Inside the Queen’s homes

Want a look inside a house really fit for a Queen?

Buckingham Palace

Walking into the Grand Hall of Buckingham Palace, up the curving marble stairs, what strikes you first are the priceless works of art – portraits at first and then throughout the Palace landscapes and other works, many from Australian artists plus stunning heirloom furniture.

This is the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s London home and it’s a truly vast property in the heart of London.

The Palace itself is also the administrative HQ for the monarch and very much a working environment with offices for courtiers and the royal household. There are 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. The State Rooms form the nucleus of the working Palace and are used regularly by the Queen and members of the royal family for official and state entertaining for which there’s a packed calendar with more 50,000 people visiting the Palace each year as guests to banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and the Royal Garden Parties.

The Throne Room, sometimes used during Queen Victoria’s reign for court gatherings and as a second dancing room, is dominated by a dramatic proscenium arch supported by a pair of winged figures of ‘victory’ holding garlands above the ‘chairs of state’.

In the huge Ballroom investitures are held. Here The Queen or The Prince of Wales or Prince William as Her Majesty’s representative, meet recipients of honours and also award knighthoods.

The Music Room was originally known as the Bow Drawing Room and is where four royal babies – The Prince of Wales, The Princess Royal, The Duke of York and Prince William – were all christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Palace has a stately rather than a homely feel with endless corridors and big rooms, but the gardens have a very personal touch and it is here where Her Majesty walks the corgis and relaxes – and of course holds her famous Garden Parties.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is exactly as you would imagine a castle to be, with thick thick walls inset with arrow slits, turrets, its own chapel, a round tower and even a tudor wing in brick and timber originally built in 1480. And yet it has a warm and homely feel as well as a very special sense of history.

The Queen spends most of her private weekends at Windsor, a month in residence over Easter and a week there in June when she attends Royal Ascot and the service of the Order of the Garter. When’s she at home, the royal standard flies from the Round Tower which also houses the Royal Archives, essentially a vast library of private documents open to academics with royal approval.

Windsor is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and has been the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years. The gothic St George’s Chapel, built in the 15th century is where Prince Edward was married and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lies buried with her husband, King George VI, and Princess Margaret, her younger daughter. It’s also an active centre for worship, with daily services open to all. While the castle – private apartments aside – is open to visitors.

Aside from the Queen and her family there is a whole community living within the Castle giving it all the bustle and life of an old fashioned royal court.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Although the ancient Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland, Her Majesty tends to spend far more time in Balmoral Castle.

Holyroodhouse is more famous as the 16th-century home of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots and is used by the Queen for State ceremonies and official entertaining, usually during Holyrood week, which runs from the end of June to the beginning of July.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is where the Queen and her family go to get away from public life and really kick back. Here the Queen rides, shoots and fishes. She also holds dances, tearing up the dance floor with Scottish reels and the Duke of Edinburgh presides over alfresco barbecues in the stunning Aberdeenshire countryside.

The royal family spends the summer holiday period of August and September here. It has the air of a country estate and is comfortably furnished but in a very homely way with lots of traditional tartan.

When in Scotland, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall live in Birkhall, a house within the Balmoral Estate and previous home to the Queen Mother.

Sandringham House

The Queen’s other private home is Sandringham House in Norfolk, another rural home and centre of local country life. Over half of the Estate is let to farm tenants, the remainder being farmed or used for forestry (the Estate has its own sawmill). There are also two studs, a fruit farm and a country park. These, together with the house’s gardens, employ over 100 full-time staff. This really is a proper working country home.

The Queen and other members of the Royal Family regularly spend Christmas at Sandringham and make it their official base until February each year.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, live in Anmer Hall within the Sandringham Estate.

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