You’ve seen it in movies, in The Crown and on countless postcards, but how much do you really know about the most famous palace in the world?
Grand and magisterial, the palace’s origins can be traced all the way back to the reign of James I, who established a mulberry plantation in the palace grounds for the rearing of silkworms.
Since then George III, George IV, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, King Edward and Queen Alexandra, King George V and Queen Mary, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and our current Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have all left their marks on the regal house.
Fall back in love with the tourist hotspot with our need-to-know five-point guide. Spoiler alert: it’s big.
It’s bigger than you think
When you look at it from the outside, you can’t really appreciate just how big Buckingham Palace actually is. There are 775 rooms, including 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms, 1,514 doors and 760 windows (which are cleaned every six weeks).
The glitzy ballroom is the largest. At 36.6 metres long, 18m wide and 13.5m high, it’s one of the biggest rooms in London and was first opened in 1856 to celebrate the end of the Crimean War.
In addition to the biggest and grandest ballroom in the city, the palace also boasts the largest private garden (moat, pond, lawns, rose gardens) in London, covering 39 acres.
Speaking of the pretty garden, 30 species of bird, 322 types of British wild flower, 150 mature trees and an impressive quarter of the total British list of moths and butterflies call it home.
Visiting without cash? Don’t worry. The Queen’s former bank manager revealed that the palace even has its own ATM and post office – who knows, she might need some stamps and cash one day.
Rumour has it that a swimming pool, doctor’s office and cinema lie within its walls, too. Oh, and let’s not forget the garden helipad #modernqueen.
Those flags have meanings
A flag always flies over Buckingham Palace. When the Queen is in residence, the Royal Standard flies. When she isn’t (she could be holidaying in Balmoral or chilling in Windsor) the Union Jack flutters instead.
Moral of this lesson? When you hear a tourist say: ‘Oh, look the Queen is in!’, correct them immediately.
Dogs rule the roost
Everyone knows that the corgi is synonymous with the word queen. Her love for the little beasts is well documented, which probably explains why they are allowed free reign of the place.
According to royal journalist Brian Hoey’s 2011 book, Not In Front of The Corgis, they are in fact the ones who rule the royal household: The Queen’s Corgis are allowed unrestricted access to any part of any royal residence; nowhere is off-limits…They also are not fully house-trained so a supply of soda water and blotting paper is kept at hand just in case of any ‘little accidents.
Only one monarch was born and died at the palace
Edward VII (born 1841, died 1910) was the only monarch to be born and die at Buckingham Palace. While deaths inside the palace are rare, births are plentiful. William IV, and two of the Queen’s children (Prince Charles and Prince Andrew) were born inside and, who knows, if Meaghan decides to visit the queen one day, she too could give birth in the White Drawing Room.
There are super secret tunnels and (maybe) a runway
Legend has it that several underground tunnels link the palace to various parts of London. This is hotly debated, but if they do exist, a link-up between the palace and Whitehall and the House of Parliament makes more sense than a tunnel leading up to the nearest Tesco.
Other say that a branch of the Post Office Railway runs under palace walls and that there’s a top-secret route to Clarence House. Sadly, we’ll never know because of security risks to Her Maj, but the thought of her scurrying around beneath the city at night makes her slightly cooler.
What’s even more intriguing is that some think The Mall serves as an aircraft runway for the evacuation of the royal family during a national emergency (think nuclear war). Politicians, lords, noblemen all deny the claims, but anything’s possible when you’re queen. Right, your Maj?