To say that Queen Elizabeth’s palaces have some grand rooms is a bit of an understatement. They are adorned with the finest silks and fabrics, filled with historical treasures, and hung with priceless Old Masters artwork from the likes of Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Dyck.
Built over decades by a variety of royals, they often feature a fantastical array of interior styles—Buckingham Palace, for example, shows off Victorian, Regency, and Edwardian influences, whereas Sandringham House is the epitome of Jacobean design.
Each property is gargantuan: Windsor Castle, the largest occupied castle in the world, has about 1,000 rooms. To tour one of the Queen’s homes is to be both awestruck by its purpose and overwhelmed by its beauty. “Buckingham Palace is a place of marvels, with utilitarian service spaces that open surreally onto enfilades of suitably majestic rooms designed to both entertain and dazzle,” says Vogue’s Hamish Bowles.
They stretch out over tens of thousands of acres in the United Kingdom, in lands both urban and rural. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these magnificent rooms at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, whose upkeep is overseen by the Royal Collection Trust, are closed to the public. One day they will open again. But until then, here are some of the most notable royal spaces from across the United Kingdom, from bedchambers to ballrooms and throne rooms.
1844 Room, Buckingham Palace: The 1844 Room is one of the most important rooms in Buckingham Palace—it’s where the Queen, and other members of the royal family, receive distinguished visitors, from the Obamas to President Xi Jinping of China.
Some of its more dignified design details? 19th century blue and gold silk upholstered furniture by Morel & Seddon, a neoclassical desk by David Roentgen, and malachite candelabras. This room is not opened to the public, but thanks to photo ops of the Queen and her famous guests, anyone can still get a glimpse inside. Image may contain Flooring Human Person Floor Furniture Couch Footwear Shoe Clothing Apparel and Banister.
White Drawing Room, Buckingham Palace: Queen Elizabeth often tapes her annual Christmas message from this resplendent room, which is also used to host small soirees. On those occasions, the monarch makes a discrete entrance from a hidden door that’s disguised as a mirror and a cabinet.
The room holds a gilded piano by S & P Erard, made for Queen Victoria. Hanging above the fireplace is a pristine portrait of Queen Alexandra, wearing a small diamond crown. A pair of royal blue-and-gold dotted Sèrves porcelain vases sit on bronze plinths.
Throne Room, Buckingham Palace: The primary architect of Buckingham Palace, John Nash, had a background in theater design. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Throne Room, which features theatrical red curtains that wouldn’t be out of place in London’s West End. The pair of thrones are called the Chairs of Estate. The Queen’s chair was used at her 1953 coronation. The Duke of Edinburgh’s chair was made later.
Crimson Drawing Room, Windsor Castle: The dominant color of the Crimson Drawing Room is—you guessed it—a radiant shade of red, accented by gold detailing. Most of the room’s exquisite furnishings are by Morel & Seddon, the principle suppliers to King George IV. After a fire ravaged Windsor Castle in 1992, this room was completely restored.
Green Drawing Room, Windsor Castle:
The Green Drawing Room served as the setting for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s glamorous wedding portraits in 2018. Like the Crimson Drawing Room, it includes a furniture collection by Morel & Seddon, as well as Sèvres porcelain plates that once belonged to Louis XVI of France.
Grand Reception Room, Windsor Castle: This ballroom features six spectacular tapestries that tell the story of Jason and Medea, from the historic Paris manufacturer Gobelins. That’s not the only French influence: there are a number of bronze statuettes that originate from the country.
Mary, Queen of Scots Chamber, Palace of Holyroodhouse: The famous Queen’s bedroom can only be reached by a narrow, winding staircase that leads you to the top of the tower. Most need to duck through the remarkably low entryway—including, once upon a time, Mary herself, who was estimated to be six feet tall.
The room’s ceiling is made of engraved oak, and the walls are adorned in a painted frieze. Just off the bedchamber is the Supper Room, where Mary’s husband killed her private secretary.
Privy Chamber, Palace of Holyroodhouse: The Privy Chamber is where Queen Elizabeth holds audiences with the Scottish First Minister when she’s in town. The room is covered in tapestries—including the settee, which shows Achilles presented with armor. Above the fireplace hangs Jacob de Wet II’s Bathing Scene by a River, although not every monarch was a fan. Queen Victoria covered the painting and its nude figures with mirrored glass.