It was on Thursday 29th April 1993 that Elizabeth, Queen of England, announced that Buckingham Palace would open its doors that summer and that the public en-mass would be allowed inside for an entrance fee of £8 per person.
However, much of the Palace – including the Queen’s private apartments – would remain closed and the Palace would only be open during August and September. The Queen herself would not be at home as she would be at her Scottish residence at Balmoral. It was planned to be a 5 year test and Peter Brooke, the National Heritage Secretary, said that it was hoped that the profits would pay for 70% of the £40 million cost of restoring Windsor Castle that had been damaged by fire in the previous November.
In Parliament the Labour Opposition spokeswoman, Ann Clwyd, described the proposals as a climb-down for Mr Brooke who, until now, had said that the government would have to pay for the repairs. She also said that there had been widespread public opposition to the use of taxpayers’ money to fund the repair of the castle, and that an attempt to raise money through a public fund started after the fire had only raised £25,000.
As regards the actual opening of the Palace – it was hoped that during the eight weeks it would be open about 400,000 visitors would come to see the building, much of which was designed by John Nash for King George IV in 1825/30. The route for the tour had yet to be determined but, for the first time, the public would be able to see the State Apartments with their priceless collections of paintings, furniture and porcelain. It was expected that the visitors would be allowed to see the main apartments, including the throne room, the state dining room and the 155ft (47m) long picture gallery. They would also be able to look into the famous public balcony where newly-wed royals traditionally kissed!
There had been some criticism about the entry fees which were higher than for most of the other major London tourist attractions but a Palace spokesman described the charges as “reasonable” for visitors being able to see the treasures of the royal collection. There were, however, many concerns over the security risks posed by opening the Palace to visitors, as well as the effect of the huge increase in traffic along the Mall outside. None-the-less – the project did go ahead and was a significant success.
In fact it continues to be a summer attraction to this day. In this year – 2017 – it will be open from 09.30 to 19.30 from 22nd July to 31st August [last admission 17.15] and from 09.30 to 18.30 [last admission 16.15] between 1st September to 1st October. A typical tour, they say, lasts between 2 hours and 2 hours 30 minutes.