Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The tour of Buck House

I was teased by a friend this morning over the fact that we are planning to put two bedrooms in the loft, when we already live in a 6-bedroom house. True: this is an extravagance, but as we have to put a new roof on anyway it makes sense to at least set it out at the same time. And we are losing three (smallish) bedrooms into one + ensuite so we'll balance out in the end. (That's my excuse anyway.)

It got me to thinking again about Buckingham Palace and the Queen. On our holidays one of our biggest expeditions was to Buck House. We arrived early, as I really wanted to see The Changing of the Guard, which I thought was at 10am. I have tried to see TCotG twice before. The first time was in February 1981, on a brief half-term family visit to the capital. In the winter they only do it every other day, and we were there on that other day. I was a sulky 10-year-old who was not happy. And the next day we caught the train home, sharing the underground carriage with a troupe of cub scouts. Imagine my horror when, that evening on the news, I saw the scout leader being interviewed outside Buckingham Palace ... because Charles and Diana had just got engaged!

My second attempt also occured on an 'other' day, but in May or June (or at least some time of year which I thought might qualify as summer).

This time I was determined to get it right. Beginning of August - surely now summer (!), surely it would be on every day?

Well, yes, but ... not until 11.30, so we decided to fill the gap with the tour of Buckingham Palace we were planning to do afterwards and thus ventured in to Betty's home. The prescribed route takes you around the state rooms which are, as you would expect, most impressive, eventually coming out at the back in the gardens, which I thought were stunning.

Quite early on you come to the Throne Room. This is a large room with a few steps up to a platform at the far side, on which are two chairs: his and hers. The Queen's has her logo on, of course, and Philip's a big 'P'. Presumably it will be reupholstered when Charles gets a chance at the job. Like all the rooms, it is extravagantly decorated, extremely tall, a massive chandelier adorned with candles and yet filled with light from the vast courtyard towards the front. The ceiling has shields showing all the heraldic elements of the monarchy: the lions, the harp etc. etc. There is a lot of plush red velvet and silk wall hangings, with a few extra chairs set at the furthest corners of the room from the thrones.

But I did wonder when Q uses this room. Does she greet all new heads of state from here? Surely not: I would think she uses the grand staircase and entrance hall. She doesn't do the investitures here: they are in the ballroom (later in the tour). Does she maintain her authority by insisting the Privy Council sit on the basic chairs in a semi-circle before her throne? Does she bring the Sunday Papers here and settle down for a good read?

I doubt Her Majesty reads my blog (if she does, I'd love her to tell me what she thinks of having a throne room!) but, despite all the grandeur and palatial room proportions, it really struck me as useless in this day and age. To us mere mortals having a music room or a white room or a dining room to seat 40 is more than we can dream of, but at least I can appreciate their uses for a head of state. The Throne Room was just that step too far.

But thank you, Liz, for letting us in. You gave us lots of ideas for our new home (!!) and my daughter and I loved looking at all your ballgowns in the Commonwealth travels display. My daughter, of course, would love to be a princess...

1 comment:

Troy said...

I remember reading somewhere that when the Privy Council meet their meeting is held standing up rather than sitting down.
It's some while since we toured the Palace but we were very impressed with what we saw. Just a brief visit as apparently they don't do B&B which is a shame - it being so central.

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