Buckingham Palace Opens for Tourists
The year 1992 was described by the Queen as an annus horibilis: Princess Anne divorced Mark Phillips ; Prince Andrew’s separation from his wife Sarah was announced; Princess Diana ’s revelations about royal life and her marriage were published; and on November 20 there was a major fire at Windsor Castle . The Conservative government badly misjudged the national mood, rushing to announce public funds would be used to pay for the repairs to the Queen ’s main residence.
Reacting to criticism of the idea that taxpayers should put their hands in their pockets for the work needed, the royal household announced that Buckingham Palace would open for eight weeks a year for five years beginning in 1993, the charge of £8 per visitor going towards the Windsor project. In fact the arrangement has continued since that time, the eight weeks coinciding with the Queen’s annual break at Balmoral . Within days of the announcement all bookable times were taken for the next three years. On August 7 1993 4314 people took the tour on its first day.
Further criticism – of the sterility of the tour – led to changes in the rooms available for visitors to look at, with part of the garden and the ballroom opened up to augment the experience (the picture gallery, throne room, state apartments and certain other areas were what was initially in the itinerary). In spite of such grumbles the move was very successful financially, thanks to an average of more than 300,000 visitors each year.
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