Friday 19 October 2012

The Royal Residences of Queen Victoria - Buckingham Palace

The original frontage of Buckingham Palace as designed by
Edward Blore, and viewed from St James's Park Lake, 1897
[From my own collection]

During Queen Victoria's long reign she made use a number of royal residences, primarily Windsor Castle in Berkshire, Buckingham Palace in London, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Holyrood House in Edinburgh, and Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

This series primarily features 'behind the scenes' period images from Queen Victoria's Private Apartments which will attempt to portray something of Her Majesty's secluded world away from the public gaze. The quality of all images varies considerably. Actual original extant photographs of Queen Victoria when resident at each Royal residence are also featured. Our fourth blog in this series features images taken at Buckingham Palace. I have also included some semi-state apartments as the decoration of these less-used rooms has markedly changed since the Victorian period.

Much of the 'clutter' and even some of the early 19th century decoration of coloured scaliola columns and blue and pink lapis in the public and semi-public rooms were swept away after the accession of Kind Edward VII in 1902. The predominant colour scheme after his 'clean up' then became 'Belle Epoque' cream and gold. Much 'Victorian embellishment' was actually alien to the original Regency style of the building.

Queen Mary also left her expert mark on most of the Royal residences with one of her favourite past-times being "redecorating and re-arranging rooms" - apparently much to the despair of her staff. As an expert connoisseur of the arts and especially of the Regency style she did in fact take a keen interest in the Royal collection of furniture and art. This included not only recovering and restoring long lost original furniture and objects d'art but also returning many rooms in Buckingham Palace to an authentic - and intended - Regency style of decoration.

These views of the Victorian era Private Apartments generally follow a route from the North end of the West Wing (facing the Palace front lawn and gardens), through Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Private Apartments in the North wing, then along to the east wing facing The Mall.

The Minister's Staircase.
Note the Memorial Window to the Duke of Clarence.

The Minister's Staircase is located in the East Wing at the end of Queen Victoria's Private Apartments. To the North East lie the State Apartments and to South East lie the Private Apartments. 

A close-up of the Memorial Window to the
Duke of Clarence, the son (and heir
apparent) of King Edward VII and Queen
Alexandra, who died in 1891.

This window, which is visible in the wall above, was later moved and the window space blocked up.

The Princess Royal sitting for a portrait in
The Throne Room, 1842

The Throne Room lies at the North end of the East Wing, and with the Royal Closet (a small Drawing Room) alongside, separated the State Apartments from Queen Victoria's Private Apartments.

The Tapestry Room

The Tapestry Room is located in the East Wing near the South East Corner of the Palace and faces the front lawn.  Separating The Royal Closet and The Tapestry Room is another Sitting Room which is recorded as having been used in the latter years of Queen Victoria's reign by Miss Charlotte Knollys who served as Lady of the Bedchamber.

The Sheraton Room

This image is believed to show the Sheraton Room which  is located at the very North end of the West Wing and also facing the Palace front lawn.  

Queen Victoria and four of her children at Buckingham Palace.
[L to R] Princess Louise, Princess Helena, Prince Alfred holding
Princess Beatrice, Princess Alice, Queen Victoria
Taken by Colonel the Hon. Dudley de Ros, 23rd Baron of Helmsley
29 February 1860

The Private Audience Chamber

This room would appear to adjoin - or be very close to - The Sheraton Room at the North end of the West Wing of the palace. It does not appear to be the current Queen's 'Audience Room' nor (as some have suggested) the current 'Regency Room' on the Ground Floor. Many rooms have changed their style of decoration - and their use - in the intervening years which makes identification as to their exact original position difficult. One would at least assume that it would be close to 'The Minister's Staircase' shown above.

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room, by James Roberts 1855

The rest of Queen Victoria and all of Prince Albert's Private Rooms are all located on the First Floor of the South Wing.

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room

Queen Victoria's Bedroom

Queen Victoria's Bedroom

Queen Victoria's Dressing Room

Queen Victoria's Dressing Room

Prince Albert's Dressing Room

Prince Albert's Dressing Room

Prince Albert's Writing Room

Prince Albert's Music Room (engraving)

Prince Albert's Music Room, circa 1870-1900

The Indian Room
[Source : Getty Images]

The Indian Room, [Little] Chinese Room and The Pavilion Breakfast Room all form the last three rooms at the East end of the South Wing.

Some rooms at Buckingham Palace have a Chinese theme. That is because they feature furniture and décor which were originally based in the Prince Regent's oriental-style Royal Pavilion at Brighton (later sold by Queen Victoria to fund building work at Buckingham Palace).

The [Little] Chinese Room
[Source : Getty Images]

The Pavilion Breakfast Room, which lies at the extreme east end of the South Wing included many features removed from the Brighton Pavilion Music Room and Banqueting Room which Queen Victoria sold to the town of Brighton in 1850.

The Pavilion Breakfast Room, 1850

The Private [Chinese] Breakfast Room

The Royal Visitors Gallery [Principal Corridor]

The Principal Corridor runs the length of the East Wing facing The Mall. 

The Duke of Connaught's Bedroom

Rooms in the East Wing served as suites for Victoria's children. Shown above is Arthur The Duke of Connaught's bedroom, being the third son of Queen Victoria.

The Yellow Drawing Room,
a watercolour by James Roberts,  1855

The Yellow Drawing Room lies at the south end of the East Wing shown below and served as a Drawing Room for guests. Further round into the North Wing were rooms for the Ladies in Waiting and other senior staff.

The Original East Frontage of Buckingham Palace, circa 1900

The Belgian State Apartments :

The 'Belgian Apartments' illustrated below are situated at the foot of the Minister's Staircase, on the ground floor of the West-facing garden wing of Buckingham Palace. These rooms, which form a suite, are linked by narrow corridors, one given extra height and perspective by saucer domes designed by the Architect, John Nash. A second corridor in the suite has Gothic influenced cross over vaulting. The rooms themselves are named for King Leopold I of the Belgians, the first King of the Belgians (and Uncle of Prince Albert), who was the first to occupy these rooms. This suite of rooms are now used by visiting Heads of State and other dignitaries.  

The King of the Belgian's Bedroom

The King of the Belgian's Bedroom

The Orleans Room

The Spanish Room

Directly underneath the State Apartments are a suite of slightly less grand rooms known as the semi-state apartments. Opening from the Marble Hall, these rooms have always been used for less formal entertaining, such as luncheon parties and private audiences.

The 1844 Room

The 1844 Room was decorated in that year for the State visit of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

The 1844 Room

The Bow Room [Library]

At the centre of this suite is the Bow Room, through which thousands of guests pass annually to the current Queen's Garden Parties on the front lawn.

The Bow Room [Library]

The 1855 Room

This 1855 Room room is named after a visit in that year by Emperor Napoleon III of France. 

Bibliography :

- "Life of Queen Victoria", T Nelson & Sons, London, 1897 (from my personal collection).
 - Various written and Internet sources.
- Most images have been "collected" over the last couple of years and I have not always recorded the source. Most appear to be in the public domain and often frequently copied or are only low resolution however if copyright has been infringed please advise me so that I can remove them or provide a link.


  1. Catherine Golden23 June 2014 at 07:09

    These are wonderful images. Are they in the public domain?

    1. Yes, they are wonderful. Unless otherwise stated under an image all are simply taken from various Internet sources but as I collected them over a number of years I didn't always record the source as at the time I wasn't thinking of creating a Blog with them. So yes, most of these low resolution images are in the public domain.

    2. Catherine Golden24 June 2014 at 01:39

      Hi! Thanks for your speedy replay. The picture I am particularly interested in is the first in the blog, which is "The original frontage of Buckingham Palace as designed by Edward Blore, and viewed from St James's Park Lake, 1897." My sister and I published a Victorian themed children's book last year entitled Victorian Cat Tales: The Life and Times of Rose and Leopold. We use period images from the public domain as backdrops for the sculptures my sister creates. We are working on the sequel, due to the publisher soon, and we need a backdrop of Buckingham Palace gardens. I would love to use your image, and I can credit you if you give me something to include. Here is the website for our book: Thank you for considering. Catherine
      [From my own collection]

    3. How fascinating Catherine. Could you please email me (my email address is in the "Click Here to Email Me" box in the right-hand menu bar) and i'll be able to easily sort this for you. Thanks

  2. Fabulous photos. I went on a Chinese Art course at Buckingham Palace last September and we were shown around the semi State rooms on the East front and also the rooms off the Bow Room

  3. Oh, I didn't know they did such courses, how fascinating

  4. How wonderful it is to see some of those old photos! One thing though... The Princess Royal sitting for a portrait is not in The Royal Closet but in the Throne Room, look at the ceiling ant the overdoor carvings. The proportion of the room looks wrong on the picture, but it surely is th Throne Room :)

    1. Well spotted, thank you, I should have noticed this but simply relied on the original attribution which was very, very wrong.... Regards & thanks :-)

  5. Be neat to see these rooms now. Does the current Queen now occupy Victoria's bedroom as hers ?? Very nice pictures.