Opulent room leading to the Buckingham Palace balcony opens to public (2024)

They are the most recognisable French windows anywhere, draped with the world’s most famous net curtains. But only the Royal Family – plus a few very distinguished guests – have ever looked through them from the inside. Until now.

From tomorrow morning, members of the public will be able to peek out from the Centre Room, the intricately decorated chamber which leads out on to the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Going out through these doors to stand behind the Portland stone balustrade has been a royal rite of passage for generations. Tourists will certainly not be doing that, nor will they even be allowed to tweak the curtains.

Yet they will undoubtedly sense what it feels like to be royalty standing in the wings whenever the world assembles outside for a state occasion.

From tomorrow morning, members of the public will be able to peek out from the Centre Room

Visitors will also view an exotic collection of royal treasures, some of which are on display for the first time. These gems include surely the most over-the-top gold curtain rails in existence, exquisite Chinese craftsmanship, hand-painted wallpaper and some of Queen Victoria’s favourite paintings. They will also see the room which Elizabeth II liked to use as a studio when sitting for portraits – while also keeping an eye on the traffic.

For those who have ever wondered how the Royal Family view the rest of us, here is the answer. That’s because the East Wing is the outward-facing part of Buckingham Palace. As such, it is easily the best-known section of the royal headquarters. Yet it remains something of a mystery.

Tomorrow, Buckingham Palace will open its doors to the public for the summer months to raise funds for the maintenance of the Royal Collection. Millions have already viewed the main state apartments, including the Picture Gallery and the Ballroom.

This year, at the King’s behest, there is a new, additional visitor route hitherto seen by almost no one. However, it is only available to those quick enough to secure one of 6,000 online tickets – all of which were snapped up months ago in a matter of hours. The East Wing has always been off-limits for the simple reason that much of it is in daily operational use. Hence the need to limit the number of tourists.

The lower floors are office space and the upper floors are staff accommodation. In between, the grandest floor, known as the Principal Corridor, runs from one side of the Palace to the other with the balcony in the middle.

The Palace will tomorrow open its doors to the public for the summer months to raise funds for the maintenance of the Royal Collection

The grandest floor, known as the Principal Corridor, pictured, runs from one side of the Palace to the other with the balcony in the middle

Final preparations are made in the Centre Room before it opens up to visitors

With Queen Victoria’s accession and her growing family, a decision was made to build a new East Wing, turning the horseshoe-shaped building into a quadrangle. The Royal Pavilion at Brighton was sold to help pay for it.

The canny Victoria kept most of the contents, an astonishing array of oriental exotica accumulated by the spendaholic Prince Regent, who later became George IV.

Ticket-holders will proceed to the Yellow Drawing Room, named after the yellow silk damask with which Victoria and her husband Albert first lined this corner room. It was later decorated with hand-painted wallpaper from Brighton, depicting birds and trees, plus some stupendous porcelain vases. Originally designed to hold candles, they have been reconfigured as lamps (with energy-saving bulbs, we are told).

Visitors will arrive in escorted groups via what are known as the Privy Purse Stairs and then head to the far end of the corridor.

They will learn that the East Wing is actually the Palace’s new extension. The original Buckingham House, owned by the Duke of Buckingham, was acquired by George III in the 1760s to provide a refuge from court for Queen Charlotte, and their children.

His eldest, George IV, was keen that the British monarchy should have a proper palace to match the splendour enjoyed by other monarchies in Europe. So two wings, designed by architect John Nash, were added on either side, creating a U-shaped structure.

Objects on display are cleaned by members of Royal Collection Trust

With light from both the east and south, this was where Elizabeth II sat for many of the 200 artists who painted her during her lifetime. Some recalled her looking out at passers-by and even pointing out examples of bad driving.

Out in the corridor, visitors will see giant porcelain pagodas and exquisite vases in brilliant turquoise, a colour never seen here until it was brought back from China in the 18th-century.

The walls are lined with vast Victorian scenes and royal portraits, including George V and Queen Mary.

She was the driving force behind the redecoration of the Centre Room with its exuberant silks and vases, plus an extraordinary 1818 frosted glass chandelier in the shape of a giant plant.

The new route is being described as a ‘trial run’. However, given that it reflects the King’s wish to open up more royal residences to more people, it is likely to be a regular feature. Balmoral Castle has just opened for the first time, too.

Those lucky enough to get a ticket will appreciate one irony of being royal. Here is surely the best vantage point from which to the view The Mall, Britain’s grandest ceremonial avenue.

Except that the Royal Family cannot see it because Edward VII has parked his mother in the way. If it wasn’t for the vast Queen Victoria Memorial, you would be able to see right up to Trafalgar Square.

Opulent room leading to the Buckingham Palace balcony opens to public (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 5513

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (64 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.