amazing to behold, there in front of us, sights that we had only ever seen in print and on television. There is the famous Music Room, where a long line of royal christenings has taken place. Reception rooms are full of priceless “knick knacks” and the China Room displays the most beautiful pieces of china from past and recent times. Every item has a place in history and its own story to tell. These objects provide little clues about Kings and Queens past. We passed through the Blue Drawing Room which has access to THE balcony. When we thought we had seen all the grandeur there was to see, we discovered the ballroom.
That day, the ballroom was set up as if for a state dinner event. Each piece of cutlery, crockery and glassware was pristine with each setting spaced with perfect precision. The only departure from conformity was the extra space between the head of table chair where ‘HM’ sits and those on either side. The silverware gleamed and the floral arrangements were magnificent (albeit artificial). We had never seen such a beautiful and spectacularly glittering table set up. The sideboards all around the room were laden with serving dishes, platters and trays in gold and silver. The liveried footmen who were placed around the room were a splendid sight. It was easy to wonder, in awe, what it would be like to be a guest at such a dinner.
We left Buckingham Palace via the Bow Room which houses the beautiful china. The doors lead out to the lawn where the garden parties are held in the serene and sumptuous grounds. Ambling along the pathway through the trees we were entertained by frolicking squirrels in the gardens and couldn’t help but wonder why HM is credited with not favouring this beautiful place.”
I love their account of an inside look at Buckingham Palace. It describes everything I imagine it to be and very much hope to see for myself one day.
Our visit was wonderful too though, as we were lucky enough to visit on a bright and warm summer’s day in London. There were crowds swirling around outside the magnificent gates to the palace. An almost festive atmosphere existed as the tourist throng milled about happily taking photos and enjoying the glorious sunshine.
The Palace we see today was designed at a time when Britain was at the height of its wealth and power. Visitors cannot help being impressed by the creation and collaboration of famous London architect, John Nash, and his famously elaborate and over-bearing ‘client’ King George VI. Their efforts in re-modelling what was once a country home built for the Duke of Buckingham, resulted in the magnificent structure that exists today.
As our kids climbed, ran and jumped over some of the statues at the front of the palace, little did they know (or care) about the history of the place. The land on which the palace now stands used to be owned by King James I. He housed a menagerie of animals there, including birds, camels and elephants. I was happy to watch our menagerie of kids wandering about on this very spot as I’d imagine the animals once did!
A fascinating land-mark, out the front of the palace, is the Queen Victoria monument. Queen Victoria’s grandson, King George V, unveiled it for the first time in 1911. Historical reports say that he was apparently so pleased with the monument that he knighted the sculptor on the spot. Queen Victoria, who died in 1901, was up until very recently, the longest serving monarch in British history. Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace at the start of her reign, in 1837. She was the first monarch to live there, since George VI died before he had the chance to move into the Palace. It is fitting that Queen Vic’s memorial stands proudly outside the gates to the Palace. One wonders what will eventuate once Queen Elizabeth II is no longer on the throne, since she now holds the title of the longest serving monarch..?
Queen Victoria also presided over another first. Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert were the first, in a long line of royals throughout history, to make an appearance on the famous balcony. It was 1853 and Queen Victoria appeared on the balcony to oversee troops leaving for the Crimean War. As we know, the balcony has since been the scene of many moments of magnitude for the Royal Family and for the UK.
All in all, I was really glad to have hung out at the front gates to Lizzie’s place. The Royal Standard WAS flying that afternoon, indicating that she was in residence. Like Mum and Dad though, I was somewhat disappointed that she didn’t offer for us to come in for a cuppa. Maybe next time?