The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Great Britain >> England >> London
Buckingham Palace

the official London residence and office of the reigning British monarch

Buckingham Palace


In the Middle Ages, the site on which Buckingham Palace stands was part of the Manor of Ebury, which also incorporated a small village called Eye Cross. Originally owned by Edward the Confessor, the property passed through several hands before being acquired by William the Conqueror, who in turn bequeathed it to the monks of Westminster Abbey.

King Henry VIII took the manor away from Westminster Abbey in 1536, and the property was subsequently leased to a series of owners by royal landlords. Needing money, King James I sold off most of the property, but kept enough to establish a 4-acre mulberry garden for the production of silk. He chose the wrong type of mulberry trees, however, and his plan for making England a major silk producer never came to fruition.

The first house to be built on the site was finished in 1624, under the orders of Sir William Blake, and was expanded by Lord Goring, beginning in 1633. Neither Blake nor Goring could provide proof they had royal permission to build on the site, however, and the house and grounds subsequently came under the control of Henry Bennett, 1st Earl of Arlington. After the house burned down in 1674, the Earl built Arlington House, which is now the south wing of today's palace.

In 1703, the Duke of Buckingham and Normandy decided to build a substantial house on the land, and this is still the central part of today’s Buckingham Palace. In 1761, Buckingham House was sold to King George III, who acquired it primarily as a retreat for his wife, Queen Charlotte. Although 14 of his 15 children were born in what he called the Queen's House, the king maintained his official residence at St. James Palace. The first monarch to make the palace the official royal residence was Queen Victoria, who was also responsible for formally naming it Buckingham Palace and turning it into the structure seen today.

Statistics and Facts

Buckingham Palace is approximately 354 feet long across the front, 393 feet deep, and 78 feet high. Total floor space is just over 828,821 square feet. It has a total of 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. There are also 1,514 doors and 760 windows.

The Palace Garden covers 40 acres and includes a helicopter pad, a lake, and a tennis court. It is home to 30 different bird species and more than 350 varieties of wild flowers, some of which are extremely rare.

Suffering from peritonitis and close to death, King Edward VII was operated on in a room overlooking the garden a few months after ascending to the throne in 1901. The surgery proved a success, and he was crowned at Westminster Abbey in August that year.

Edward VII is the only monarch to date to be born and die at Buckingham Palace.

During World War II, Buckingham Palace suffered nine direct bomb hits. On several occasions King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were in the Palace and narrowly escaped being killed. One person did die during the wartime bombing -- PC Steve Robertson, a policeman on duty at the Palace, was killed by flying debris on March 8, 1941, when the north side of the Palace was wrecked. A plaque inside the garden commemorates his heroism.

A flag always flies above Buckingham Palace. When The Queen is in residence, the Royal Standard flies. When the Sovereign is not present, the Union Flag flies instead.

The Official Website of the British Monarchy

Edward the Confessor
King Henry VIII
King James I
King George III
Queen Victoria
King Edward VII
World War II
King George VI

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Great Britain >> England >> London

This page was last updated on September 25, 2017.