“I’m glad we’ve been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.” (The Queen Mother in 1940, after Buckingham Palace had been bombed by the Nazis)
When people think of the British royal family, and more specifically where they live, the first image that often pops into mind is that of stately Buckingham Palace, with its changing of the guard and the occasional royal coach leaving or entering. Others may think of the royal country estate of Windsor Castle, a favorite of both Britain’s longest reigning and second longest reigning monarchs. And there was a time when both royal residences played second fiddle to a much better known home, the elegant Kensington Palace.
In his multivolume work Old and New London (1878), Edward Walford wrote, “It has often been said by foreigners that if they were to judge of the dignity and greatness of a country by the palace which its sovereign inhabits, they would not be able to ascribe to Her Majesty Queen Victoria that proud position among the ‘crowned heads’ of Europe which undoubtedly belongs to her. But though Buckingham Palace is far from being so magnificent as Versailles is, or the Tuilleries once were, yet it has about it an air of solidity and modest grandeur, which renders it no unworthy residence for a sovereign who cares more for a comfortable home than for display.”
This is ultimately what palaces are all about: power and impressions. Buckingham Palace is not different, for though it was originally built as a home of a private citizen, once a king bought it, its future was sealed.