The summer opening, which typically runs from late July to October, employs hundreds of workers

By Simon Perry
May 20, 2020 02:04 PM
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace was due to open in July
| Credit: Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty

Hundreds of staff who were set to work at Buckingham Palace throughout the summer have been laid off — before they even started their work.

Around 380 employees had been hired as guides and to help staff the annual summer exhibit, which typically runs from late July to October. But because the coronavirus pandemic has led to the palace closing, they have now been told they are not needed.

A spokesperson for the Royal Collection tells PEOPLE, "The roles were for around 380 temporary summer staff on three-month contracts. They were recruited earlier this year for the Buckingham Palace opening, which now isn’t going ahead.

"They have all been given the option to carry over the offer for next summer."

Earlier this week, the trust — which runs the palaces and historic buildings — confirmed the closure of and pointed to the "operational challenges of social distancing" and added, "The safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff are our priority."

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace

Frogmore House (where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had their evening wedding reception two years ago) and Clarence House, the London home of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will not open during the summer either.

Although tourists won't be able to see Queen Elizabeth's London home in person this year, virtual 360 degree tours of the palace are currently experiencing record numbers.

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

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Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
| Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Since then, the Royal Collection has hosted a series of successful themed-shows, including those featuring Kate Middleton's wedding dress, in 2011, and the Queen's jewels in 2012 -- the year of her Diamond Jubilee. Visitors usually get to tour the splendid State Rooms, including the famous Picture Gallery, which serves as the setting for many receptions.

The Queen left the palace on March 19, heading to Windsor Castle — where she was reunited with husband Prince Philip, who turns 99 on June 10. They have been isolating there during the global crisis ever since, with the monarch keeping in touch with leaders like Prime Minister Boris Johnson by telephone.