Palaces and mansions of royalty ..... on our Virtual Tours.
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen, and has been the official residence of the Monarchy since 1837. Of all the royal palaces, it is the largest and most impressive, grandly sitting in it’s prime location close to government in Westminster. It is used for state occasions and is used as ‘The Office” by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, although it is said that she prefers Windsor Castle where she normally lives at weekends.
St James’s Palace, is also an official residence of the monarchy. When Buckingham Palace was bought as Buckingham House for King George III it was to be a place to live, whilst St James’s Palace would be for receptions and formal events. St James’s is now a working palace. All ambassadors are accredited to the Court of St James, and it is still the official home of the ‘court’.
St James’s Palace has been the London home of many royals, who also have houses outside London. It used to be the residence of Prince Charles until the death of the Queen Mother in 2002. She had lived next door in Clarence House. Charles moved into her former home and now divides his time between London and Highgrove House, in the Cotswolds.
The Palace of Westminster, now better known as the Houses of Parliament, was also once a royal residence being last used by King Henry VIII. The current building is much more recent and is now the home of government. Whitehall Palace, once the largest palace in Europe, also stood nearby but was sadly destroyed by fire in 1698. Banqueting House is the only part remaining of this huge royal complex, and is worth the visit just to see its’ spectacular ceiling by Peter Paul Rubens.
These fabulous residences feature in our Virtual Tours around London. Lasting around an hour each, try different tours for different aspects of each site. Our Highlights of Westminster will show you the exterior of both Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace plus the interiors of some of the historic buildings now used by government. Along with a live commentary by a fun and professional guide our tours are a visual treat.
Princes, princesses, dukes and duchesses have made Kensington Palace their home with the larger part of the palace complex divided into separate apartments. Prince William and Princess Katherine have lived here with their three children, George, Charlotte and Louis since 2016. They have the largest of all the apartments, once home to Princess Margaret. This is not a small pied-a-terre but a 20-room residence which takes up one wing of the large rear section of Kensington Palace.
Famously, Kensington Palace was the home of Princess Diana. She lived in Apartment 8, which is rather smaller than Prince William’s current home, and she continued living here after her divorce from Prince Charles. The spotlight fell on Kensington after her death and it was from here that the funeral cortege left to travel to Buckingham Palace and from there to Westminster Abbey for her funeral. An extremely moving occasion which most who witnessed it will never forget.
Historically, Kensington Palace is most linked with Queen Victoria, who was born at Kensington. It was here that she learned she was to become queen, here that she held her first government meeting with her privy council and it was here that she met the love of her life, Prince Albert. It is now possible to visit those historic rooms where she lived along with the most impressive state apartments, many of which occasionally feature in period film productions.
There are many other royal residences which are no longer used by the Royal Family. The Tower of London is officially named ‘Her Majesty’s Palace and Fortress’ and even has a house inside the walls called ‘The Queen’s House’. Inhabited by many kings and queens throughout history, The Tower was rarely used as a principal home but was traditionally the place from which the coronation procession started. We now remember it better, of course, as a prison and site of beheadings and executions. There are plenty of fabulous stories related to these!
There is another Queen’s House in Greenwich which is a beautiful, yet relatively small building in a stunning location facing the Thames. This was associated with several queens in the 17thC, being built especially for Queen Anne of Denmark. Sadly she didn’t live long enough to see it finished and so her daughter-in-law, Queen Henrietta-Maria was the queen for whom it was finished. This Queen’s House is open to the public and is a must-see for visitors to Greenwich.
Try our Virtual tour of London Houses: Homes of Queens to see some of these residences used by queens. Some of the houses are not as famous as the palaces; the normal focus of royalty. On this tour we also hear about some of our lesser-known queens too – each of which have their own personalities and stories.
Out at Kew, in the centre of the Royal Botanic Gardens is another former royal residence. Originally called the Dutch House it is now known as Kew Palace and was the place where King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte loved to spend the summers with their 15 children. Sadly, it also the place where George III was treated by his doctors during his illness or ‘madness’, which plagued him on and off for the last two decades of his life.
King Henry VIII’s favourite royal residence was Hampton Court Palace. Built to be the height of fashion 500 years ago, it offers a double whammy for the visitor. Firstly, the extensive Tudor kitchens, the Royal Chapel and the Great Hall with its’ amazing ceiling. The rear of the palace was built 200 years later by King William and Queen Mary in an attempt to rival Versailles, home to King Louis XIV of France. Room after room are filled with tapestries, priceless works of art and amazing painted ceilings. Hampton Court Palace has been open to the public since the time of Queen Victoria and it is worth making the 45 minute journey out of London.
Royalty provides us with a wealth of fabulous stories and linking them with these wonderful residences is an art at which great tour guides excel… Whilst sites are less accessible in these times of pandemic, why not try a virtual tour of London from the comfort of home. Kew Palace features in both our stroll along the Thames: Hampton Court to Kew, and also in our alternative view focussing on the development of gardens in England. London Gardens: Botanic to Urban brings to life the development of botanic gardens and the influential characters of these changes…