Buckingham Palace, administrative headquarters and the official home of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is one of the most magnificent and iconic symbols of Great Britain.
From its humble beginnings as a mulberry garden and townhouse, it has been remodelled and extended over the centuries to become the most famous working palace in modern times.
But there’s more to this famous British landmark than meets the eye.
Here are 7 facts about Britain’s best-loved palace that will probably surprise you.
1. A Self-Contained Town
The palace is not just home to royalty. There are 800 live-in staff including 2 clock keepers whose job it is to wind up the 350 clocks by hand, a flag sergeant responsible for flying the different flags, and a fender smith to clean and repair the metal fireplace fenders.
The palace has its own post office, ATM, police station, doctor’s surgery, swimming pool, cinema and staff canteen. It even has its own postcode: SW1A 1AA.
2. Secret Tunnels
It’s believed the palace is built on a labyrinth of secret passageways leading to nearby streets. In fact, the Queen Mother wrote of an episode in her diary, when she and her husband George VI were exploring the tunnels. They met a man named Geordie who lived down there. She describes him as ‘most courteous’.
3. A Persistent Intruder
When Queen Victoria lived in the palace, a teenage boy named Edward Jones was caught sneaking in three times.
He stole food and some pieces of the Queen’s underwear and even claimed to have sat on the throne. He was arrested and sent to Brazil, before escaping and returning to England. He was subsequently transported to Australia where he became a town crier until his death in 1893.
4. Dirty and Freezing
When Queen Victoria first moved to the palace, the windows stuck and ventilation was poor. The chimneys smoked so much the fires were constantly dampened down, so the palace was freezing cold, smelly and dirty.
After his marriage to Victoria, Prince Albert took over the management of the lax and lazy staff, and oversaw the necessary repairs to the design faults.
5. A Makeshift Operating Theatre
Before his coronation in 1902, Edward VII suffered a near-fatal case of peritonitis. A room overlooking the gardens was transformed into an emergency surgery.
6. Bombed in the Blitz
In a show of solidarity, King George, Queen Elizabeth and their 2 young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, refused to leave the palace during WWII. The building and grounds suffered nine direct hits during the Blitz of 1940.
Although damage was minimal, the palace chapel was completely destroyed during one attack. It was rebuilt in 1962 to house the Royal Collection Exhibition.
7. Royal Births and Deaths
Of her 9 children, Queen Victoria gave birth to 8 of them at the palace, including Edward VII who also died there.
William IV was also born at the palace, as were 3 of Queen Elizabeth’s children: Charles, Andrew and Edward.