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Inside Buckingham Palace’s lavish East Wing open to public for first time – but iconic spot remains out of bounds

LUCKY visitors will get to walk in royal footprints as they can tour Buckingham Palace’s iconic East Wing for the first time – but they aren’t allowed on the balcony.

The Sun got a glimpse inside the summer’s hottest tourist attraction after King Charles made a “decision” to open up the palace to make it more inclusive.

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Final preparations are made in the East Wing’s Centre Room, where members of Royal Collection Trust staff tend to a chandelier[/caption]

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Guests will be able to walk through the Principal Corridor, which is being opened to visitors for the first time this summer[/caption]

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King Charles made a ‘decision’ to open up the palace to make it more inclusive[/caption]

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A staff member tends to the Kylin Clock[/caption]

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The extraordinary item combines pieces of Asian porcelain with a French clock[/caption]

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The four Chinese pagodas once belonged to King George IV and resided at his Brighton seaside retreat[/caption]

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Guests will not be able to access the famous palace balcony, which remains off limits[/caption]

More than 6,000 tickets are already sold out to be the first tourists to pause before the famous balcony where Royals emerge for events like Trooping the Colour, the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and King’s Coronation.

The wing has undergone a five-year major renovation with every floorboard ripped up, everything rewired and 3,500 works of art removed into storage and conservation before being put back in place.

Caroline De Guitaut, Surveyor of The King’s Works of Art, said: “The look and feel has not changed since the reign of Queen Victoria.”

HISTORY AND CONTENTS OF BUCKINGHAM PALACE’S EAST WING

The palace’s east wing was built between 1847-49 to accommodate Queen Victoria’s growing family, and the development enclosed the former open horse-shoe shaped royal residence.

George IV’s opulent oriental-style seaside palace, the royal pavilion in Brighton, was sold to finance the building work and its contents, some of the finest ceramics and furniture in the Royal Collection, were moved to the east wing and inspired the Chinese-themed decor of its principal rooms.

They were carried from Brighton in 143 shipments on artillery carts, and although some items were loaned back to the pavilion, major items, like 42 fireplaces, were incorporated into Buckingham Palace along with tables, chairs, clocks and vases.

Guided tours of the east wing, which also include the palace’s state rooms, will take visitors along much of the 240ft-long principal corridor, and include the yellow drawing room and centre room behind the balcony.

The yellow drawing room features an oriental-style fireplace from George’s seaside pleasure palace, an elaborate gilded curtain rail and even some of the pavilion’s wallpaper that was discovered in storage by Queen Mary and hung at her request.

Victoria and her consort furnished the corridor with chairs, side tables, large pagodas and Chinese porcelain, including an incense burner in the shape of a Buddha.

The Surveyor of the King’s Works of Art said about the space that runs the length of the east wing: “Really it’s essentially a blank canvas, and I think that’s probably what really appealed to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

“Allowing them really to put their stamp on the furnishing and to incorporate, somewhat surprisingly I think for many people, these works that speak very loudly of George IV’s more exuberant and exotic tastes.”

Highlights in the centre room include a newly restored glass chandelier, shaped to resemble a lotus flower, and two Chinese 18th-century imperial silk wall hangings, presented to Victoria by Guangxu, Emperor of China, to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

The 45-minute tour includes the Yellow Drawing Room where the late Queen would sit for portrait paintings.

It gives access to the 240ft long Principal Corridor with Japanese, Chinese, English and French artwork.

And the Centre Room where royals pause before emerging to greet The Mall.

Ms De Guitaut described how Prince Albert installed the balcony for royal public appearances, saying: “Prince Albert saw it as a way to connect with the people and that’s in a sense how it continues to be used.”

She went on to explain that it began being used very early in Queen Victoria’s reign, from 1851, for waving off the troops to the Crimean War and welcoming them home.


Ms De Guitaut added: “The balcony is not publicly accessible.”

Artwork includes Buddha ornaments where the head can be removed and incense blows out of his mouth.

Twenty people on each tour with three wardens – but nothing is roped off apart from the balcony.

It comes just days after Balmoral opened private rooms to tourists for the first time.

The King, 75, visited the rooms at his Scottish castle the night before tourists arrived.

Speaking about the palace East Wing opening, Nicola Turner Inman, curator of decorative arts, said: “He has very much been involved”.

A source close to the King said he was “closely involved” and has been “walking up and down with suggestions”.

Buckingham Palace is nearing the end of a 10-year £369million reservicing works.

The first paying guests arrive on Monday.

East Wing Tour

  • Next event: Monday, 15 Jul 2024
    Daily (Monday, 15 Jul 2024 – Saturday, 31 Aug 2024)
  • Selected times from 9.30am – 1.30pm
  • Adult £75.00
    Young Person (18-24) £63.50
    Child (5-17) £59.00
    Disabled £59.00
    Access companion Free
    Under 5 Free

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