Queen Elizabeth first opened the doors of Buckingham Palace to the public 27 years ago

By Stephanie Petit
May 12, 2020 12:04 PM
Buckingham Palace
| Credit: Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty

Queen Elizabeth opened the doors of Buckingham Palace to the public 27 years ago — but tourists won't be able to enter the palace gates this summer.

The Royal Collection Trust announced Tuesday that they will not open the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace to the public this summer as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Frogmore House (where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had their evening wedding reception) and Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall's London residence, Clarence House, will not open in August. Any tickets already book will be refunded.

The Trust pointed to the "operational challenges of social distancing," adding, "The safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff are our priority."

They will continue to monitor government guidance on when other palaces, galleries, shops and the Royal Mews will open to the public.

Buckingham Palace
| Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty

After a devastating fire at Windsor Castle in 1992 caused $62 million of damage and destroyed 115 rooms in total, there was some debate as to whether the repair work should be funded by the taxpayers or by the royal family. After a failed attempt to raise money through a public fund, the Queen decided to open Buckingham Palace, her London and primary residence, to the public for the first time in history in an effort to raise the much-needed funds for repairs to the castle.

Within one week of tickets going on sale, they had sold three years' worth of tickets. What was supposed to be a short-term plan, has continued to this day. Taking place during a 10-week period during the summer months while the Queen is at her Balmoral residence in Scotland, approximately 500,000 tourists pass through the famous wrought iron gates to see inside the palace walls.

Traditionally since, the palace is opened for 10 weeks each summer and on selected dates during winter and spring while the monarch, 94, spends time at her Balmoral estate in Scotland.

Buckingham Palace

Visitors to the palace can explore all 19 of the decadent State Rooms, as well as the famous Picture Gallery, which has acted as the setting for many receptions and includes major pieces of art by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto, among others. They form part of The Royal Collection, one of the largest and most significant art collections in the world (held in trust by the Sovereign, rather than the Queen herself).

Although tourists won't be able to see Queen Elizabeth's London home in person this year, virtual tours of the palace are currently experiencing record numbers. A 360-degree tour of Buckingham Palace includes the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room (where Kate Middleton and Prince William hosted their wedding party) and the Picture Gallery. Visitors to the Royal Collection Trust website can also explore Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House in Scotland.

Queen Elizabeth is unlikely to be seen outside of palace walls for many months, leading some to speculate that she will not step out for an official public duty until the fall at the earliest. With several of her engagements canceled, aides are said to be keeping her calendar clear amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A royal source told the U.K. paper The Sunday Times, “The Queen won’t do anything which goes against the advice of people in her [age] category, and she’s going to take all the appropriate advice. There are discussions about what we could do and couldn’t do come October."

A Buckingham Palace spokesman says, "The Queen continues to be busy and will follow appropriate advice on engagements."

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson; Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: Twitter

The Queen will continue to carry out official duties, such as meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson — by phone as she has been doing — reviewing her papers and talking with aides. But she is unlikely to return to Buckingham Palace from Windsor Castle, where she has remained she since headed there on March 19. Her husband Prince Philip, 98, has been sheltering in place alongside her.

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