Friday, August 17, 2012

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch. It has been the a family residence since 1835 when Queen Victoria moved there from Kensington Palace. The Queen decamps to Balmoral Castle for the summer months and the State Rooms are opened to the public. Kyle and I went with our stepsister's family yesterday on the tour. Each summer, over 400,000 people tour the Palace.

Photography was not permitted, so the pictures you see here are mostly from the official website for the Summer Opening. It is opulent and regal, as expected. I imagine the personal apartments of the Queen and Prince Philip are also beautiful, but perhaps not so gilded?

State Rooms

via Pinterest

My favourite was the Blue Drawing Room but I'm afraid this picture doesn't do it justice. I thought it was more understated than the other State Rooms. It was originally intended to be a ballroom, but Queen Victoria (who loved dancing and balls) had another, much larger ballroom added in the 1850s.
One word about the audio tour - it is very well done and timed perfectly. You are moving very slowly with many people around you, and somehow you arrive at things just as the commentator is talking about it. It's a great way to learn about the Palace's history.

The staircase leading to the State Rooms is grand and very beautiful.  This is how Heads of State and other visitors to the State Rooms of the Palace arrive. The history here! I held the balustrade as I walked down the stairs and thought, I wonder who else has put their hand here? Or maybe they are too posh to use the hand rail.

The Picture Gallery

The Picture Gallery houses a huge collection of paintings by many esteemed artists.
My favourite was a family portrait commissioned by Queen Victoria. She looks both regal and maternal and she sits beside Prince Albert, surrounded by the eldest five of their nine (!) children. A lovely glimpse of their family life painted by Winterhalter. My favourite part is the grouping of the sisters in the bottom right corner, with the baby looking back at the artist.

We didn't see the Changing of the Guard, but we did see the courtyard where this picture was taken.

Later that evening I met my dad's cousin and his family for the first time. My grandmother grew up in London (my father emigrated to Australia in his twenties). She married an Italian man (my grandfather) and her only sister married an Indian man. Two of Dad's cousins live in Mumbai and Bombay and the other lives in London. I don't have a lot of cousins so I lay claim to the lovely two second cousins I met last night (a third lives in Brazil), and hope to keep in touch.

Today is our last full day in London. Thanks to my cousin Sonia's husband MJ, we have lots to see and do. He gave us a list of 'must dos' before we leave so we're off to do even more museums today, as well as the Churchill War Rooms.

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