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HomeTravelHistoric room at Buckingham Palace opens to public for first time

Historic room at Buckingham Palace opens to public for first time

The room behind Buckingham Palace‘s famous balcony opens to the public for the first time next week, giving a rare glimpse into one of the royal residence’s inner sanctums. For decades the royal family has been seen emerging from the room after coronations, weddings and other landmark occasions. From the appearance of World War II leader Winston Churchill alongside the royal family in 1945 to the wedding of King Charles III and Princess Diana in 1981, the balcony and the room behind it has repeatedly played witness to history.

 Buckingham Palace’s balcony room opens for tours(AFP)
Buckingham Palace’s balcony room opens for tours(AFP)

But despite endless images of the balcony, the room itself has always been kept under wraps. Charles most recently appeared on it following his birthday parade last month along with his daughter-in-law Catherine, Princess of Wales. The 42-year-old princess’s presence drew huge interest as it was her first appearance at an official royal event since she announced she was undergoing cancer treatment earlier this year.

‘Connect’ with the people

Visitors will be able to see the room as part of a tour of the palace’s east wing — the first time it has been opened to the public since it was created around 175 years ago. Almost 6,000 tickets for the new tour were snapped up within hours of going on sale in April. The wing was added between 1847-49 to accommodate the growing family of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert.

“It was Prince Albert’s idea to have a balcony at Buckingham Palace, because he saw it as a way of enabling the royal family to connect with the people, and of course that’s exactly how, in a sense, it continues to be used on important occasions,” said Caroline de Guitaut, surveyor of the king’s works of art.

Guitaut, responsible for 700,000 works of art at 13 royal residences including Buckingham Palace, said some of the earliest occasions on which the royal family used the balcony included waving off troops headed to the 1853-1856 Crimean War — and welcoming them back. Much of the wing reflects early 19th centry king George IV’s love of Chinese-themed art.

Pagodas and porcelain

Tours of the east wing will also include the palace’s state rooms, which have been open to the public during the summer since 1993. The east wing part of the tour will take visitors along much of the 73-metre (240-feet) long principal corridor, and include the yellow drawing room and centre room behind the balcony. The yellow drawing room features a Chinese-style fireplace from George IV’s seaside pleasure palace in Brighton on the English south coast and even some of the pavilion’s wallpaper that was discovered in storage by Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother and hung at her request.

The Brighton royal pavilion was sold to finance the Buckingham Palace extension with its contents moved to the east wing’s principal rooms. Victoria and Albert furnished the corridor with chairs, side tables, large pagodas and Chinese porcelain, including an incense burner in the shape of a Buddha.

Highlights in the room behind the balcony include a newly restored glass chandelier, shaped to resemble a lotus flower, and two Chinese 18th-century imperial silk wall hangings, presented to Victoria by the Chinese emperor Guangxu to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Although visitors will have views down the Mall, the avenue leading to the palace, they will not be able to step out onto the balcony. They will, however, be able to view Jonathan Yeo’s new portrait of the king in which he is painted almost entirely in red.



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