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HistoryPalaces & Buildings

Britain’s Top Palaces Part 2

Read part 1 of Britain’s Top Palaces here. Let’s continue!

Buckingham Palace, Westminster

Buckingham Palace may have a bit of a shorter history than other palaces but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. It began life in 1703 as Buckingham House, built for the Duke of Buckingham and was purchased as a royal residence by George III for his ever-expanding family in 1761. Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to adopt Buckingham Palace as the official royal residence in 1837. It was she who began the tradition of appearing on the palace balcony in 1851. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms and has seen many famous guests over the years.

During the Second War World the palace was bombed seven times, with Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother famously stating: “I’m glad we’ve been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.”

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey


Hampton Court Palace is perhaps most closely associated with Henry VIII. It was Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York who acquired the site in 1514 and he spent the next seven years building an amazing palace. In 1528, sensing that his downfall was near, Thomas Wolsey gifted the palace to Henry. It would not save his life, however. He died en route to London, where he was to face charges of treason. Henry himself also greatly expanded the palace and it was at Hampton Court Palace that his son and heir, Edward VI, was born. Tragically Edward’s mother Jane Seymour died at the palace two weeks later. Henry’s fifth Catherine Howard was confined to her rooms at Hampton Court before being sent to Syon House and later the Tower of London. She supposedly ran down the Haunted Gallery to beg for her life, but she was dragged away screaming. Henry’s daughter Mary stayed at the palace for several months to await the birth of a child that never came.

During the Stuart period it was used by James I and his wife, Henrietta Maria, but later Stuart monarchs preferred to reside elsewhere. Joint monarchs William and Mary again showed interest in the palace and they embarked on a massive restoration project. George II was the last monarch to reside at the palace and it was opened to the public by Queen Victoria in 1838.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire


Blenheim Palace was built between 1705 and 1722 and was originally intended to be a reward for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. It is the only non-royal house in England to be called a palace.

A special act of parliament was massed allowed the first Duke’s daughter Henrietta Godolphin to inherit Blenheim and his titles. The palace was saved from ruin by the fortune of Consuelo Vanderbilt, who married the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895.
Future prime minister Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in 1874 and it was at the gardens of Blenheim Palace that he proposed to his future wife.

St Davids Bishop’s Palace, Pembrokeshire

St. Davids Bishop’s Palace has been a holy site since the 6th century and it was raided at least 10 times over the next 400 years. The majority of the construction took place in the 13th and 14th century. It initially consisted of two grand sets of rooms around a courtyard; the simpler one intended for bishops’ private use, the other for entertaining. It was visited by Edward I in 1284, who was on a pilgrimage. Following the reformation the palace fell into disrepair and it these roofless ruins that you can see today.

The ruins are considered to be one of the most significant sites in the history of Christianity in the British Isles.

St James’s Palace, Westminster

St James's Palace
St James’s Palace is the official residence of the sovereign and the most senior royal palace in the United Kingdom and it was built by Henry VIII between 1531 and 1536 on the site of a former hospital for leprosy patients. It still has a few surviving elements of Henry’s famous marriage to Anne Boleyn, with a fireplace still bearing the initials HA. Much of Henry’s palace was destroyed by fire in 1809 and much of it was never rebuilt.
Charles I stayed at St James’s Palace the night before his execution and it was here that Elizabeth I planned attacks on the Spanish Armada. England’s first Queen regnant Mary I died at the palace in 1558. Queen Victoria married her first cousin Prince Albert at the chapel at St James’s Palace in 1840. It seized being the primary residence of the monarch with Queen Victoria’s move to Buckingham Palace.
St James’s Palace is still a working palace and the Royal Court is still formally based there, despite the monarch residing elsewhere.
Photocredit: Buckingham Palace by shining.darkness via Flickr & Hampton Court Palace by edwin.11 via Flickr & Blenheim Palace by Darling Starlings Flying the Nest via Flickr & St. Davids Bishop’s Palace by James Stringer via Flickr & St James’s Palace by Matt Brown via Flickr
Featured photo credit : Blenheim Palace by Darling Starlings Flying the Nest via Flickr

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