Buckingham Palace is the most iconic symbol of the British Monarchy, but far from popular opinion, this 200-year-old building isn’t actually The Queen’s official residence, and this is why…
Her Majesty’s official residence is, in fact, a few hundred yards down the Mall from Buckingham Palace at St James’s Palace, where the Court is officially based. It is where foreign diplomats are accredited to and new King and Queens proclaimed officially.
Prior to the transformation of the former Buckingham House into Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace formed the actual residence of the Monarch. Queen Victoria was the first Monarch to actually take up residence at Buckingham Palace in 1837 – the court, however, remained at St James’s Palace as it does to this day.
As well as that interesting fact attached to it, St James’s Palace does have other rather strange characteristics to it. It also happens to be physically attached to Clarence House, a newer building that nowadays is the official residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and formerly Princes William and Harry. Both Clarence House and St James’s Palace share a garden.
The Captain of The Queen’s Guard and the colour of the regiment on duty are also lodged at St James’s Palace during the guard company’s tour of duty, not at Buckingham Palace which only hosts a detachment of the guard.
Perhaps even more strangely is that St James’s Palace, despite its multiple claims to fame, is often forgotten both by the public and ironically almost by the Royal Family too. The residence only has apartments for a few members of the Royal Family, none of whom actually occupy them full time.
The Royal Collection does occupy St James’s Palace but as a royal home, St James’s Palace appears to be no longer in ‘royal favour’ as it were, with the last person to use it as an official residence being the Prince of Wales.
There is talk in the future that Prince Charles could make Windsor Castle the base for his royal court when he accedes to the throne, though because of the convenience of Buckingham Palace being in central London and its iconicity, this has been discounted by many.
Many of the apartments at St James’s Palace are now used for court officials and high-ranking individuals who occupy them on a ‘grace and favour’ apartment basis, though Princess Beatrice and Eugenie and Princess Alexandra are among the royals who have apartments at the Palace.
Whether there are changes made in the future to make Buckingham Palace the home of the Monarchy as well as the home of the Sovereign remains to be seen, St James’s could well go the way of Hampton Court and other such palaces in becoming a historic palace, not an occupied/active one, though for now St James’s Palace remains another rather quaint curiosity of the British Monarchy.