London History Podcast - Buckingham Palace

Episode 114: Buckingham Palace

Welcome to the London History Podcast, where we delve into the rich tapestry of the city’s past, exploring famous landmarks, significant events, and hidden gems. I’m your host, Hazel Baker, a certified London Tour Guide, historian, and avid storyteller with a passion for uncovering the unique narratives that shape this extraordinary city.

In today’s episode, we’re exploring the history of an iconic symbol of the United Kingdom – Buckingham Palace. While most people are familiar with its imposing façade and the Changing of the Guard, the palace’s past is filled with lesser-known stories that span centuries.

Joining us for this exciting exploration is our special guest, Philip Scott. Philip is a seasoned historian and tour guide with a particular interest in the British monarchy.

Together, Philip and Hazel delve into the origins of the palace, its architectural evolution, and its role in royal and national life. From tales of extravagant royal parties to stories of wartime resilience, we’ll unravel the lesser-known facts about this royal residence. So, whether you’re a London local or an admirer of the city’s history from afar, sit back, relax, and join us on this historical journey through the heart of the British monarchy.

Philip Scott outside Buckingham Palace on his Royal London Tour

Related Blog Posts:

Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Virtual Tour

Thomas Cubitt: Master Builder & Ancestor of Queen Consort Camilla

Buckingham Palace Transcript:

114 Buckingham Palace – 29:06:2023, 17.05

[00:00:00] Hazel Baker: Welcome, dear listeners, to another fascinating episode of the London History Podcast, where we delve into the vibrant and diverse past of this great city. I am your host Hazel Baker, a qualified London tour guide and founder of London Guided uk. Whether you’re a born and bred Londoner or a curious listener, Join us on a journey through time as we explore the city together.

Each episode is supported by show notes, transcripts, photos, and further reading all to be found on our website. If you enjoy what we do, then your love, our guided walks and private tours that we offer throughout the year or bookable uk. Subscribe now to never miss an episode, and if you enjoy the show, Please leave us a review and rating to help spread the word to other history lovers.

Joining me in the studio today is Philip Scott, a city of Westminster tour guide. Originally from Lancashire, Philip moved to London and was teaching politics, history and other humanity subjects in East London, and now has transferred those well-earned skills into becoming a tour guide, providing walking tours with us, including Royal London and Wonders of White Hall.


[00:01:23] Philip Scott: Philip. Hello. Good afternoon.

[00:01:26] Hazel Baker: Now we’ve been meaning to do this one for a while on an all time favourite subject with a number of our customers, and that indeed is the subject of Buckingham Palace and its history there.

[00:01:40] Philip Scott: Great. Looking forward to it. In fact I was outside Buckingham Palace this morning and the royal standard was flying high.

But not only was the Royal standard flying high on Buckingham Palace, but it was also flying high on Clarence House. And we all got very excited when Just as we approach Clarence House, all of a sudden police officers started blowing whistles and the Queen Console, queen Camilla, actually CL came out of Clarence House in her car.

[00:02:12] Hazel Baker: Ooh, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the standard on Buckingham Palace and Clarence House at the same time.

[00:02:19] Philip Scott: Today was the first time that I’ve ever seen it.

[00:02:23] Hazel Baker: So it’s, it is a new for us as well. That’s what’s so exciting though, isn’t it? Being tour guides, we’re constantly seeing new things on well-trodden routes.

[00:02:31] Philip Scott: Absolutely.

[00:02:33] Hazel Baker: So we’ll get to the history of Buckingham Palace, really. So I suppose let’s start at the very beginning, and that would be, who was Buckingham Palace built for and by, and also why. Okay.

[00:02:47] Philip Scott: Buckingham Palace was originally called Buckingham House, and it was built by the Duke of Buckingham as a townhouse.

It wasn’t actually built as a royal palace. It was completed in 1703. The location of Buckingham House was absolutely superb in that it overlooks the Royal Park of. St. James’s Park, but also it was about a quarter of a mile away from St. James’s palace. And when Buckingham House was built, St. James’ Palace was the royal palace.

Now, in 1761, king George III decided that he would rather like the Duke of Buckingham’s house for his new wife. Queen Charlotte. So he told the Duke of Buckingham that he would give him 21,000 pounds for his house. I guess the Duke didn’t feel comfortable refusing the offer, so the ownership of Buckingham House passed from the Duke of Buckingham to King George iii.

Within a very short space of time, king George III had moved his new wife, the Queen consort, queen Charlotte, into Buckingham Palace. It became her home and it was where she gave birth to 14 of their 15 children, and in fact, Buckingham House, it actually acquired a nickname, the Queen’s House during this period of time.

[00:04:25] Hazel Baker: And when you’re saying that Georgia II parted with 21,000 pounds for the Duke of Buckingham’s house, we are talking mega money, aren’t we?

[00:04:35] Philip Scott: Yeah. At the time, the average wage was I around about 25 pounds a year. So the cost of 21,000 pounds, it was about 850 times the average annual wage.

And in fact, I’ve worked out that it was actually 1,150 times that of an agricultural labourer. So even though it’s a relatively small amount of money today, it really was a huge amount of money in 1761.

[00:05:11] Hazel Baker: And you said perfectly placed. And of course, being so close to St. James’s palace had advantages if you wanted to have the ear of the king,

[00:05:20] Philip Scott: A less than 10 minute walk away, would he have walked I guess maybe, or possibly. A horse and carriage would’ve taken him or possibly a sedan chair because they were actually quite fashionable modes of transport at the time.

[00:05:42] Hazel Baker: And why did the Queen’s house or Buckingham House become a royal palace?

What was so appealing about it for George the Third to purchase it for Queen Charlotte.

[00:05:53] Philip Scott: Clearly it was A very large house and it could easily accommodate the Queen. And as I mentioned earlier king George III and Queen Charlotte, they had 15 children in total. 14 of them were actually born at Buckingham House.

Now George ii, he died in 1820, and his eldest son, George the fourth. Became the king, and in fact, George IV decided that Buckingham how should become. The official royal palace and he set about extending it. He got the leading architect of the day, John Nash, to come up with a whole series of plans to extend the palace.

The extensions started, but they were not completed until after King George the fourth had died. That was in 1830. Now in 1830, king William iv, he became king. But he didn’t actually want to move into the New Palace. It hadn’t, the extensions hadn’t been completed, but also King William iv. He was quite happy living at the townhouse that he had built for himself and his wife.

Clarence house. And in fact, it wasn’t until 1837 when Queen Victoria became the monarch that she decided that Buckingham Palace should be the official royal palace. In fact, king William iv, he really disliked. The whole thought of the new Buckingham Palace. And in fact, when the Palace of Westminster burnt down in 1834, the Palace of Westminster is of course where the United Kingdom Parliament sets.

King William actually offered Buckingham House for the location of parliament as it happened. His offer was politely declined and a new palace of Westminster was built, the Old Palace of Westminster. It burnt down in its entirety, apart from Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall was saved.

And in fact, last year, Westminster Hall was the focus of international attention because it’s where the late Queen Layin stayed for four days. Yeah.

[00:08:26] Hazel Baker: And you mentioned John Nash working on Buckingham House, and that’s a name that we know for other works in London as well,

[00:08:34] Philip Scott: isn’t it? Yeah, John Nash, he designed a very significant number of large houses in Central London.

Some of them are still with us today. If you go down the mount, if you leave Buckingham Palace, And you walk down the mall towards Trafalgar Square. As you get close to Trafalgar Square, there are a number of Nash buildings there. The other side, the east side of Trafalgar Square on the strand, there are some Nash buildings and there are quite a number still remaining in the vicinity of Regents Park.

They’ve all been heavily restored, but there’s quite a significant number of Nash buildings. Still around. Probably the most famous Nash building was the Brighton Pavilion. Which George the fourth commissioned when he was the Prince Regent in 1811. His father George iii, was incapacitated because of a mental illness.

And George iii, he didn’t abdicate, he didn’t resign. But his eldest son basically took over the day-to-day running of the monarchy as the Prince Regent.

[00:09:54] Hazel Baker: So we were talking about the expansion of Buckingham Palace over the years, but we’d got up to William the fourth. But the front of Buckingham Palace that we see now isn’t what he would’ve seen. So what’s changed?

[00:10:10] Philip Scott: What happened was Queen Victoria. Decided that a front a facade should be placed onto Buckingham Palace. So around circa 1850. A front a facade was actually placed onto Buckingham Palace. In fact, queen Victoria stood on the balcony of this new facade to wave troops off to the Crimean War.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was designed to remodel the facade. And in 1913 a new facade was unveiled, and also at the same time, the statue of Queen Victoria at the front of Buckingham Palace was also unveiled now to create the front they had to move an archway at the entrance to Buckingham Palace.

There was an arch, and it was actually moved to the part of London that we now call Marble Arch. After the arch that was at the front of Buckingham Palace. Now the arch, it was actually taken down. Stone by stone, by the master builder, Thomas Cubit. Thomas Cubit actually built a large number of houses in central London, especially in the Belgravia area.

And we were talking about Queen Camilla the Queen consort earlier. Thomas Cubert is actually an ancestor of Queen Camilla. I never, and I’m afraid to say that the marble arch today, it stands in what I consider to be a very ugly traffic island. There is perhaps one more thing to add and that is that in 1962 a gallery was created to the left hand side of Buckingham Palace as you’re facing it. And this gallery came to be known as the Queen’s Gallery. Even though the Queen has passed away, the gallery is still known as the Queen’s Gallery and every year they stage.

Two exhibitions in which they showcase gems from the Royal Collection. The royal family actually own a very extensive art collection, some of it dating back hundreds and hundreds of years.

[00:12:52] Hazel Baker: Have you been to the latest exhibition addressing the Georgians?

[00:12:56] Philip Scott: I’m going next week.

[00:12:58] Hazel Baker: Oh. Oh. I won’t spoil it though, but I had a wonderful time.

So lovely. See so many, items of clothing up close as well. Yeah. Is wonderful suit, which I think you could actually pull off, Phil. Thank you. And then and then these wonderful shoes. Oh my goodness. And then so many paintings. Some that I’ve been very familiar with.

But, didn’t really understand the relation between the clothes and the artwork but also some others that I hadn’t seen at all. And I really liked that that mix. Yeah. So I must admit I I bought the book.

[00:13:30] Philip Scott: Great. And in fact, one of the nice things about the Queen’s Gallery is the once you have been to an exhibition.

You get a ticket, which you can then use for the next year.

[00:13:43] Hazel Baker: Yep, I’ve got that one signed , and it’s on my little notice board, all these top tips. So if we’re thinking of Buckingham Palace there, Phil, and it’s seen quite a bit in its day no more so than during the second World War. Do you wanna share a little bit about about the king and queen living there during the Second World War and it’s close shaves?

[00:14:06] Philip Scott: Sure. Yeah. In 1939, When war broke out September, 1939, it was suggested that the royal family move to Canada for safety reasons, and they were having none of it. So it was then suggested that the Royal Family Leave London. Again, they were having none of it. The Queen consort, queen Elizabeth.

The grandmother of King Charles iii. She famously said when she was asked about leaving London, she famously said, the children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the king, and the king will never leave. They stayed at Buckingham Palace throughout World War ii. We believe that the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret quite often went to the relative safety of Windsor Castle, but the king and queen were quite determined to stay in London, stay in Buckingham Palace.

It was bombed 16 times. And on nine of those 16 occasions, damage was caused. The first bomb was a 50 kilogram bomb. It was dropped on the 8th of September, 1940. At the start of the blitz. It didn’t explode, but on the 11th of September, a bomb was dropped. That did explode. It caused damage.

It injured four people, and one of those persons, one of those people later, died from their injuries. And also in that attack, the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace was damaged. After the bomb had been dropped on the 11th of September that caused damage, queen Elizabeth actually said that she was glad that the palace had been bombed.

She said that it makes me feel that I can look the east end in the face. And in fact, east London was very badly bombed. In fact, many parts of London were very badly bombed and. King George the sixth and Queen Elizabeth on many occasions, they went to parts of London that had been bombed.

Buckingham Palace and the Royal family, they were a prime target of Hitler’s the royal family, and in particular, the King and the Queen.

They gained a lot of kudos from the fact that they’d actually stayed in Buckingham Palace in spite of the bombings. Most of the bombings of Buckingham Palace were. In the blitz that lasted from September, 1940 to May, 1941. However a V one flying bomb destroyed a summer house in the garden in June, 1944.

Interestingly, Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady of the United States FDRs wife. She stayed at Buckingham Palace in 1942 during the Second World War. She used it as a base to visit American troops who were starting to arrive in the uk and she also visited cities that had suffered from intensive bombing.

In her diary, she did have a little moan about how cold it was in the palace, and she didn’t over care for the food. But it was wartime and food was rationed, and that applied to the royal household as it did every other household.

[00:17:51] Hazel Baker: I must say, I don’t think she would appreciate maybe the forthcoming winter because I read today that Buckingham Paris have turned their thermostats down

[00:17:59] Philip Scott: apparently.

Including in the swimming pool.

[00:18:02] Hazel Baker: Yes.

Okay. So how can we get to see Buckingham Palace then?

[00:18:10] Philip Scott: From the outside you can see Buckingham Palace 24 7. From the inside, a number of ways you can visit the Queens’ Gallery. We were talking about the Queens’ Gallery earlier. Queens’ Gallery is open all year round. You can book tickets for the summer opening.

In fact, the palace is actually preparing for this summer’s opening. The palace has been opened for almost 30 years now from June, July to September for about. Eight weeks. Now, if you’re lucky you might get invited to a garden party. There are usually three every year and approximately 27,000 guests get to go to one of the garden parties at Buckingham Palace.

Now, if you’re really lucky, you might receive a gong. Such as an O B E or an M B E or a Dame Hood or a knighthood. There are lots of investitures Buckingham Palace all year round. I’m still waiting for my invite and my gong. I think I might be waiting for some while. Although maybe this podcast will enable both to happen,

[00:19:33] Hazel Baker: it might be worth Phil explaining to listeners what exactly is a gong.

[00:19:38] Philip Scott: Okay. Gong is colloquial English for an award. So if you have done Something that’s worthy. You may well get an award. Yesterday there was an investiture Grayson Perry, the Potter. He was knighted and he was knighted for his services to the arts. Kate Garaway, the broadcaster.

She received an M B E yesterday, and that was for services to broadcasting, but it was also for services to charity. Different people get different awards for different things. The awards and these awards, they’re not without controversy. The awards system as we know it today.

It was created in 1917 by George the Fifth. And at that time, the British Empire was at its height and. O B E actually stands for order of the British Empire, and M B E stands for member of the British Empire. And there are some people who refuse to accept awards because they feel it’s too much linked to empire.

It’s too much linked to the days of colonialism. And there has been some talk recently of maybe renaming some of the awards so that O B E. Might stand for Order of British excellence instead of order of the British Empire. The poet Benjamin Zephaniah, it was proposed to him that he received an O B E and he turned it down because the E stands for Empire and he just didn’t feel it was appropriate for him as a person of Caribbean descent to receive that particular award.

[00:21:50] Hazel Baker: Yeah, I think we need to look at these kind of things as well. Yeah. There might been a moment in their time, but now things have moved on as well. But that’s not to say that each person’s individual’s accomplishment shouldn’t be celebrated. It’s just the names now are just a little bit out

[00:22:04] Philip Scott: date, aren’t they?

I suspect in the fullness of time the award system will undergo change.

[00:22:12] Hazel Baker: I think it has to in order to reflect where we are now and then and the people as well. Yeah, I remember ROL doll also declined the

[00:22:21] Philip Scott: honor. Yeah. Some people decline honors because they don’t feel that they should be elevated in their status above anyone else?

David Bowie. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, David Bowie was put forward for a knighthood and he refused on the grounds that he didn’t consider himself to be any better than anyone else.

[00:22:50] Hazel Baker: So we got visiting for the summer. And of course as with that visit to Buckham Palace. Not only do you go inside, but you exit via the beautiful gardens.

Yes. Are the largest private gardens in

[00:23:04] Philip Scott: London, are they? They are, yes. They are the largest private gardens in central London. Second are the gardens in Winfield house which is the official residence of the Ambassador to the United Kingdom from the United States.

Of course, officially. The title of all ambassadors to the United Kingdom is they’re still known as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, or if it’s a commonwealth country. Commonwealth countries have high commissioners. They are high commissioners to the court of St. James’s. Interestingly, even though St.

James’s palace has not been the official royal palace since 1837, All ambassadors and high commissioners, they are still known as Yeah, the ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. So the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s she has the second biggest garden in Central London, and I believe the third largest garden in central London belongs to the Goring Hotel, which is actually very close to Buckingham Palace.

It’s quite near Victoria Station.

[00:24:24] Hazel Baker: Is the goring where Catherine Middleton stage

[00:24:27] Philip Scott: before her wedding? It’s yes. Ah, yes. Angela family. Yes. Yeah.

[00:24:32] Hazel Baker: Have you seen the diplomat on Netflix with Carrie Russell and the Gorgeous Roof of Sewell? I’m afraid I haven’t. No, because she plays the diplomat the American diplomat, and it’s ab it’s a thriller.

I think it’s absolutely exquisite. But she needs to, in order to be an official ambassador, go to the court of St. James’s with these papers. And of course, nothing really goes to plan. So you’ve got a few free nights. I can certainly recommend that one. Alright.

[00:24:59] Philip Scott: Okay.

[00:25:03] Hazel Baker: So we were talking about the palace and we’ve seen the inside and the staff are really wonderful in there. And they’ll show you that the secret doors and that kind of thing. We’re talking about the garden, but there is a top tip about that ticket, Phil, to get your money’s worth. Very similar to what we were talking about with the Queens Gallery. I’ve got a bit of strategy when I go around Buckingham Palace and that is that I buy a ticket at the end of the season. And once you get it stamped in the garden when you’re leaving, you can then revisit within 12 months.

So that gives me all of the next summer to choose when I’m going to visit next time.

[00:25:43] Philip Scott: Clever thinking.

[00:25:44] Hazel Baker: All right. Thank you very much. Now in 1982, Phil, there was an infamous break in, which was also shown in the Netflix’s series, the Crown, where a man by the name of Michael Fagan ended up in the late Queen’s bedroom.

Please do tell us more,

[00:26:05] Philip Scott: there were two break-ins during the summer of 1982. This. Man called Michael Fagan. He initially broke into Buckingham Palace in early July, 1982. He climbed up a drainpipe and he actually entered through an unlocked window and for 30 minutes he wandered around the palace looking at royal portraits, and he helped himself to wine, cheese, and crackers.

Before leaving he enjoyed his visit so much that he came back again. And on the 9th of July, he entered the palace by scaling up a 14 foot high perimeter wall. With spikes and with barbed wire, an alarm was triggered.

But would you believe that the police just adopted the view? It was faulty and they ignored it, and he got into the building. He wandered around the corridors. He somehow managed to break an ashtray and he actually cut himself and he ended up in the late queen’s bedroom. Would you believe that the armed officer on duty had actually gone off shift and hadn’t been replaced?

Ah, now this was a huge news story. The home secretary at the time was a man called William Whitelaw, Willie Whitelaw. He offered Mrs. Thatcher his resignation, but it was refused. This story was on the front page of all the newspapers, and they said that Michael Fagin had sat on the end of the Queen’s bed and that the queen had engaged in a conversation with him.

Now Fagin has actually said that this did not happen. Fagan has said that the Queen actually left the room immediately to seek help. Although non came for a little while, now it’s very clear that Michael Fagan meant the late queen no harm. In fact, in some ways, the incident perhaps did the queen a favor because it exposed some very major security lapses and.

The powers that be, were able to rectify those security lapses. Now, Michael Fagan, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment and he stayed there for three months. He’s now in his seventies and The press tracked him down just after the late queen passed away and he told them that he’d lit a candle in a local church to honor the queen on her.

Her passing.

[00:29:03] Hazel Baker: It’s the thought, isn’t it? That anything could have potentially happened. And also when this happened, like 1982, this is only the year after the 1981 New Zealand shooting incident when the 17 year old Christopher John Lewis fired a shot at the Queen as she stepped out of her vehicle then, so this is, if you think of like in news terms, it’s one after the other.

One year is nothing is it

[00:29:29] Philip Scott: Had he had ill intent. He could have easily taken the queen’s life. So it is in many ways I guess she could argue that it was a good thing that these major lapses, insecurity were exposed.

[00:29:42] Hazel Baker: We were talking earlier about the the Royal Standard flag being on top of Buckingham Palace and Clarence’s House at the same time for the first time seeing this morning. So what is the standard flag and why and when does it fly on top of said buildings, and also why is there sometimes a union flag there instead?

[00:30:03] Philip Scott: Yeah, sure. The royal standard is the monarchs on flag, and the Royal standard reflects three of the four countries that form the United Kingdom. Scotland is represented on the Royal Standard with a single lion. Island is represented on the royal standard by a harp. England is represented on the Royal standard. Two of the four rectangles contain three lions. Now in Scotland, the royal standard has on it, two single lions. In two of the rectangles and just one rectangle with three lions on it. Wales is actually not represented on the Royal standard. Nor is Wales represented on the union flag.

The union flag is three flags in one, the flag of England, the flag of Scotland, and the traditional flag of Ireland when the Royal standard was created. And when the union flag was created, the whole of Ireland was in the United Kingdom now only the northeast of Ireland. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom.

Sometimes the union flag flies on Buckingham Palace. The union flag flies on the palace when the Monarch is not in residence. Now, at one time when the Royal standard wasn’t flying on Buckingham Palace, no flag flew. The week that Diana died, the queen was in Scotland at Balmoral Castle. There was no flag flying on Buckingham Palace and there was an outcry that there was no flag flying at half mast on Buckingham Palace.

I don’t think people had fully realized that the only flag that had ever flown on Buckingham Palace was the Royal standard. The union flag didn’t fly on Buckingham Palace when the Monarch was not in residence. So the week after Diana died, it was decided for the first time to fly the union flag on Buckingham Palace and at half mast.

Now, the week that Diana died the Queen came back from Scotland with her husband. The Duke of Edinburgh, prince Philip and the sons of Diana, William and Harry, they came back on the Friday to Buckingham Palace and at that point, the union flag, which was flying at half mass, came down and the royal standard went up, but the Royal standard went up at full mast because the royal standard is never lowered to half mast.

The fact that it remains at full denotes the continuity of the monarchy.

[00:33:16] Hazel Baker: It’s one of those things, isn’t it? When Buckingham Palace seems to be a place that when something big happens in the country people gravitate to it.

[00:33:26] Philip Scott: It’s interesting that We are recording this shortly after the trooping, the colour ceremony, and after trooping the color.

I. The king and the queen consort appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. The royal standard was flying high, but it was a really large royal standard. It was very much bigger than the royal standard that was flying on the palace when I was in front of it earlier today. I wonder

[00:34:01] Hazel Baker: how many different sizes

[00:34:02] Philip Scott: there are.

I think there are just two. A regular size and a sort of a super sized royal standard.

[00:34:11] Hazel Baker: Now, Phil, I know you Are the perfect person to ask about this, so can you share any interesting or little known facts about the history of Buckingham Palace?

[00:34:23] Philip Scott: I could give you a few fab facts for example Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms.

78 bathrooms and apparently 40,000 light bulbs. Another fab fact is it’s actually 16 times larger than the White House. I was watching the BBC News when President Trump. Arrived for his state visit. He arrived in a helicopter in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. And the person who was doing the commentary actually asked the question about whether or not president Trump realized that Buckingham Palace was 16 times the size of the White House.

The late Queen was such a good diplomat. I think it’s extremely unlikely that she would’ve told the president that the palace was 16 times the size of the White House, but I can’t help but think that if the White House had been 16 times the size of Buckingham Palace, maybe President Trump might have mentioned it to Queen Elizabeth.

I’m sure he would’ve. Would you like more ? I do. I haven’t

[00:35:45] Hazel Baker: had my fill, Phil.

[00:35:47] Philip Scott: I mentioned earlier that Queen Victoria had moved in to Buckingham Palace in 1837. When she moved in the drains were faulty. They were very smelly and sometimes sewage actually seeped into the kitchens and. Prince Albert, the the queen’s husband, he actually helped to develop a new drainage system.

The late queen, she hosted a very large number of state visits. A state visit is when a foreign head of state visits the United Kingdom. More often than not, they stay at Buckingham Palace and the Lake Queen actually hosted 152 state visits. Wow. King Charles III so far has just hosted one state visit, and that was at the end of last year.

And that was for the president of South Africa. Time for one more fab fact.

[00:36:50] Hazel Baker: Oh, go on then you

[00:36:50] Philip Scott: convinced me. On the 18th of September last year, 2022. It was the day before the late Queen’s funeral and the new King. And his queen consort, they hosted 500 foreign dignitaries at Buckingham Palace, and this was the largest ever gathering of foreign dignitaries at Buckingham Palace.

168 sovereign states sent a representative to the late Queens funeral, and this actually included. 18 Monarchs and 55 presidents, as well as 25 prime ministers. Now, the late queen, she wasn’t just the head of state for the United Kingdom, but when she died the late queen was the head of state in 14 other countries.

These are known as the commonwealth realms. King Charles iii. He is not just the king of the United Kingdom, but he’s also the king of 14 other countries. Countries such as Australia, Jamaica Bellies, Canada, New Zealand. Now this is a, this is something that dates back to the days of empire. When countries got their independence, most countries decided that they wanted to be a part of the commonwealth, but they decided most of them that they wanted to become republics.

I suspect that as time goes by more countries will decide that they want to become republics. Jamaica, for example, has already indicated that by 2025. They want a Jamaican head of state. They don’t want King Charles III as their head of state. They’ve got no problems with King Charles iii. They want to stay in the Commonwealth, but they feel that it’s not appropriate for a modern democratic country like Jamaica to have a head of state who was the head of state in colonial times.

There’s only one other head of state in the world who’s actually the head of state in more than one country. Would you like me to give you a piece of extreme trivia? Go

[00:39:31] Hazel Baker: on. I’m sure it’ll be useful in a pub quiz somewhere.

[00:39:34] Philip Scott: This is real extreme trivia, but President Macron of France, he is also the joint head of State of Andra.

The Bishop of Iwell and President Macron are the joint heads of state of Andra. Enough trivia.

[00:39:52] Hazel Baker: It might be worth visiting the balcony, the Buckingham Palace balcony that we have so much cemented in our memories of, the final public viewing of the late Queen

and also, the first kiss of Catherine Midleton and William. It’s a big deal. The being on the balcony, isn’t it?

[00:40:11] Philip Scott: Huge. I mentioned earlier that the balcony dates to the mid 19th century when Queen Victoria arranged for a facade to go on to Buckingham Palace.

I also mentioned earlier that the balcony that we know today It was unveiled for the first time in 1913, and ever since then there have been numerous balcony appearances. When World War I ended the King George, the V and Queen Mary, they appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and there were hundreds of thousands of people in front of the palace cheering probably the most famous ever balcony appearance was on the day that the second World War ended in Europe, the eDay, the 8th of May, 1945.

King George the sixth, and Queen Elizabeth. Appeared on the balcony with the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. They appeared nine times on the balcony. Hundreds of thousands of people were in front of the palace and in the mal, and on one of those occasions, the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared on the balcony.

Now, after the last appearance, the two princesses with chaperones famously. Joined the crowds and parted the night away along with the rest of London. Apparently, they ended up at the Ritz Hotel in the early hours of the morning doing the Conga. A film was made quite some while ago about the night that the two princesses joined the v night party.

Interestingly, on the 50th anniversary of the VE Day, which was in 1995, Queen Elizabeth ii, her mother, Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother and her sister, Princess Margaret, they actually appear they actually appeared again together on the balcony. I seem to remember that Dame Vera Lynn was actually in the forecourt of the palace.

Singing as they were on the balcony. The last balcony appearance was just a few days ago after trooping the colour the late queen, her last ever appearance in public was on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. And this was on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee. To celebrate the queen’s, 70 years on the throne.

[00:42:58] Hazel Baker: So lots of memories there. And associated with the balcony is the fly past. Yeah. We’ve had some impressive ones over the years, but it might be worth having a look or you explaining the history of these flypasts at Buckingham Palace and their significance.

[00:43:17] Philip Scott: Yeah. Frequently an appearance on the balcony at Buckingham Palace is also accompanied with a flypast.

And a flypast is when military helicopters and military aeroplanes fly between a thousand feet and 1,400 hundred feet above the ground. After the recent trooping, the colour, there was a fly past.

At the very end of the flypasts, the red arrows spectacularly appeared with trails of red, white, and blue. There was a fly after the coronation on the 6th of May. This year, but it was very much a truncated flypast. The weather was not particularly good on that day and the flypast had to be really scaled.

Back when it was the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, there was a major flypast, and in fact some of the aeroplanes actually made the formation of a seven and also a zero. The first ever flypast was in 1913 the first ever Royal Flypast. It wasn’t at Buckingham Palace. It was actually at Aldershot and the Royal Flying Core military wing staged a fly-past pass for King George V.

The Royal Air Force wasn’t actually created until 1918.

[00:44:55] Hazel Baker: I’m going to enjoy my trip to Buckingham Palette in a couple of weeks with an extra bit of knowledge there.

[00:45:01] Philip Scott: Superb. I hope all that’s been useful.

[00:45:04] Hazel Baker: It has indeed. Yes. Thank you. And for the listeners, I’ll include some links to latest blog posts about garden parties and Buckingham Palace during World War ii, et cetera in there. And also the important links to book tickets not only for Buckingham Palace, but also to attend one of Phil’s very interesting Royal London walks.

Thank you, Phil. Thank

[00:45:29] Philip Scott: you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you.

[00:45:33] Hazel Baker: That’s all for now. Until next time.

Listen now to discover more about London's history

Latest podcast episodes

Latest Episodes

Two Temple Place

Upcoming Guided Walks

Scroll to Top
Open chat
Scan the code
Hello 👋
We provide guided walks and private tours to Londoners and visitors alike.
Can we help you?