Top Ten Royal Palaces to Visit in London
The British kingdom is always a perennial
source of fascination for London visitors. Ever since William I (the first Norman King of England) used Westminster Abbey
for his ceremony of crowning a sovereign in 1066, the city has been the royal
capital of UK. You can discover London’s history and its world-class
architecture through some of its top ten royal palaces.
Principal workplace of the British Monarch, Buckingham Palace opens the doors of its 19 state rooms and Queen’s Gallery to the public every summer. Originally the building was a large townhouse constructed for the Duke of Buckingham, but it was eventually acquired by King George III for his wife Queen Charlotte. After acquisition, George IV made a decision to transform the building into a palace and employed John Nash to help him extend it. During the 19th century it was extended, Queen Victoria was the first head of state to live in Buckingham Palace. The forecourt of Buckingham Palace is used for Changing of the Guard, a formal ceremony that is led usually by the Corps of Drums. It is one of the most popular traditions in London city that you can watch during your itinerary. To enrich your royal experience, why not book a stay near Buckingham Palace.
St James’s Palace
One of the London’s oldest palaces, St James’s Palace is located in the City of Westminster, England. Although no one from the royal family has resided here for almost two centuries, it is still the official residence of the sovereign. Being the most senior royal palace in British monarch, it is also known as the Royal Court that is used for ceremonial purposes. The palace was commissioned by Henry VIII, on the site of the former St James’s hospital for lepers – after which both the palace and nearby park are named. It forms an extensive structure of buildings housing Court offices and officials’ apartments. The queen’s chapel adjoins St James’s Palace is accessible to the general public at selected times, while the Chapel Royal is not open to the public.
An official home of the Royal Family, Kensington Palace holds a great historical importance since the 17th century. Sample life as a royal courtier while making your way through the grandeur of the King’s and Queen’s Apartments. This palace is chock full of secret stories and remarkable paintings that have been influenced by generations of royal woman. The stately rooms at Kensington Palace are accessible to visitors and supervised by the self-governing charity Historic Royal Palaces, a government establishment that refuses to accept public funds. But, the King’s and Queen’s apartment of the fort has remained the authority of the Imperial Household staff. No Kensington visit would be complete without discovering the graceful 18th century Orangery and Sunken Garden built to arrange elaborate court entertainments during the supremacy of Queen Anne.
Palace of Placentia
Subsequent sovereigns were usual visitors, with Henry IV making his will here, and Henry V conceding the manor house to Thomas Beaufort (Duke of Exeter) who breathed his last at Greenwich in 1426. After that, the palace was commissioned by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in 1447; surrounding the park and erecting a tower on the spot of the Royal Observatory. It got its new name the ‘Palace of Placentia’ by Henry VI’s after Humphrey’s death. Served as a royal residence for over two centuries, the palace was demolished and replaced with The Old Royal Naval College.
When you think of a royal palace, you usually think of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. But, Carlton House also holds a great significance in the history of the Royal Family. It was a stately home, mainly popular as the town residence of the Prince Regent for quite a few decades from 1783. When this royal palace was demolished, most of the antique furniture and paintings were shifted to Buckingham Palace. Several of the gates in the palace were re-used at Windsor. And the entrance of the palace was contributed to the National Gallery.
Tower of London
Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, Tower of London is a historic castle and has served as royal residence, prison, armoury, and even a zoo. Picture yourself making your way from Traitors’ Gate where convicts charged of treason are assumed to have passed through, including Queen Elizabeth I. Discover the stories about the medieval palace and be in awe of Henry VIII’s body armour, weapons, and torture instruments in the White Tower. Besides this, you can also visit the Jewel and Martin Towers where you will find out the array of royal jewels, crowns, and diamonds. Tower of London is protected as a World Heritage Site, hosting a range of exhibitions that represents some of the most impressive aspects of its magnificent past. Besides, there are quite a few accommodations near Tower of London allowing you to stay close to this notable attraction, with some even offering spectacular views of the Tower.
Owned by the Crown Estate, Eltham Palace allows visitors to indulge in the opulence of 1930s Art Deco house. A masterpiece of modern design, the palace was given to Edward IV in 1305 to use it as a royal residence. The building has one of the largest hammer beam roofs and arranged several royal gatherings including Christmas celebrations for Henry VIII who grew up here. Henry VIII was the last sovereign to have noteworthy time at this large historic house before it fell into poor condition due to neglect. The major part of the site was demolished and the place was used as a farm. But in 1930, Stephen Courtauld and his wife Virginia Courtauld obtained the lease, accepting that they would restore and maintain the medieval Great Hall. They built an elaborate residence, internally in the Art Deco style that is complemented by lush landscaped gardens. You can discover the charming combination of medieval and contemporary design in this 1930’s house. To add extra flair to your Eltham experience, you can also enjoy a tea in the 1930s kitchens.
Quite popular for its long association with the British Royal Family, Windsor Castle is a fortress built by William the Conqueror. Being the longest-occupied palace in Europe, it plays an official role in holding State and official events. Elaborately created by art historian Hugh Roberts, the castle boasts a splendid sequence of rooms that is quite popular for its Georgian structure. The castle is home to 15th century St George’s Chapel, regarded by archivist John Robinson to be "one of the premier attainments of English Perpendicular Gothic" design. You can take a leisurely walk at St George’s Chapel while making your way through the State Apartments that are lavishly furnished with by antique paintings by Rubens, Holbein, and Rembrandt. So, don’t miss this opportunity to discover artwork from the Royal Library and Queen Mary’s Dolls House that will enchant everyone with its exemplary rooms and furnishings.
Being one of the historical royal residences, Savoy Palace was regarded as the magnificent nobleman’s townhouse of medieval London. Former home of John of Gaunt (1st Duke of Lancaster), this palace served as a royal palace until it was demolished in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The rioters of that revolt were executed and the district continued to help from the special jurisdiction, granting the local occupiers special privileges. Today, the palace is remembered in the names of the Savoy Theatre and Savoy Hotel. Besides, if you want to sample a King’s life, you can book your stay at Savoy Hotel.
An official residence set in Kew Gardens, this palace was built in 1631 by Samuel Fortrey. Later on, it was acquired by George II as an extension to Kew House and served as a family country retreat for George III. Although it was relatively small with only four storeys, the palace was preferred by a sequence of royals. The palace has gained a title ‘Grade I listed’ and is managed by a self-governing charitable trust Historic Royal Palaces. The house was first occupied in 1729, after that, George III legitimately bought the palace in 1781. Soon after, it turned into a permanent residence of the British Royal Family. After a long closure for re-establishment, the palace is open to the public in summer 2006.
British Royal Family is not as secretive as you might think. So, why not peek inside by visiting any of these royal landmarks and discover London’s rich history.
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