Guards march out of Buckingham Palace at the end of the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony. Royal security is high, but is better known for a series of high-profile intrusions, both at the Palace and elsewhere. No modern, fully detailed plan of the palace is available as a security measure. The famous armed sentries on guard at the front of the palace are commonly thought to be ceremonial, but they have always had a security role. The palace also contains its own police station, and the Royal Family have their own protection officers at all times. Other security measures are not revealed. The Foot Guards battalion at Wellington Barracks is only 300 yards away. The units at Chelsea Barracks (Foot Guards) and Hyde Park Barracks (Household Cavalry) are both three-quarters of a mile away.
In the Second World War a bomb shelter was improvised in a housemaids' room, and more recently a dedicated bunker was reportedly constructed in response to heightened security concerns due to the threat of extremist Islamic terrorism. Rumour maintained that a link existed to the Victoria Line of the London Underground, which passed beneath the Palace, thus allowing the evacaution of the Royal Family in the event of nuclear attack. However this is unsubstantiated and is unlikely to be true.
The most notorious incident was the Michael Fagan incident, he gained access to the Queen's bedroom while she was asleep in 1982. In 2003 a reporter for the Daily Mirror, Ryan Parry, spent two months working as a footman inside Buckingham Palace. One of the references he supplied was fake, and it appears this was not checked properly. The incident coincided with a visit to the UK by George W. Bush, who stayed at the Palace, and photographs of Bush's bedroom, along with the Queen's breakfast table and the Duke of York's room. In themselves the photographs revealed nothing more interesting than that the Queen's two younger sons had a conventional, almost bourgeois, taste in bedroom furnishings, and that the Queen kept her breakfast muesli in a tupperware container. The Palace took the Mirror to court for invasion of privacy, and the newspaper handed over its materials, and paid some of the Queen's costs in an out-of-court settlement in November 2003.
Most lapses of security have been outside the palace: In 1974, Ian Ball attempted to kidnap the Princess Royal at gunpoint in the Mall while she was returning to the palace, wounding several people in the process. In 1981, three German tourists camped in the gardens of the palace, after climbing over the heavily barbwired wall, purportedly believing the area to be Hyde Park. In 1993, anti-nuclear protestors also scaled the palace walls and held a sit down protest on the palace lawn. Most notably, in 1994, a naked paraglider landed on the roof of the building. In 1995 a student, John Gillard, was able to deliberately ram the gates of the palace, knocking one of the great wrought iron gates weighing 1.5 tonnes off its hinges. In 1997, an absconded mentally ill patient was founded wandering the palace grounds, which ordered another security review.
Most recently, in 2004, a protester advocating the legal rights of single fathers, received wide press coverage when he climbed onto a ledge near the ceremonial balcony on the east front dressed as Batman. In the same incident, a second protester, dressed as Robin, was apprehended before he managed to climb onto the building; he returned the following November dressed as Father Christmas to chain himself to a lamp on one of the main gateposts.
Historically, there have been many other lapses. Probably the most incredible but true was in 1837, when a 12-year-old boy known to history as The boy Cotton managed to live for a year undetected inside the palace. Hiding in chimneys and blackening the beds he slept in, he was finally apprehended in December 1838, causing questions on royal security to be asked in Parliament. "The Mudlark", a 1949 novel by American writer Theodore Bonnet, was loosely based on his story. In 1950 a romanticised film, starring Irene Dunne, Alec Guinness and Anthony Steel, was made of the novel. Of the eight assassination attempts made on Queen Victoria, at least three occurred in the vicinity of the palace gates. In the early 20th century the front of the palace became a favoured venue for suffragettes, who would chain themselves to the gilded iron railings. Over the years numerous intruders have been apprehended in the palace grounds, including one who wished to propose marriage to Princess Anne, and who was declared insane. However, as the Queen is officially a non-political figure, demonstrations and protests tend to rally at the Palace of Westminster or Trafalgar Square, rather than Buckingham Palace.
Use and public access
Buckingham Palace with the Union Flag projected onto it for Christmas Eve 2003. In addition to being the weekday home of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the palace is the work place of 450 people. Every year some 50,000 people are entertained at garden parties, receptions, audiences, and banquets. Buckingham Palace is also the venue for the daily ceremony of the Changing of the Guard, a major tourist attraction. In June 2003 on the occasion of the Queen's golden jubilee thousands of Britons were invited to apply for tickets to a pop concert, preceded the previous evening by a classical concert in the grounds of the palace. These concerts, where the guests were given champagne and a picnic, were the first occasions when ordinary subjects and members of the public had been invited onto the premises for entertainment, without having to first distinguish themselves. The guests at the regular garden parties, while numerous and from all stations in life, are usually those who hold a public position, or are in some way of national interest.
The opening of the palace state rooms to the public was a huge change to tradition in the 1990s. The money raised in entry fees was originally used towards the rebuilding of Windsor Castle after the fire that destroyed many of its state rooms. Contrary to popular belief, the palace is not the private property of the Queen; Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace and their art collections belong to the nation.
Admiralty Arch, the beginning of the ceremonial approach to Buckingham Palace, was designed by Sir Aston Webb and completed in 1911 as part of a grand memorial to Queen Victoria, which culminated in a vast statue of Victoria sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock in front of Webb's newly refaced Buckingham Palace. The arch today provides apartments for high-ranking civil servants and Ministers of State.
The priceless furnishings, paintings, fittings and other artefacts, many by Fabergé, from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are known collectively as the Royal Collection; owned by the nation, they can be viewed by the public when the palace and castle are open to the public at various times of the year. The Queen's Gallery near the Royal Mews is open all year and displays a changing selection of items from the collection. The rooms containing the Queen's Gallery are on the site of the former chapel, which was severely damaged by one of the seven bombs which fell on the palace during World War II.
The Mall, the ceremonial approach road to the palace, extends from Admiralty Arch, up the Mall, around the Victoria Memorial to the Palace forecourt. The tarmac's reddish colour recalls the red carpets of former times. Devised as a memorial to Queen Victoria, this route is used by the cavalcades and motorcades of all visiting heads of state, and by the Royal Family on state occasions such as the annual State Opening of Parliament. On these occasions the processions pass through Admiralty Arch and into the Mall, which has been closed for the occasion, often bringing traffic chaos to other parts of London.
A garden party at Buckingham Palace in 1868. At the rear of the palace is the large park-like garden, the largest private garden in London. The landscape design was by Capability Brown but the garden was redesigned at the time of the palace rebuilding by William Townsend Ailton of Kew Gardens and John Nash. The great man-made lake was completed in 1828 and is supplied with water by the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. Like the palace itself, the gardens are rich in works of art. One of the most notable is the Waterloo Vase, the great urn commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate his anticipated victories, which in 1815 was presented unfinished to the Prince Regent by Ferdinand, Grand Duke of Tuscany. The king had the vase completed by the sculptor Richard Westmacott with the intention that it be the focal point of the new Waterloo chamber at Windsor Castle. But weighing 15 tons and at 15 ft high, no floor could bear the weight, and it was presented to the National Gallery. The Gallery finally returned the white elephant to the sovereign in 1906. Edward VII then solved the problem by placing the vase outside in the garden where it now remains. Also in the gardens is a small summerhouse attributed to William Kent, circa 1740.
Adjacent to the palace is the Royal Mews, also designed by Nash, where the royal carriages, including the Gold State Coach, are housed. This rococo gilt coach, designed by Sir William Chambers in 1760, has painted panels by G. B. Cipriani. It was first used for the State Opening of Parliament by George III in 1762 and is used by the monarch only for coronations or jubilee celebrations. Also housed in the mews are the carriage horses used in the royal ceremonial processions which take place in London.
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