Visiting the Queen: Buckingham Palace

For a few short weeks during the English summer, Her Majesty opens her palace for the common folk to wander through the halls. I had been meaning to make it over to the exhibition depicting Royal Childhood, but I kept putting it out of my mind. Well, poof! Summer is over and we are head first into fall. The last date for admission was September 28th, so I raced online and got two of the very last tickets available.

2014-09-28 13.09.36We made our way to Buckingham Palace that morning, as one does in London town, and followed the horde of people to the side entrance. We had to push past the crowd who were sadly turned away due to a complete sold out day. We waved our pre-bought tickets around to the plebeians and were ushered inside like, well, royalty. 

The first thing we were told as we passed through the airport security lines was absolutely no photography. I absolutely hate places that have that rule. Why wouldn’t you want people to post pictures of this glamorous palace? It attracts people to come and see it for themselves.

We first walked into the grand side entrance. It’s pretty apparent that any entrance whether it’s through a side door, main door, or servant’s door, it will 2014-09-28 13.37.05be grand. The red carpeting catches the eye as does the gold paneling throughout. I managed to sneak one picture without being caught, but the hall monitors were too closely packed together to get any more.

The path had us follow the stairs through the State Rooms first and our free audio guide described each room and its purpose. The palace seemed just as gaudy and ornamental as the others we have walked through. I would have been curious to see where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh stay to see if their quarters are just as showy and antiquated.

The palace has nineteen state rooms for receiving dignitaries and holding meetings, all with different color schemes that reflect the style of King George IV when Buckingham House became Buckingham Palace in the early 1800s. The white room is by far the most opulent with the huge chandeliers that hang low and reflect off the gold trim of the room. It’s a shame I couldn’t snap an incognito picture, so you’ll have to trust me.

In the back corner, there was a large mirror mounted on the wall. As I stared at it, the more I became confused. The room looked crooked. How could that be possible? Her Majesty would not allow such a mistake to be made in her palace. Well, if I had stepped one step to the right, I would have seen that the mirror and desk acted as a secret doorway that was slightly ajar for the passersby to see. How clever. You could magically disappear if the Tsar of Russia was talking your ear off, or just manage to play a wicked game of hide and seek.

After leaving the myriad of state rooms, we were ushered to The Picture Gallery. This was a long hallway that had famous artworks decorating the walls from artists like Titian, Leonardo de Vinci, and Van Dyck. There was a fantastic black and white photo of Princess Anne and Prince Charles coloring on the floor of The Picture Gallery, which I can’t seem to find in a Google search. I loved seeing this photo humanizing the royals and also letting us see the place where we were standing in a different context. Here is an article with some additional pictures from the palace.

After the tour of The Picture Gallery, we were in the large Royal Collection exhibit of a Royal Childhood. The circular room was filled with glass cases full of old clothes, dolls, and custom children’s cars complete with mini-Rolls Royces and a mini Aston Martin. What a tough life. Also on a loop were old 8mm black and white films of the royals in action on the palace grounds. This part wasn’t as interesting, but it was also flat difficult to see everything through the dozens of people herded in.

2014-09-28 14.26.59After that stop-and-go maze, we were ushered through a few more hallways, past more marble artworks and then out to the gardens. We could finally start snapping pictures of the massive back yard complete with a pond and pathways. We sauntered through the quiet pathways embracing the semi-solitude Her Majesty must enjoy. But it was rather strange that right on the other side of the large brick wall with something called “climb proof paint” is a major thoroughfare of traffic and roundabouts. At the end of the pathway, we were then pushed to the street reinstating the feeling of being smack in the middle of London instead of being in a secluded oasis.

If you’re in London during the summer, I do recommend booking in advance a tour of the palace. Not because the interior was out of this world fantastic or anything, but just for the experience of walking through the royal halls.

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