british royal residences

Official British Royal Residences: The Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Palace

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.

Holyrood Abbey was founded by David I, King of Scots, in 1128, and the abbey’s position close to Edinburgh Castle meant that it was often visited by Scotland’s monarchs, who were lodged in the guest house situated to the west of the abbey cloister. James IV constructed a new palace adjacent to the abbey in the early 16th century, and James V made additions to the palace, including the present north-west tower. Holyrood Palace was re-constructed in its present form between 1671 and 1679 to the Baroque design of the architect Sir William Bruce, forming four wings around a central courtyard, with a west front linking the 16th-century north-west tower with a matching south-west tower. The Queen’s Gallery was formed within the shell of the former Holyrood Free Church and Duchess of Gordon’s School built in the 1840s adjacent to the palace and opened to the public in 2002 to exhibit works of art from the Royal Collection.

Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.

The Abbey

The ruined Augustinian abbey that is sited in the grounds was founded in 1128 at the order of King David I of Scotland. The name derives either from a legendary vision of the cross witnessed by David I, or from a relic of the True Cross known as the Holy Rood or Black Rood, and which had belonged to Queen Margaret, David’s mother. As a royal foundation, and sited close to Edinburgh Castle, it became an important administrative centre. A Papal legate was received here in 1177, while in 1189 a council of nobles met to discuss a ransom for the captive king, William the Lion. Robert the Bruceheld a parliament at the abbey in 1326, and by 1329 it may already have been in use as a royal residence. In 1370, David II became the first of several Kings of Scots to be buried at Holyrood. Not only was James II born at Holyrood in 1430, it was at Holyrood that he was crowned, married and laid to rest. James III and Margaret of Denmark were married at Holyrood in 1469. The early royal residence was in the abbey guesthouse, which most likely stood on the site of the present north range of the palace, west of the abbey cloister, and by the later 15th century already had dedicated royal apartments.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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Royal Residences:

Sandringham House

Clarence House / Balmoral Castle / Sandringham House / Buckingham Palace / Windsor Castle / Kensington Palace / Holyrood Palace / St James’s Palace  

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The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.

Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.

Official British Royal Residences: Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. The castle is notable for its long association with the British royal family and for its architecture. The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by succeeding monarchs and it is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The castle’s lavish, early 19th-century State Apartments are architecturally significant, described by art historian Hugh Roberts as “a superb and unrivaled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste”.The castle includes the 15th-century St George’s Chapel, considered by historian John Robinson to be “one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic” design. More than five hundred people live and work in Windsor Castle.

Originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London, and to oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames, Windsor Castle was built as a motte and bailey, with three wards surrounding a central mound. Gradually replaced with stone fortifications, the castle withstood a prolonged siege during the First Barons’ War at the start of the 13th century. Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the century, and Edward III went further, rebuilding the palace to produce an even grander set of buildings in what would become “the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England”. Edward’s core design lasted through the Tudor period, during which Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made increasing use of the castle as a royal court and center for diplomatic entertainment.

Windsor Castle survived the tumultuous period of the English Civil War, when it was used as a military headquarters for Parliamentary forces and a prison for Charles I. During the Restoration, Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle with the help of architect Hugh May, creating a set of extravagant, Baroque interiors that are still admired. After a period of neglect during the 18th century, George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II’s palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. Victoria made minor changes to the castle, which became the centre for royal entertainment for much of her reign. Windsor Castle was used as a refuge for the royal family during the bombing campaigns of the Second World War and survived a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits, and Elizabeth II’s preferred weekend home.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Official British Royal Residences: Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focus for the British people at times of national rejoicing.

Originally known as Buckingham House, the building which forms the core of today’s palace was a large townhouse built for theDuke of Buckingham in 1111 on a site which had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was subsequently acquired by George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte, and known as “The Queen’s House”. During the 19th century it was enlarged, principally by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, forming three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the East front, which contains the well-known balcony on which the royal family traditionally congregates to greet crowds outside. However, the palace chapel was destroyed by a German bomb in World War II; the Queen’s Gallery was built on the site and opened to the public in 1962 to exhibit works of art from the Royal Collection.

The original early 19th-century interior designs, many of which still survive, included widespread use of brightly coloured scagliolaand blue and pink lapis, on the advice of Sir Charles Long. King Edward VII oversaw a partial redecoration in a Belle Époquecream and gold colour scheme. Many smaller reception rooms are furnished in the Chinese regency style with furniture and fittings brought from the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and from Carlton House. 

At the rear of the palace is the large and park-like garden, which together with its lake is the largest private garden in London. Here the Queen hosts her annual garden parties each summer, and also holds large functions to celebrate royal milestones, such as jubilees. It covers 40 acres (16 ha), and includes a helicopter land.

Adjacent to the palace is the Royal Mews, also designed by Nash, where the royal carriages, including the Gold State Coach, are housed. This rococo gilt coach, designed by Sir William Chambers in 1760, has painted panels by G. B. Cipriani. It was first used for the State Opening of Parliament by George III in 1762 and has been used by the monarch for every coronation since George IV. It was last used for the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Also housed in the mews are the carriage horses used in royal ceremonial processions.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Official British Royal Residences: Highgrove House

Highgrove House is the country home of Prince Charles, in Gloucestershire, England. Situated at Doughton, southwest of Tetbury, Highgrove House was purchased in 1980 by the Duchy of Cornwall. The Duchy also manages the estate surrounding the house.

The Crawley-Boevey Baronetcy (originally Barrow Baronetcy), termed “of Highgrove in the County of Gloucester”, was created on 22 January 1784. The family had inherited Flaxley Abbey in 1727, which was their seat until 1960. Highgrove House was built in 1796 to 1798 by John Paul Paul, and believed to have been designed by architect Anthony Keck. The estate itself came to the family through the marriage in 1771 of Josiah Paul Tippetts later Paul (his mother’s family name, which he adopted under the terms of the will of his uncle, her brother) with Mary Clark, whose father Robert was the local squire. It belonged to Paul’s descendants until 1860. In 1850 his grand daughter Mary Elizabeth Paul died after her gown caught fire during a soiree held for her brother in the ballroom. The house was sold again in 1864 to a lawyer, William Yatman. During his time at Highgrove Yatman was described as one of the “chief preservers of foxes” in an 1872 discussion on the Duke of Beaufort's hounds. It was restored in 1894 by new owners after another fire gutted the interior and damaged the west façade, where a window collapsed onto the terrace, bringing down the wall above. It has four reception rooms, nine main bedrooms, a nursery wing and staff quarters. The Duchy of Cornwall acquired Highgrove House from the MP Maurice Macmillan, son of former Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1980.

The Prince and Princess of Wales moved into Highgrove in the autumn of 1981, using it as a weekend house. In 1988, the plain exterior of the house was embellished with new balustrade, pediment, and classical pilasters to the Prince of Wales’s own design. A new single-storey staff annexe was also added. The family spent weekdays at Kensington Palace and weekends at Highgrove, where Prince William and Prince Harry’s ponies were kept.

A keen gardener, the Prince of Wales has devoted much time to planning and designing the gardens. He has created a wild garden, a formal garden and a walled kitchen garden. He has also planted a large number of trees in the grounds, and holds the NCCPG national beech collection. He placed a bust of Dr Alan McGlashan, MC, in the garden.

In 1980 the Prince of Wales was especially drawn to the 200-year old Highgrove Cedar of Lebanon to the west of the house. After the diseased tree had to be felled in 2007 for safety reasons, a new oak pavilion with church-like spire was constructed over the base of the tree. The organic design by Mark Hoare has a rustic cruck frame on Cotswold staddle stones.

Charles was initially assisited in his creation of Highgrove’s gardens by Miriam Rothschild. He was further assisted by Lady Sailsbury, who had restored the gardens of Hatfield House, and Rosemary Verey.

The Highgrove Estate consists of parkland fringed by woods surrounding Highgrove House, a number of farm buildings and around 900 acres (364ha) of land farmed by the Duchy of Cornwall – the Home Farm. The beef herd based at Highgrove includes pedigree Aberdeen-Angus females and yearlings, Angus bulls and Angus cross Friesian cows. Sharing the permanent pasture with the beef herd is the flock of Masham and Mule sheep. The estate backs onto the grounds of Westonbirt Arboretum.

In 1985, organic farming was introduced on three blocks of land as part of a move to what has been called biologically sustainable farming linked to conservation. The step to full organic status on the whole estate was completed in 1996.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Official British Royal Residences: Balmoral Castle in Scotland

Balmoral Castle is a large estate house in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is located near the village of Crathie, 6.2 miles (10.0 km) west of Ballater and 6.8 miles (10.9 km) east of Braemar.

Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. As it was not purchased by the Queen no revenues from the estate go to Parliament and to the public purse as would be the case, in accord with the 1760 Civil List Act, for property owned outright by the Queen. Presently the estate is not owned outright by the monarch but rather by Trustees under Deeds of Nomination and Appointment. These are technicalities, perhaps, but very important ones in regards to land ownership and liabilities. However, the castle, and surrounding grounds, remain the private property of the royal family, and is not part of the Crown Estate.

Soon after the estate was purchased the existing house was found to be too small and the current Balmoral Castle was commissioned. The architect was William Smith of Aberdeen, although his designs were amended by Prince Albert. The castle is an example of Scots Baronial architecture, and is classified by Historic Scotland as a category A listed building. The new castle was completed in 1856 and the old castle demolished shortly thereafter.

The Balmoral Estate has been added to by successive members of the Royal Family, and now covers an area of about 49,000 acres (20,000 ha). It is a working estate, including grouse moors, forestry, and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, Highland cattle, and ponies.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Official British Royal Residences: Sandringham Estate

Sandringham House is a country house on 20,000 acres (8,100 ha) of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk, England. The house is privately owned by the British Royal Family and is located on the royal Sandringham Estate, which lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The site has been occupied since the Elizabethan era, and, in 1771, architect Cornish Henley cleared the site to build Sandringham Hall. The hall was modified during the 19th century by Charles Spencer Cowper, a stepson of Lord Palmerston, who added an elaborate porch and conservatory, designed by architect Samuel Sanders Teulon.

In 1862, the hall was purchased by Queen Victoria at the request of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) as a home for himself and his new bride, Princess Alexandra, who found that the surrounding Norfolk countryside reminded her of her native Denmark. However, in 1865, two years after moving in, the prince found the hall’s size insufficient for his needs, and he commissioned A. J. Humbert to raze the hall and create a larger building.

The resulting red-brick house was completed in late 1870 in a mix of styles. This section incorporated the galleried entrance hall which is used by the royal family for entertaining and family occasions. A new wing was later added to one end of the house in a more traditional style, incorporating a ball room. It was ahead of its time in other ways, with gas lighting, flushing water closets, and an early form of shower. One part of the house was destroyed in a fire during the preparations for the Prince of Wales’ 50th birthday in 1891, and later rebuilt.

Sandringham House has been the private home of four generations of the British Royal Family. The main features of the new building were bay windows, which helped lighten the interior. Despite the size of Sandringham and the spaciousness of the main rooms, the living quarters were quite cramped.

Since the death of Edward VII, Sandringham has been a popular holiday retreat for successive members of the Royal Family.

Since King George VI died in 1952 at Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth II’s custom has been to spend the anniversary of her father’s death and her own Accession privately with her family at the House, and use it as her official base until February. It is an excellent location for shooting and is used for royal shooting parties. Such was King Edward VII’s fondness for hunting on the estate, he ordered all the clocks to be set half an hour ahead of GMT to increase the amount of evening daylight available for hunting. This tradition of Sandringham Time was kept on the estate from 1901 until 1936 when the new King Edward VIIIshowed he was “a new broom” by sweeping the custom away.

Along with Balmoral Castle, Sandringham House is the private property of the British royal family and not part of the Crown Estate. Their succession became an issue in 1936, when Edward VIIIabdicated as king. Being legacies Edward had inherited from his father, George V, the estates did not automatically pass to his younger brother, George VI; the new king had to purchase the house from him.

Queen Alexandra occupied the main house of Sandringham after the death of Edward VII in 1910, and she died there in 1925. Her two sons, Albert Victor and King George V also died at Sandringham, in 1892 and 1935, respectively, as did her grandson, King George VI. Prince Alexander of Denmark, later King Olav V of Norway, a grandson of King Edward VII, was born on the Sandringham Estate in 1903.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Official British Royal Residences: Clarence House

Clarence House is a royal residence in London, situated on The Mall, in the City of Westminster. It is attached to St. James’s Palace and shares the palace’s garden. For nearly 50 years, from 1953 to 2002, it was home to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It has since been the official residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Clarence House also served as the official residence for Prince William from 2003 until his 2011 marriage and for Prince Harry from 2003 until 2012. It is open to visitors for approximately two months each summer, and is one of many royal buildings in London.

The house was built between 1825 and 1827 to a design by John Nash. It was commissioned by Prince William, Duke of Clarence, who became King William IV in 1830. He lived there in preference to the nearby St. James’s Palace, which he found too cramped. It passed to his sister Princess Augusta Sophia and, following her death in 1840, to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. In 1866, it became the home of Queen Victoria’s second son and fourth child Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke of Edinburgh until his death in 1900. His younger brother Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Queen Victoria’s third son, used the house from 1900 until his death in 1942, during which time the house suffered damage inflicted by enemy bombing. It was used by the Red Cross and the St. John Ambulance Brigade as their headquarters during the rest of World War II, before being given to Princess Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. Princess Anne was born there in 1950. After the death of George VI, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret moved there in 1953, though the latter eventually moved to an apartment in Kensington Palace.

The house has four stories, not including attics or basements, and is faced in pale stucco. It has undergone extensive remodelling and reconstruction over the years, most notably after the Second World War, such that relatively little remains of Nash’s original structure. The Prince of Wales moved here in 2003 after the house underwent massive refurbishment following the death of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The house has been completely rewired, most of the major rooms were redecorated by the interior designer Robert Kime, and the building was given an external face-lift.

Since 2003, the term “Clarence House” has often been used as a metonym for the Prince of Wales’s private office, the term “St. James’s Palace” had been previously used.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Official British Royal Residences: Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace, earlier known as Nottingham House, has its origins in a Jacobean mansion built in 1605. Shortly after William and Mary assumed the throne as joint monarchs in 1689, they began searching for a residence better situated for the comfort of the asthmatic William; Whitehall Palace, the then-customary London residence of monarchs, was too near the River Thames for William’s comfort.

In the summer of 1689, William and Mary bought Kensington Palace from Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham and a Secretary of State, for £20,000. They then instructed Sir Christopher Wren,Surveyor of the King’s Works to begin an immediate expansion of the house. Keeping the shell of the structure intact, Wren proceeded to add a three-story pavilion at each of the four corners, providing more accommodation for the King and Queen and their attendants, as well as a new entrance on the west, the Great Court, a narrow block of rooms to the south, with kitchens to the north and a clock tower surmounting an archway to the west of the Great Court.

Other significant expansions and alterations soon followed, and for the next seventy years, Kensington Palace was the favoured residence of British monarchs, although the official seat of the Court was and remains at St. James’s, which has not been the actual royal residence in London since the 17th century.

Queen Mary II died of smallpox in Kensington Palace in 1694. In 1702, William suffered a fall from a horse at Hampton Court and was brought to Kensington Palace, where he died shortly after. After William III’s death, the palace became the residence of Queen Anne. Sir John Vanbrugh designed the Orangery for her in 1704, and a magnificent baroque parterre 30 acre garden was laid out by Henry Wise, whose nursery was nearby at Brompton. Anne also had Christopher Wren complete the extensions that William and Mary had begun, resulting in the section known as the Queen’s Apartments, with the Wren staircase, known as “The Queen’s Entrance”, which currently serves as the exit point, with shallow steps so that Queen Anne could walk down gracefully.

George I spent lavishly on new royal apartments from 1718. William Kent painted a staircase and some ceilings. In 1722 he designed the Cupola Room, the principal state room, with feigned coffering in its high coved ceiling; in 1819, the Cupola Room was the site of the christening of Princess Alexandrina Victoria, who had been born at Kensington, in the apartments of the Duke and Duchess of Kent (the actual room being what is now the North Drawing Room).

The last reigning monarch to use Kensington Palace was George II. For the royal consort, Charles Bridgeman swept away the outmoded parterres and redesigned Kensington Gardens in a form that is still recognizable today: his remaining features are The Serpentine, the basin called the Round Pond, and the Broad Walk.

After George II’s death in the palace in 1760, Kensington Palace was only used for lesser royalty, including the young daughter of the Duke of Kent who was living in the Palace with her widowed mother when she was told of her accession to the throne as Queen Victoria in 1837. Queen Mary (grandmother of the present Queen) was born at Kensington Palace in 1867. Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Teck, were living at the palace.Edward VIII called the palace an “aunt heap” because of the number of royal relatives residing there.

In 1981, apartments 8 and 9 were combined to create the London residence of the newly married Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, and it remained the official residence of Diana, Princess of Wales after her divorce until her death. Her sons, Princes William and Harry, went to local nursery and pre-preparatory schools in Notting Hill, which is a short drive away, and were raised in Kensington Palace, which was a “children’s paradise” according to Andrew Morton, with long passageways, a helicopter pad, and many outdoor gardens, including one on the roof where the family spent many hours.

Diana, Princess of Wales’s coffin spent its last night in London at the Palace, before the Princess’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on 6 September 1997.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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Royal Residences: 

Holyrood Palace

Clarence House / Balmoral Castle / Sandringham House / Buckingham Palace / Windsor Castle / Kensington Palace / Holyrood Palace / St James’s Palace