When people think of the British Royal family, and more specifically where they live, the first image that often pops into mind is that of stately Buckingham Palace, with its changing of the guard and the occasional royal coach leaving or entering. Others may think of the royal country estate of Windsor Castle, a favorite of both Britain's longest-reigning and second longest-reigning monarchs. And there was a time when both royal residences played second fiddle to a much better known home, the elegant Kensington Palace.
In his multi-volume work, Old and New London (1878), Edward Walford wrote, "It has often been said by foreigners that if they were to judge of the dignity and greatness of a country by the palace which its sovereign inhabits, they would not be able to ascribe to Her Majesty Queen Victoria that proud position among the 'crowned heads' of Europe which undoubtedly belongs to her. But though Buckingham Palace is far from being so magnificent as Versailles is, or the Tuilleries once were, yet it has about it an air of solidity and modest grandeur, which renders it no unworthy residence for a sovereign who cares more for a comfortable home than for display."
This is ultimately what palaces are all about: power and impressions. Buckingham Palace is not different, for though it was originally built as a home of a private citizen, once a king bought it, its future was sealed. Walford continued, "Indeed, it has often been said that, with the exception of St. James's, Buckingham Palace is the ugliest royal residence in Europe; and although vast sums of money have been spent at various times upon its improvement and embellishment, it is very far from being worthy of the purpose to which it is dedicated - lodging the sovereign of the most powerful monarchy in the world. It fronts the western end of St. James's Park, which here converges to a narrow point; the Mall, upon the north, and Birdcage Walk, upon the south, almost meeting before its gates."
While this was often true, fortunately it was just as often untrue, as men and women of high and low rank worked through the years, in times of life and death, and peace and war, to make it a home the British people could be proud of. Buckingham Palace: The History of the British Royal Family's Most Famous Residence examines the long and storied history of one of England's most famous landmarks.
©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors