Timeless glamor, fascinating tales and a touch of intrigue, the British royal residences reflect everything that draws us to the royals themselves. To wander down their halls is to walk in the footsteps of the great, the good and, just sometimes, the downright infamous. To journey behind their walls is to hear echoes of a story that not only spans the centuries, but that has shaped a nation and beyond.
Now, as The Queen celebrates her diamond jubilee, marking sixty years on the throne, there seems no better time to marvel at the incredible homes and residences of the British royal family, to delve behind the uniforms, carriages and processions to the places where many of the great events of history took place.
With so many royal venues to choose from, the team from historic travel website Historvius.com reveal their selection of some of the best, with ten illustrious British royal homes.
When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the Highlands in 1842, they fell in love with the area and wanted to build a home there; the result was <a href="http://www.historvius.com/balmoral-castle-958/" target="_hplink">Balmoral Castle</a>. Since then it has been a favorite of many a monarch and is often the location of the royals during the summer months. One of the most visually stunning and picturesque of all <a href="http://www.historvius.com/castles-of-scotland-list/fr263" target="_hplink">Scottish castles</a>, Balmoral remains the private residence of The Queen in Scotland. Parts of both the gardens and the castle are open to visitors each year from April to July. <BR> <BR>
A favorite residence of King Henry VIII, the site of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/hampton-court-palace-365/" target="_hplink">Hampton Court Palace</a> once belonged to the Knights Hospitallers as well as the infamous Cardinal Wolsey, who began a process of lavish renovation to turn it into the ultimate in Tudor luxury. After Wolsey’s fall from power, Henry took the palace for himself and spent much of his time there. Visitors are able to tour Henry's private rooms as well as the Tudor kitchens, maze and even Henry’s tennis court! <BR> <BR>
With a history stretching back to <a href="http://www.historvius.com/william-the-conqueror-sites/fi214" target="_hplink">William the Conqueror</a>, who built the first castle here in the 1070s, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/windsor-castle-949/" target="_hplink">Windsor Castle</a> has been renovated and upgraded countless times over the years. Among the many attractions of the castle is that it's also the burial site of ten monarchs, including Henry VIII. Today it's still an official residence of The Queen and continues to host state visits and functions, all whilst being one of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/historic-sites-in-uk-united-kingdom/pl80" target="_hplink">Britain’s premier tourist attractions</a>, enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year. <BR> <BR>
Alluding to the illustrious Court of St James’s, the name of this particular palace makes clear its status as the senior palace of the British Monarchy and seat of the royal court. Though the London home of the monarchy moved to <a href="http://www.historvius.com/buckingham-palace-363/" target="_hplink">Buckingham Palace</a> in 1837, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/st-james-aeos-palace-1408/" target="_hplink">St James’s Palace</a> remains as the official residence of the Sovereign. Built by Henry VIII in the 1530s much of the original red-brick Tudor building still survives, including the gatehouse and two Tudor apartments. Today, St James’s Palace is often used for official functions and is therefore not open to the public. <BR> <BR>
One of the most famous silhouettes in the world, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/edinburgh-castle-287/" target="_hplink">Edinburgh Castle</a> has been a royal residence and military stronghold for hundreds of years. As a royal home, it was central to the Scottish royal family and was the birthplace of King James VI of Scotland, who would later also become James I of England. The union of the crowns saw the castle’s role greatly diminished and it became more military garrison than royal residence. Today Edinburgh Castle is a hugely popular <a href="http://www.historvius.com/historic-sites-in-scotland/pl99" target="_hplink">Scottish tourist destination</a> allowing visitors to explore its nooks and crannies and even see the small room where James was born. <BR> <BR>
The best known of all royal residences, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/buckingham-palace-363/" target="_hplink">Buckingham Palace</a> has been the London home of British monarchs since 1837 and remains the administrative headquarters of The Queen. A huge palace complex, consisting of 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace is also the venue for great Royal ceremonies and events of state. During August and September each year the State Rooms are open to the public. Visitors can also witness the famous <em>Changing the Guard</em> ceremony, which takes place every day during the summer at 11:30am. <BR> <BR>
Among the most impressive <a href="http://www.historvius.com/castles-world-castle-list/fr259" target="_hplink">castles</a> in Britain, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/leeds-castle-327/" target="_hplink">Leeds Castle</a> has played host to a great many monarchs over the centuries and was a key royal stronghold and military center. Confusingly situated in Maidstone, Kent rather than in Leeds, this grand complex was originally the creation of one of William the Conqueror’s lieutenants in 1119AD. Since then it has served as a royal palace for <a href="http://www.historvius.com/edward-i-of-england/fi177" target="_hplink">King Edward I</a>, several English queens in the early Middle Ages and was a favourite bolt-hole of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/henry-viii-of-england/fi185" target="_hplink">Henry VIII</a>. Now open to visitors, Leeds Castle makes for a great day out, its attractive location and fascinating history drawing in crowds from around the globe. <BR> <BR>
While <a href="http://www.historvius.com/banqueting-house-361/" target="_hplink">Banqueting House</a> itself has a long history as a royal chamber, it actually stands on the site of the former royal Palace of Whitehall. Originally the residence of the Archbishops of York, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/henry-viii-of-england/fi185" target="_hplink">Henry VIII</a> seized the palace after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey and proceeded to turn it into the largest royal palace anywhere in Europe at the time. However, the ill-fated complex was destroyed by fire, leaving Banqueting House as the only intact reminder of its grandeur. In fact, this historic royal residence was the scene of probably the most shocking moment in the history of the monarchy, the execution of King Charles I in January 1649. An annual service is still held to commemorate this event and visitors can see the scaffold stage on which the monarch died. <BR> <BR>
The official residence of The Queen in Scotland, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/holyroodhouse-palace-1194/" target="_hplink">Holyroodhouse Palace</a> has a history stretching right back to 1128, when it was founded as a monastery. Associated with some of the most famous figures in Scottish history, Holyroodhouse was once the home of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/mary-queen-of-scots/fi194" target="_hplink">Mary Queen of Scots</a>, who lived here from 1561 to 1567. It was here that she witnessed an infamous moment in the palace’s history - the murder of her private secretary David Rizzio by her husband Lord Darnley and his accomplices. Nowadays, visitors can tour the palace and the royal apartments within. <BR> <BR>
Found in the heart of one of <a href="http://www.historvius.com/historic-sites-in-london/pl103" target="_hplink">London</a>’s most fashionable areas, <a href="http://www.historvius.com/kensington-palace-425/" target="_hplink">Kensington Palace</a> was once the primary residence of a number of British monarchs, and is probably best known for being the childhood home of Queen Victoria. Indeed, it was here that Victoria received the news of her accession to the throne. Today several parts of the palace are open to visitors who can also enjoy viewing the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection. <BR> <BR>
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