Royal Residences Of The British Monarchy


As you read about the many monarchs featured on this website, you will come across the names of many castles and palaces, some of which are universally recognised and some virtually unheard of.

The United Kingdom is awash with palaces, castles and stately homes, but not all of them are owned by royals, infact Queen Elisabeth II actually has only five royal residences, two castles, two palaces and one stately home and of those five, only two are actually privately owned by the monarch.

However, these five royal residences have not always been the homes of choice of former monarchs, with several castles and palaces, which are alas no longer with us, having been the homes of previous royal families. 




                                   Image courtesy of Stuart Yeates, wikimedia commons


Balmoral Castle is situated in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire in Scotland and is one of only two privately owned royal residences of the Queen.

Originally built in 1390 by Sir William Drummond for King Robert II, the castle was formerly rented by and then brought by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a holiday home in 1848 and remodeled into what is seen today.

Since then the castle, which is now part of a fully working 64,000 acre estate, is one of the royal family's favourite retreats, with the family taking regular, annual, Summer holidays there.  




Bridewell Palace was commissioned by King Henry VIII and became his official residence between 1515 and 1523. It was situated on the banks of the River Fleet in east London and named after a nearby well dedicated to St Bride.

In 1553 King Edward VI gave the palace to the City of London for the housing of the poor and homeless.

Since then the palace has been a poorhouse, a hospital and a prison, before being demolished in 1863.

The palace is best remembered for being the site of the papal delegations concerning King Henry VIII’s divorce from Queen Catherine of Aragon.


                                        Image courtesy of Dilif, wikimedia commons


Situated on The Mall in the City of Westminster and known as Buck House throughout the land, Buckingham Palace has been the official royal residence of the British monarchy since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.

Originally built in 1703 from a design by William Winde for the Duke of Buckingham, the house first became a royal residence in 1761 when King George III had architects John Nash and Edward Blore remodel the building for his wife Queen Charlotte.

Today the palace is a massive 828,818 sq ft (77,000 sq mt) and the primary official residence of Queen Elisabeth.

The palace is used for royal duties, royal functions, as a residence for visiting heads of state, the world famous, daily changing of the guard ceremony and a rallying point for the British public in times of national rejoicing or crisis.  



Greenwich Palace was built in 1447 by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the brother of King Henry V.

Built on the banks of the River Thames it was originally known as Bella Court, before being renamed by Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, to the Palace of Pleasuance / Palace of Placentia.

The palace was the birthplace of King Henry VIII, Queen Mary I and Queen Elisabeth I. King Henry also married his fifth wife, Anne of Cleeves, there.  

The palace was eventually to become part of the Greenwich Hospital in 1694 and the site of the Royal Naval College in 1873.

Today the site of the palace houses the buildings of the University of Greenwich and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.


                                   Image courtesy of Andreas Tille, wikimedia commons


Hampton Court Palace, was built by the friend and advisor to King Henry VIII, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and was completed in 1514. 

When Henry was thwarted by the Catholic Church when he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon, Wolsey, realising his fate, made a gift of the the palace to the king, whereupon the palace became a royal residence right up until the monarchs of the Royal House of Hanover .

The palace, which is located beside the banks of the River Thames in Richmond, Surrey, was designated as a Grade I listed building in 1952 and has been in the ownership of the preservation society, Historic Royal Palaces, since 1998. The palace, along with it's gardens, maze and deer park are all open to the public and the building it's self is the only former royal palace in the United Kingdom where visitors can rent an apartment. 


                                   Image courtesy of Kim Traynor, wikimedia commons


The great Palace at Holyrood, situated on the Royal Mile in Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh is the Queen's official residence when in Scotland.

Originally built in 1128 by David King of Scots, the palace has officially been a royal residence since King James IV in 1501.

Today the Queen spends one week a year there on official public duties as well as using it as an official royal residence for other members of the royal family and visiting public heads of state.

The rest of the year the palace is open to the public.  


                                   Image courtesy of Colin Smith, wikimedia commons


Kensington Palace, situated in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, started life as a Jacobean house known as Nottingham House. It was purchased by King William III of Orange and his wife Queen Mary in 1689, who undertook the architect Christopher Wren to redesign it. 

Since then it has been the official royal residence of several members of the royal family, including King George II, Princess Margaret, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The palace has also been the site of the deaths of several monarchs, including Queen Mary II, King William III of Orange and King George II.

Today the palace is better known by it’s stunning gardens which are open to the public. 



There have been three palaces situated in Kew, the first of which was built during the reign of Queen Elisabeth I for her court favourite, many would say lover, Robert Darnley, after the death of his wife in 1560. 

Historians know little about the residence, other than it was probably known as Leicester House, after Darnley's ducal title of the Earl of Leicester. 

The second palace, pictured above, known as the Dutch House due to fine it’s Dutch architecture, was built in 1631 by Samuel Fortey for the private secretary to King George II.

In 1734 the Dutch House was purchased by his son, King George III, whose wife, Queen Charlotte, died there in 1818.

In  1837 Queen Victoria gave most of the land surrounding the palace, known as Kew Gardens, to the nation, followed in 1887 by the palace it's self. The palace, which is no more than a manor house really, is now owned by the preservation society, Historic Royal Palaces and is open to the general public as part of Kew Gardens. 

The third palace at Kew was a building commissioned by King George III and designed by George Wyatt. The building would be demolished by his son King George IV in 1828. 


                                Image courtesy of, wikimedia commons


Osbourne House was built between 1845 and 1851 by Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. The house was built by Thomas Cubitt, from a design by the prince. 

Queen Victoria and her family loved the isolation of Osbourne House, built as it was on the Isle of Wight, and spent many holidays there.  

Queen Victoria died there in 1901 and after the house was made surplus to requirements by other royals, it became the Royal Naval College, Osbourne, from 1903 until 1921, where it saw future kings Edward VIII and George V, study there. 

Today the house is now owned by English Heritage, where, along with it's estate, gardens, private beach and woodland, are all open to the general public. 




The Palace of Westminster, better known as Britain's Houses of Parliament, was originally constructed during the eleventh century by King Canute the Great, as his place of residence during the years of his reign from 1016 to 1035. 

Most of this building was destroyed by fire in 1512, after which it went on to be the seat of England's parliament during the thirteenth century.  

The oldest part of the building still remaining from that time is Westminster Hall, a cavernous area with a clearspan roof measuring sixty eight feet by two hundred and forty feet. The hall is best known for being the location of coronation banquets since the time of  King William II.  

Another fire in 1834 resulted in the architect, Charles Barry, designing yet another building on the site, the perpendicular Gothic building made of sand coloured limestone, that we see today. 

This vast building, which commands eight hundred and seventy three feet of Thames riverfront in London's City of Westminster, contains one thousand, one hundred rooms, one hundred staircases and three miles of passages, housed on four floors. 

The palace consists of the Halls of the House of Lords and House of Commons, two libraries, the Prince's Chamber, the Royal Gallery, the Queen's Robing Chamber, the Member's Lobby, the Peer's Lobby and several exits and entrances, including the grand Central Lobby, which measures thirty nine feet by seventy five feet and houses statues of former British monarchs and the four saints of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. 

The buildings five iconic towers are St Stephen's Tower, Speaker's Tower, which contains the official residence of the Speaker of the House, the Chancellor's Tower, Central Tower, Victoria Tower, which at two hundred and ninty feet high was once the tallest building in the world, and the three hundred and sixteen foot high, Elisabeth Tower, home of the palace's belfry, which houses Big Ben and four other bells which are synonomous with the Westminster Chimes, and it's four, twenty three feet wide, clock faces. 

The palace is surrounded by several green spaces, including the Victoria Tower Gardens, the only public space within the palace, Black Rod's Garden, the Old Palace Yard, the New Palace Yard, Speaker's Green, Cromwell Green and the most famous outside area of them all, College Green, where outside broadcasts and interviews with politicians are televised.




The Palace of Whitehall was commissioned during the reign of King Henry VIII and was the largest palace in Europe upon it’s completion, being larger than both The Vatican Palace and the Palace of Versailles.

The palace sat on twenty three acres of land and had around one thousand, five hundred rooms.

King Henry VIII married two of his wives there, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, and it was also the site of where he died in 1547.

Over the years the palace would be remodelled by both King James I and King Charles I, before it was extensively damaged by fire in 1691 and had to be demolished.

The palace gave it’s name to the ashlar stone from which it was built, and it’s name lives on in the area of London known as Whitehall.

The only part of the palace which remains today is the Banqueting Hall, built in 1622 by Inigo Jones. The hall is best remembered as the site of the execution of King Charles I in 1649.  




Richmond Palace was built on the grounds of the former Sheen Manor on the south bank of the River Thames in Richmond, Surrey, by King Henry VII, when he was the Earl of Richmond.

The old manor house and future palace has been the official residence of King Henry I, King Edward I, King Richard II and King Henry VII.

The palace was the location of the honeymoon of Queen Mary and Prince Philip of Spain after their marriage in 1554 , the death of Queen Elisabeth I in 1603  and the home of King James I’s vast art collection.

The palace is reported to have been the first royal residence to have flush toilets, installed on the orders of Queen Elisabeth I.




This twenty thousand acre estate situated in the coastal village of Sandringham in Norfolk is the Queen's only stately home and used by both her and other royals as a holiday home.

Originally built in 1771 by architect Cornish Henley, the house was brought by Queen Victoria in 1862 as a home for her son King Edward VII and his wife Princess Alexandra.

The house has received many renovations over the years and is one of only two royal privately owned residences of the Queen.

It is here at Sandringham that the Royal family all gather for their traditional annual Christmas holiday.


                                  Image courtesy of siegertmarc, wikimedia commons


St James Palace, situated in Pall Mall, London, was commissioned by King Henry VIII and built between 1531 and 1536 on the site of a former leper hospital which had been dedicated to St James the Less.

It has been the official royal residence of several royals and was the birthplace of both Queen Anne and King Charles II. 

The palace is known as the Royal Court of St James as the royal court is formally based there.

In 1941 the palace was the location of the establishment and signing of the Charter of the United Nations.

The palace is not open to the public as it is a working palace, but it’s chapel and gardens are.

The palace is also used as the London residence of several, visiting minor royals.  




The Royal Pavillion was built in 1789 by George, Prince of Wales, (the future King George IV) as a house for parties and secret liasons with his mistress, Maria Fitzherbert, whom unknown to everyone else, he had actually married in secret in 1785. 

The house was extensively redesigned between 1815 and 1822 by architect, John Nash, into the Indian style building we see today. 

The pavilion was also used as a holiday retreat by King William IV, but was disliked by Queen Victoria, due to it's town centre location, who sold it to the city of Brighton in 1850. 

Today, the pavilion stands pride of place in the south coast resort where it has become the city's biggest tourist attraction. 


                                        Image courtesy of Dilif, wikimedia commons


Reputed to be the Queen's favourite home, Windsor Castle situated in Berkshire, is the world's largest inhabited castle and Britain's oldest continually inhabited castle.

Originally built between 1066 and 1087 during the reign of William the Conqueror, the castle has been renovated and remodelled by every British monarch since.

One of five official royal residences in Great Britain, the four hundred and eighty thousand square foot castle is also home to St Georges Chapel, which houses the tombs of several former British monarchs and royals.

Since the accession of Queen Elisabeth II in 1952, Windsor Castle has been the official weekend retreat for the royal family.

As the castle is state owned, it is open to the public, and one can visit St Georges Chapel and the Queen Mother's Doll’s House amongst many other things, and in the castle's grounds, one can explore Windsor Great Park with it's Long Walk that leads to the statue of the Copper Horse or visit the popular Royal Farm and onsite shop.

The castle is also situated just minutes from the small town of Eton, home to the world famous public school that has been the seat of learning for many British and foreign royals and other nobility.  
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                                   Main Image - Windsor Castle - Courtesy of Petr Noha, wikimedia commons.