It’s one of the most recognised buildings in the world. The official home of the Monarchy and the centrepoint for state occassions. Here’s a little history on how it all began.
What to buy for the new wife.
King George III was young, about to be married and was looking for a suitable wedding gift for his new bride, Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz. He was was after a residence where they could both escape the formality of the court of St James’s Palace.
George purchased the house from the the illigitimate son of the Duke of Buckingham, Sir George Sheffield in 1761 and remodelling of the property began soon after.
It became then known as the ‘Queen’s House’ and it was where George and Charlotte would start a family. They went on to have 15 children with all but one being born there.
Spend Spend Spend!
King George IV eventually ascended the throne and had fond memories of growing up as a young boy in the family home.
He decided to renovate it with the idea that it would continue to be a modest residence, however George was known for spending lavishly and it wasn’t long before he decided to turn it into a palace, with the help of his favourite architect John Nash.
After 3 years and the ever changing mind of George IV, the project went massively over budget and Nash was removed from the project and as for George, he would never see it completed as he died the following year in 1830.
Happy living where I am thankyou.
The throne then unexpectantly passed to George’s younger brother William, The Duke of Clarence. A naval man by profession and already an old man of 64 he had already furnished himself a new residence named Clarence House adjacent to St James’s Palace, but he did employ the architect Edward Blore to finish the project.
William IV was quite comfortable where he was and offerred the incomplete palace to the government to serve as the new Houses of Paliament following a disatrous fire in 1834 that completely destroyed the seat of democracy. The palace was inspected but it was found to be unsuitable for their needs and so it was politely turned down.
A Palace to call my own.
By 1837 the palace was structuraly complete and the state rooms were a riot of colour but the necessities of the palace were somewhat less than luxurious. It was reported that the ventillation was so poor that it suffered from a bad smell, and that the fires smoked too much that the occupants had to shiver during the colder months.
The first monarch to move in was the young Queen Victoria. She was finally free from the shackles of her controlling mother the Duchess of Kent. By 1840 Victoria was married to the love of her life Prince Albert who was looking for a role as he was bored senseless, so he decided to address the management of the household and the design faults of the Palace.
‘One needs an extention’.
It wasn’t long before the happily married couple started a family and by 1847 they were beginning to find the place to small for court life. They employed Edware Blore again to construct a new east wing.
This resulted in enclosing the open forecourt in front of the palace turning it into a quadrangle. The construction of the new wing required the dismantling of the Marble Arch which was then relocated to the western end of Oxford Street.
A facelift is required.
By the turn of the century front of the building was suffering from decay. Soot from the burning coal fires of the city was turning the Caen stone black, and fragments of masonry were falling on the sentries below. The decision was made to reface the front in Portland stone and it was completed in 1913 after a period of just 3 months.
A 21st century makeover.
Renovations are set to cost around £369 Million. The scope of the work involves replacing cabling that dates from the 1940’s as well as the removal of asbestos in the attic. Many of the priceless contents will be temporarily sent to Brigton Pavillion for which they were orignally designed for.