Friday, 20 June 2014

Buckingham Palace: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Let’s hit the Palace! Because you can't pass through London and not see the Palace, right?

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what Buckingham Palace is, given that the official residence of the Queen of England is fairly well-known. While the palace isn’t the seat of government in the United Kingdom, it is the headquarters of the monarchy, and the location from which The Queen carries out her official and ceremonial duties as Head of State.

Buckingham Palace viewed from the gardens
The Queen also lives in private apartments on the north side of the Palace, with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Other members of the Royal Family have rooms on the upper floors of the north and east sides, and the ground floor and south wing is used by household staff. The State Rooms used for court ceremonies and official entertaining occupy the main west block.

Here’s some royal trivia:

  • If you are received privately by The Queen, you have been granted an Audience. The Prime Minister has a weekly Audience with The Queen, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer always has an Audience before presenting a Budget;
  • Over 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as invited guests;
  • The Queen’s Garden Parties are held three times each summer and are attended by roughly 30,000 guests;
  • The Diplomatic Reception is the main diplomatic social event of the year in London and the the largest reception held at the Palace, with over 1,500 invited guests from 130 countries;

You can’t visit all of the palace, but you can visit the State Rooms – although only at certain times of the year. As this is generally when The Queen departs the Palace to holiday at Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, these dates vary from year to year, and are announced only a few months in advance. 

This year the State Rooms are open all through August and September, which is a long season. Some years it is as little as 6 weeks – and is likely to begin after we leave London, and possibly end before we return. Balmoral Castle will be closed to the public at the same time (this year it closes on 31 July), meaning we won’t be able to go there either while in Scotland.

We won’t know until 2016 if we can go to the State Rooms, but if we can’t we’ll be sure to see the changing of the guard and go to the 

The Royal Mews

A pair of Windsor Greys drawing The Queen's carriage

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I had some bizarre notion that a mews was where you keep falcons (you know, for hawking…) but it’s actually where you keep horses!

Yes, it’s a stable.

At least that’s how I interpreted it. The British government will tell you that the Royal Mews is an important branch of the Lord Chamberlain's Office and provides road transport for The Queen and members of the Royal Family by horse-drawn carriage and car.

But that's really just a fancy way of saying stable.

The Royal Mews are responsible for the training of the Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays, the horses that pull the royal carriages - because if you’re a member of the Royal Family you can legitimately still travel by carriage without being laughed at.

The State vehicles are also housed at the Royal Mews, including the carriages used for Royal and State occasions. These carriages are used 50 times a year just to convey newly appointed High Commissioners and Ambassadors from their official residence to Buckingham Palace to present their credentials to The Queen – that number doesn’t even include royal usage

If you visit the Royal Mews, you can see the Gold State Coach used at every coronation since that of George IV in 1821.

The Gold State Coach

Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 - join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip.

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A M Guynes-Annikka Woods said...

Mews was also a falconry term. It was used in the 1300's for that purpose. It extended in the 1500's to include the stable. At least that's what I remember from my research on the word.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Yay! So I'm not a COMPLETE idiot. I wonder where I picked up the falconry reference? Some fantasy book I expect...

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