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The Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace ©

The State Rooms occupy the heart of Buckingham Palace. These were designed to act as the public rooms in which the Sovereign could receive, reward and entertain subjects and visiting dignitaries. These rooms contain some of the most outstanding works of art in the Royal Collection, providing a permanent and striking backdrop to the events that take place here.

Many of the items found in the State Rooms reflect the tastes of George IV, who acquired and commissioned various pieces, originally intended for his residence at Carlton House. The Green Drawing Room adopts some of the decorative innovations used at Carlton House, with the groups of green Sèvres porcelain arranged to match the wall coverings, while blue Sèvres is used in the Blue Drawing Room.

The White Drawing Room contains a roll-top desk by Riesener, as well as the magnificent gilded piano by Erard, supplied for Queen Victoria. The Picture Gallery, which has acted as the setting for many receptions, contains a magnificent array of paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Canaletto amongst others.

Rooms and locations with objects on display

  • Ball Supper Room

    Today, the Ball Supper Room is used as a ballroom during The Queen’s Diplomatic Reception and Christmas Dance. When the Palace is open during August and September, a special display is mounted here as part of the tour of the State Rooms.  Originally, it was intended to provide refreshment for several hundred guests at a time in the adjoining Ballroom. The design of both rooms was undertaken by Pennethorne and it was the Supper Room that finally put paid to the shell of George III’s Octagon Library, which formerly occupied this site. Pennethorne’s design envisaged a continuous serving table 41 metres in length arranged in a horseshoe shape. 

    The French gilt candelabra include a pair by Pierre-Philippe Thomire provided for George IV at Carlton House. Thomire was the outstanding Parisian gilder during the Emperor Napoleon's reign.  To keep his firm solvent during the wars of the early nineteenth century, he had to be granted special dispensation to trade with England.

  • Ballroom

    Ballroom at Buckingham Palace

    When first completed in 1855, this enormous room was known as the Ball and Concert Room.  The musicians’ gallery is today occupied during investitures by musicians of the Household Division.

    At the other end of the room, plaster statues by William Theed stand on top of a triumphal arch, flanked by sphinxes and enclosing the throne canopy. The winged figures at the summit of the arch symbolise History and Fame. They support a medallion with the profiles of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The throne canopy was created in 1916 using heavy gold embroidered velvet hangings salvaged from the imperial canopy, or shamiana, made for King George V and Queen Mary’s appearance at the Delhi Durbar of 1911. The present hangings were supplied by the London firm of Heal & Sons in 1967.  The two thrones were made for the coronation ceremony of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902 by the Parisian firm Carlhian & Baumetz.

    The painted decoration of the organ case is all that survives of the elaborate scheme devised for the room by Prince Albert with his artistic adviser Ludwig Grüner.  The organ itself was supplied for the Music Room at Brighton Pavilion by Henry Cephas Lincoln in 1817, and was moved to Buckingham Palace following the sale of the Pavilion in 1848.  The tables contain some of the finest silver gilt in the Royal Collection, with pieces by Paul Storr, Nicholas Sprimont and Peter Carter.

    The two tapestries are part of the series telling the story of Jason, by the French Gobelins tapestry firm.  The remaining six panels from the series are in the Grand Reception Room at Windsor Castle.

  • Blue Drawing Room

    Blue Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace

    The Blue Drawing Room originally served as the ballroom of the Palace, before the addition of the present Ballroom in 1855.  A number of fine Sèvres pieces purchased by George IV for his home at Carlton House are displayed, amongst them the magnificently painted and glazed Vase royal.  The fabulous astronomical clock on the mantelpiece contains three enamel dials which indicate the times of sunrise and sunset, the state of the moon and the sign of the zodiac.

    The most important piece in this room is the Table of the Great Commanders, a circular table in porcelain again made by the Sèvres factory.  The top contains portraits of great leaders of antiquity, from Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar, Hannibal and Pompey.  The table was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon at the height of his success, although it wasn't finished until 1812, and remained in the Sèvres factory until after Napoleon's defeat in 1815.  In 1817, Louis XVIII, the restored French king, presented the table to George IV in gratitude for the allied victory over Napoleon, and it quickly became one of George IV's prized possessions, appearing in the background of all of his state portraits.

  • Bow Room

    Originally intended as a library, this room is now used as a waiting room for those receiving a private audience with The Queen, and is the room through which guests reach the garden when attending on of The Queen's Garden Parties.  The ovals on the walls represent members of European royalty related to Queen Victoria, under whom this room was redecorated.  The 'Mecklenberg' dinner service is displayed in the cabinets.  This elaborate service was ordered by George III and Queen Charlotte from the Chelsea Porcelain Works.  It was given as a gift to Charlotte's brother, Duke Adolphus Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1764.  Having passed down through the family, it was then presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1947 by Mr James Oakes, to celebrate her silver wedding anniversary.

  • East Gallery

    The first room from the Victorian additions to the Palace, Winterhalter's famed portrait of Queen Victoria's family is displayed here, alongside Sir George Hayter's depiction of Queen Victoria's coronation.  The East Gallery also contains a number of works associated with the family of George III, with a number of works by Benjamin West including portraits of the king, his wife, Queen Charlotte, and a work commemorating their infant son, Prince Octavius.

    The imposing clock was made by the Parisian bronze manufacturer De La Croix around 1775, and may have been purchased by George IV from Charles X of France, as it was certainly at Windsor Castle by 1837.  The unusually shaped pair of Sèvres vases, flanked with female figures of Victory,  were also purchased by George IV.

  • Grand Entrance & Marble Hall

    The Marble Hall lies directly underneath the Picture Gallery, and was designed for the display of sculpture.  The works now shown include three pieces by the famed Italian sculptor Antonio Canova, acquired by George IV (Dirce, Fountain Nymph and Mars and Venus), as well as a number of works that were commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  These include pieces by Joseph Engels, Emil Wolff and Carl Steinhauser.  Many of these were brought to Buckingham Palace from Osborne House, when King Edward VII presented the house to the nation following his mother's death.

    The two pier tables were originally made for Kensington Palace – the gilded table, by James Moore, was provided for George I, whilst the marble-topped table is a rare example of a piece by Thomas Pelletier, the Huguenot Cabinet Maker in Ordinary to Queen Anne.  The pair of large Chinese vases were a coronation gift for King George V and Queen Mary, from the Emperor of China.

    There are portraits of Queen Victoria and her family, including a number by Franz Xavier Winterhalter.  The portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were much copied, and became regarded as official likenesses of the pair.

  • Grand Staircase

    Queen Victoria fitted the walls of the upper part of the staircase with full length portraits of members of her immediate family.  These include her grandparents George III and Queen Charlotte, by Sir William Beechey, her parents the Duke and Duchess of Kent, by George Dawe and Sir George Hayter, and her immediate predecessor, her uncle, William IV, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. 

    Two of the sculptures were commissioned by Queen Victoria as birthday presents for her husband, Prince Albert, and were originally at Osborne House, where they displayed a lot of neo-classical works.  The Huntress, by Richard James Wyatt, and Love and Malice, by the Belgian sculptor Jean Geefs, depict two of the Goddess Diana's nymphs.

  • Green Drawing Room

    Green Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace

    So called as the room has always been hung with green silk, the decorative innovation introduced at Carlton House by George IV has been continued here.  As in the Blue Drawing Room, the wall coverings have been matched with the grounds of the Sèvres porcelain, in this case using green.  One of the most striking examples here is the pot-pourri vase in the shape of a ship, which originally belonged to Madame de Pompadour, mistress of the French king Louis XV.  The piece was purchased by George IV in 1817.

    George IV was also responsible for the purchase of much of the furniture in this room.  This includes the magnificent cabinet by Adam Weisweiler, from around 1785.  It is inlaid with panels depicting botanical subjects, and the two central panels appear to have been made in Florence, in the late sixteenth century.  The second cabinet was made by Martin Carlin, again in France, and incorporates panels depicting fruit.  These were almost certainly made at Louis XIV's royal workshops at Gobelins, and so date from the mid-seventeenth century.

  • Guard Chamber

    The chamber contains a number of sculptures with connections to Queen Victoria, including the final birthday present that she gave to Prince Albert, Benjamin Edward Spence's Lady of the Lake.  Prince Albert had commissioned the statue of himself, in ancient Greek costume, from Emil Wolff.  It was presented to Queen Victoria on Christmas Day, 1849.  Other member of Queen Victoria's family are depicted as children - Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, and Princesses Victoria and Maud, granddaughters of Queen Victoria, children of the future King Edward VII.  Theses sculptures were made by Mary Thornycroft, a favourite artist of Queen Victoria and now remembered chiefly for these works of children.

  • Ministers' Landing & Staircase

    The walls are hung with two panels from a set made at the Gobelins royal manufactory in France from the mid-eighteenth century, depicting scenes from the story of Les Amours des Dieux.  The wonderful barometrical clock was made by Alexander Cumming, a Scottish clock maker. This is perhaps the finest of the scientific instruments that were assembled by George III, both for its mechanical complexity and the design of its case.

  • Music Room

    The central room on the West Front of the Palace, the Music Room is used for royal christenings, as well as for entertaining along with the other royal apartments.  The three eldest children of Queen Elizabeth II were christened here.

    The armchairs and settees were supplied by the leading French chair and bed maker Georges Jacob for George IV at Carlton House.  The Sèvres vases were also acquired for George IV, and include a fine example of a vase à panneaux, complete with maritime scenes.  The grand piano, by John Broadwood & Sons, hints at the use of the room for occasional recitals.

  • Picture Gallery

    The Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace

    John Nash, the architect who oversaw the transformation of Buckingham House into Buckingham Palace, designed the Picture Gallery as a space to display the magnificent picture collection assembled by George IV and his predecessors, and that is the role that the Gallery continues to fulfil.  It is home to some of the most famed works within the Royal Collection, with paintings by Holbein, Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Van Dyck amongst many others lining the walls.  The Picture Gallery is also the principal reception space of the Palace, hosting events for several hundred guests at a time.

    Some of the most popular works in the Royal Collection are hung in the Picture Gallery, although the arrangement changes regularly, and works are often lent to other museums and galleries for exhibitions.  Visitors can usually see Van Dyck's portrait of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, a self portrait by Rubens, a number of scenes of Venice, by Canaletto, and perhaps the most famous work in the Royal Collection, Vermeer's Music Lesson.

    As well as the magnificent collection of paintings, there are fine examples of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, many of which were acquired by George IV for the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, and excellent pieces of French furniture by Georges Jacob and Adam Weisweiler.

  • State Dining Room

  • Throne Room

    Central to the room are the pair of throne chairs, made in late seventeenth-century style, for the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in 1953 and used at the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla in 2023.  There are also chairs made for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, and a single throne chair made for Queen Victoria in 1837.

    Much of the interior decoration comes from George IV and Carlton House, including the magnificent pair of council chairs made by Tatham, Bailey & Sanders.  The design of these was based on that of ancient chairs studied by Tatham in Rome. 

    The sculptures include a superb likeness of Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria, by Carlo Marochetti.  Marochetti was one of Queen Victoria's favourite sculptors, and the Throne Room also contains busts by him of the Queen herself, as well as the Duchess of Teck (mother of the future Queen Mary).

  • West Gallery

    Four tapestry panels line the walls, part of a series depicting the story of Don Quixote that were produced by the Gobelins royal manufactory in France.  These were a gift of Louis XVI to Richard Cosway, who himself presented them to George IV.  The magnificent writing table, again French, was used as a dressing table by George IV at Brighton Pavilion.

  • White Drawing Room

    The White Drawing Room in Buckingham Palace is where Her Majesty The Queen usually enters the State Rooms when hosting a formal Reception, passing through an enormous hidden door which is formed from one of the four side cabinets and mirrors. The entire structure – complete with Sèvres vase and candelabra on top – swings forward giving access from The Royal Closet next door.

    The White Drawing Room is one of the principal reception rooms added by the architect John Nash in the 1820s along the West front of the Palace, overlooking the garden. After George IV ascended the throne in 1820, Buckingham House, or The Queen’s House as it was familiarly known during the reign of his father, George III, was transformed from a comfortable but not especially grand London villa into a magnificent palace. The sovereign – and London – had lacked a great palace since Whitehall Palace burned down in 1698.  It was only during George IV’s reign that a palace was finally started, though it would not be completed and occupied by the sovereign until Queen Victoria moved there in 1837. In the centre of the West front is the bow-fronted Music Room, and to either side is the South Drawing Room (now known as the Blue Drawing Room) and the North Drawing Room (now called the White Drawing Room). Most palace buildings constructed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were planned with a formal system of graduated access in mind, whereby the approach to the person of the sovereign is met with gradually increasing grandeur in interior decoration. That system was outdated by the early nineteenth century, so George IV and his architect John Nash arranged rooms of equal splendour throughout the Palace, with a Picture Gallery running through the centre.

    Like all the State Rooms, the White Drawing Room contains magnificent English and French furniture and porcelain. Remarkable pieces include four carved & gilded wood pedestals with stork supports, made by the prolific firm of London cabinet-makers Tatham, Bailey & Sanders, made for Carlton House in 1811. The magnificent marquetry and gilt-bronze-mounted roll top desk was produced by the famous eighteenth-century Parisian cabinet-maker Jean-Henri Riesener. A white marble statue of the ancient Greek poet Sappho, by the English sculptor William Theed, made in 1851, was bought by Prince Albert for £157 and given to Queen Victoria in the same year. Like many of the State Rooms in Buckingham Palace, there are Sèvres vases, including the large vase ‘Boileau’ of 1762 on the mantelpiece below the portrait of Queen Alexandra by François Flemeng of 1908.