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, in fact 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 herself. These five royal residences have not always been the homes of choice of former monarchs however, with several castles and palaces, some of which are no longer with us, having been used by previous monarchs. 

Listed below are twenty seven royal residences which have been the official homes of either the English, British or Scottish monarchs over the past one thousand years. 



                                                         BALMORAL CASTLE

                                   Image courtesy of Stuart Yeates, wikimedia commons 


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

Originally built in 1390 by Sir William Drummond for Scotland's 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 we see 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.  

  

 

                                                                       BEAUMONT PALACE 

 

 

Beaumont Palace was built around 1130 by England's King Henry 1

The palace stood in what is today part of the grounds of Blenheim Palace - the country's only non royal, non episcopal country house which is known as a palace - located in Woodstock in Oxfordshire. 

The palace was the birthplace of the future King Richard I in 1157 and his younger brother the future King John in 1167. 

The palace was dismantled during the years of the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1541 and it's stone used in the construction of the two great seats of learning, Christ Church University and St John's College, both of which are located in the City of Oxford. 


 

                                                                      BRIDEWELL PALACE

  

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 his first wife Catherine of Aragon.  



                                                                     BUCKINGHAM PALACE

                                        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 II.

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

 

 

                                                                   DUNFERMLINE PALACE 

 

Dunfermline Palace was built in the eleventh century and became a royal house when Scotland's King Malcolm III moved there. 

The palace, which is located in Fife and annexed to the former Dunfermline Abbey, was the birthplace of two of Scotland's monarchs, King David II in 1324 and King James I in 1394. 

In 1589 the palace was given by King James VI as a wedding present to his new bride Anne of Denmark, who went on to give birth to three of their children there, Elisabeth in 1596, Robert in 1602 and the future King Charles I in 1600. 

After the Union of the Crowns in 1603 the palace became little used and went into a decline. Today all that is left of the palace are it's former kitchens, some cellars and it's south wall. The above picture shows the palace's former gatehouse which linked it to the abbey.  



                                                                          ELTHAM PALACE  

 

Eltham Palace began life as a moated manor house located in Greenwich, South London. It went on to be used by subsequent royal families well into the sixteenth century, before it fell out of favour owing to it being situated too far away from the River Thames.  

The first mention of the house was when it was given to King Edward II in 1305 by the then Bishop of Durham, Antony Bek.  In the 1470's the house underwent substantial alterations by King Edward IV, including the building of the Great Hall and gardens.

The Palace went on to become a firm  favourite of the Tudor monarchs who were known to hold their annual Christmas festivities in it's baronial Great Hall. It was also a particular favourite of Elisabeth Tudor, the queen consort of King Henry VII, who much preferred the solitude of the grand house to that of the bustling and vibrant Greenwich Palace.   

The house and gardens went into a decline for two centuries after it became used as a farm and pastureland, before being given further restorations in 1828. In the early 1930's the house was then purchased by textile magnate, Stephen Courtauld and his wife Virginia, who proceeded to refurbish the house into the masterpiece of Art Deco elegance and sophistication that can be seen today.   

In 1944 the house was commissioned by the military and used as an army education facility before being bought by English Heritage in 1995, where they then proceeded major refurbishment works on the house and gardens in 1999. 

Today the house and gardens, which are now Grade II listed, are open to the public every Summer between April and September. 


 

                                                                         FALKLAND PALACE 

 

Falkland Palace is located in Cupar near Fife in Scotland and is one of the most important Stuart residences in the land. 

The palace dates back to the twelfth century where it was then owned by the Clan MacDuff of Fife. 

It was aquired by the Scottish crown during the fourteenth century and underwent several restoration programms by the Scottish monarchs King James IV and King James V, who also died there in 1542. 

The palace became a popular haunt of the Stuart monarchs and was regularly visited by King James VI, King Charles I and King Charles II. 

The palace went into a decline after Cromwellian troops set it on fire during the civil war.  

In 1885 the palace underwent a twenty year restoration program which was funded by John Crichton-Stuart the third Marquess of Bute. 

In 1952 the palace was aquired by the National Trust For Scotland who now own and maintain it.  Today the palace, along with it's chapel, gardens and tennis courts are all open to the public.  



                                                        GREENWICH PALACE  
 

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 eventually become part of 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. 

 


                                                                 HAMPTON COURT PALACE

                                   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.  


   

                                                                   HILLSBOROUGH CASTLE 

 

Hillsborough Castle, despite it's name, is actually a Georgian mansion house which is used as the residence for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the British Royal Family and other visiting dignitaries when they are in Northern Ireland. 

Located in Hillsborough, County Down the house, which stands on ninety eight acres of beauitifully landscaped gardens, was built in the 1770s and purchased by the British Government after the partition of Ireland in 1922 where it went on to become the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland between 1924 and 1973. 

Today the house and gardens, which are owned and managed by the charitable organisation, Historic Royal Palaces, are open to the public between the months of April and September. The castle, which is the first British royal palace located in Northern Ireland, offers visitors guided tours of the many state and function rooms located there.  

 


                                                                         HOLYROOD PALACE

                                   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 monarch's official residence when visiting 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.    



                                                                       KENSINGTON PALACE

                                   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 Queen Anne, King George I, King George II, Princess Margaret, Diana Princess of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

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 for it’s picturesque gardens and stunning state rooms, both of which are open to the general public. 

 


                                                            KEW PALACE 

 

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, Robert Darnley, after the death of his wife in 1560. Historians know little about this residence, other than it was probably known as Leicester House, after Darnley's ducal title, the Earl of Leicester. 

The second palace, pictured above, known as the Dutch House due to it's fine 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.   

  


                                                                      MARLBOROUGH HOUSE 

 

Marlborough House was commissioned in 1711 by Queen Anne as a present for her best friend and confidante Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.  

The mansion, which was designed by the highly acclaimed architect Christopher Wren, is located in the City of Westminster and was taken over by the Crown in 1817. 

The house was the birthplace of King George V in 1865 and the royal residence of Queen Adelaide - widow of King William IV - between 1831 and 1849. The house was also the first marital home of Prince Edward and Princess Alexander, the future King Edward VII and Queen Consort Alexander

Today the house is a Grade 1 listed building which is open for private guided tours and an annual open house weekend every September.  

 

 

                                                                       OATLANDS PALACE 

 

Oatlands Palace was located in Weybridge Surrey and was a favourite retreat of the Tudors and the Stuarts. 

Henry VIII bought the original building in 1539 as a wedding present for his future bride Anne of CleevesHowever, the following year he would marry his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, at the palace. 

The palace went on to become the favoured residence of Queen Mary I, Queen Elisabeth I, King James I and King Charles I.  During King James I's reign his wife, Anne of Denmark, employed world renowned garden designer, Inigo Jones, to construct an ornamental garden in the grounds and during the reign of King James II the palace was used as the residence of Edward Herbert, the king's Lord Chief Justice. 

The house was extensively destroyed by fire in 1794 and subsequently remodeled into a Gothic style manor house by Fredrick, the Duke of York. His wife Charlotte then sold it to the well known dandy of the day, Edward Ball Hughes, who completely refurbished the building yet again, before letting it to the Conservative politician, Lord Wilbraham Egerton, between the years of 1832 and 1839. 

In 1840 Edward Ball Hughes then had the estate broken up into three lots and sold at public auction. Today the Surrey village of Oatlands now stands on the site of the former palace and grounds.



                                                                        OSBOURNE HOUSE 

                                Image courtesy of WyrdLight.com, 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.  

 


                                                                  PALACE OF WESTMINSTER  

 

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 ninety 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. 



                                                                     PALACE OF WHITEHALL

  

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 himself died in 1547.

Over the years the palace would be remodeled 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

    

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.  

 

 

                                                        ROYAL PALACE, EDINBURGH CASTLE 

 

Edinburgh's majestic castle, which sits atop the city's Castle Rock, has been around in one form or another since the twelth century when it became the fortified home of Scotland's King David

The Royal Palace, which is located in a part of the castle's grounds known as the Royal Square, was commissioned by King James IV during the early part of the fifteenth century. 

The palace went on to become the birthplace of King James VI -  son of Mary, Queen of Scotsin June 1566.  

Today the Royal Palace is open to the public where it is home to Scotland's vaulted Crown Room, the Stone of Scone, the impressive Laich Hall and the Birth Chamber of Mary Room.

 


                                                                    SANDRINGHAM HOUSE

   

This twenty thousand acre estate situated in the coastal village of Sandringham in Norfolk is the Queen's only stately home and is 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 wedding present for her eldest son Edward, Prince of Wales and his new bride Princess Alexandra

Queen consort Alexandra died at Sandringham House in 1925 as did her son King George V in 1935 and her grandson King George VI in 1952.

The future King Olav V of Norway was born on the Sandringham Estate in 1903 and Diana Spencer, the future Princess of Wales, was also born on the estate in 1961. 

The house has received many renovations over the years and is one of only two privately owned royal residences of the British monarch. It is here at Sandringham House that the Royal family gather for their annual Christmas holiday.  



                                                                       ST JAMES PALACE

                                  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 IIThe palace is also 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.   

 

 

                                                                        STIRLING CASTLE 

 

Stirling Castle is located in central Scotland and when constructed was the first ever renaissance palace to be built in Britain.  The castle sits atop Castle Hill, an impressive quartz outcrop, where it can be seen for miles around.

The earliest remains of the castle buildings date back to the twelfth century but records show that there has actually been a fortification there since the ninth century when Scotland's first king, Kenneth MacAlpine, is said to have built a fortification there.  

During it's turbulent history the castle has been a royal residence, a garrison, a prison and the site of several sieges during the Scottish Wars of Independence in the thirteenth century.  The castle has also been the location of the death of King Alexander I in 1124, the principal residences of King Robert I and King Robert II during the fourteenth century, the principal residences of King James IV, King James V and King James VI during the sixteenth century, the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543 and the baptism of King James VI in 1566. 

The castle has received many restoration schemes during it's history including major improvement works that began during the Victorian era which are still ongoing to this day. Today the castle, along with it's outer defenses, chapel royal, great hall, royal palace and gardens, which are all open to the public, are owned and managed by Historic Scotland.  

 


                                                                    THE ROYAL PAVILION


The Royal Pavillion is located in the English seaside town of Brighton. The 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 most visited tourist attraction.  


   

                                                                     WINCHESTER CASTLE

 
 

Winchester Castle was one of the most historically important royal castles in the country.

Built in 1067 just one year after the Norman Conquest, the city of Winchester was at that time the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Wessex (also known as the Kingdom Of The West Saxons), the largest and most important of the seven royal kingdoms which made up what is now known as England. 

The castle was the birthplace of King Henry III in 1207 and Margaret of York in 1472. 

In 1603 the castle's great hall was the site of Sir Walter Raleigh's trial for treason. 

Today little remains of the former royal dwelling other than a small portion of castle walls and it’s vast Great Hall which was built in the 12th century by King Henry III.  

Today this Great Hall is a museum which is home to an imitation Arthurian Round Table, which dates back to the 13th century, and a large and impressive statue of Queen Victoria. Outside is a small medieval garden containing several old and unusual cottage garden plants which is known as the Queen Eleanor Garden.  

    

 

                                                                           WINDSOR CASTLE

                                        Image courtesy of Dilif, wikimedia commons 


Reputed to be the present monarch'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 remodeled 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 other high ranking royals.

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

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

 
                                                                     WOODSTOCK PALACE  

 
Woodstock Palace was located in Oxfordshire and was completed in 1129 by Norman monarch King Henry I who used the palace extensively as a hunting lodge. 
Between 1163 and 1176 the palace would become imfamous as the love nest of the Plantagenet monarch King Henry II and his long term mistress Rosamund Clifford
The palace, which was destroyed during the English Civil War (1642 - 1651), was also the birthplace of Prince Edmund, the son of King Edward I and Eleanor of Castille in 1301and Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of King Edward III and Phillip of Hainault in 1330. 
The palace was also the site of the marriage of Mary Plantagenet, the daughter of King Edward III and Phillipa of Hainault, to the Duke of Brittany in 1361 and where Princess Elisabeth was imprisoned by her sister Queen Mary I from 1554 until 1558.  
Today the location of the palace is now the site of Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is credited as being the United Kingdom's largest country house and the only non royal residence in the country to be given the title of palace.  
Although Blenheim Palace has been the country seat of the Dukes of Marlborough since it's completion in 1722 it is probably better known for being the birthplace of former British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, who was born there in November 1874.   
 

 

 
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                                   Main Image - Windsor Castle - Courtesy of Petr Noha, wikimedia commons. 
 

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