A version of this story appeared in the June 25 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what’s happening behind palace walls. Sign up here.
London (CNN)The Queen has a whopping £369 million ($514 million) budget to refurbish her London pad — a figure that may seem excessive when she spends most of her time at Windsor Castle these days. This week, the Queen’s royal accounts for the past financial year were published, revealing £31.6 million ($44 million) had been spent on the renovation in the past 12 months, up from £16.4 million ($23 million) the year before.
But there are some pretty good reasons for the hefty bill — Buckingham Palace is more than a home; it’s the British monarchy’s HQ.The official London residence of UK sovereigns since 1837, it has 775 rooms, including 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Today the palace is the monarch’s main office and function space. And the fact she still uses it makes it one of the biggest tourist attractions in London. Buckingham Palace’s massive refurbishment is ahead of schedule.In normal times, more than 50,000 people also visit the property every year as invited guests to various state banquets, lunches, receptions and garden parties. It’s also the instantly recognizable centerpiece of key national celebrations and commemorations, like the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next summer.Visitors haven’t been allowed into any royal residences for more than a year, leaving a £9.4 million ($13 million) hole in the palace finances, the newly published royal statements also revealed. To put it in perspective, that’s half of what pre-pandemic tourism to palaces used to earn for the Queen’s coffers, which was £20.2 million ($28 million) between 2019 and 2020. Read MoreBut the upside has been that the refurb has been able to continue unhindered and they are now ahead of schedule. Let’s take you on a quick tour…We’ll start at the Grand Entrance, where visitors are usually greeted when they drive in from the front. Inside, you can see how the space is currently being used to receive building supplies.The scene in the Grand Entrance Hall amid building work. From the Grand Entrance, you go up the Grand Staircase to the State Apartments. Let’s just say they’re not ready for us quite yet. This is a 10-year program of major works for the aging historic home.The Grand Staircase is almost unrecognizable. At the top of the stairs, you enter the Picture Gallery, where key pieces from the Queen’s priceless art collection usually hang. Scaffolding takes pride of place these days as they replace the roof. A closeup of the Picture Gallery roof shows how vulnerable it had become.Crucial work has been taking place on the roof of the Picture Gallery. While the building looks magnificent from afar, up close years of use have taken their toll. Off the Picture Gallery is the Centre Room, where the floor has been lifted. Much of the renovations throughout the palace will ultimately be invisible to sightseers because they involve replacing electrics and plumbing that were installed in the 1950s. The overhaul was approved by the government back in 2017 to ensure it was fit for purpose for years to come and to mitigate the risk of possible fire or water damage.Many remember the fire that broke out at Windsor in 1992. A faulty spotlight in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel quickly ignited a blaze that would destroy 115 rooms and cause millions in damage. Astonishingly, only two artworks were lost in the incident. Here in the Centre Room, the delicate work of replacing aged wiring and plumbing continues. Back in London, the first major restoration at Buckingham Palace since the end of World War II has revealed something of a makeshift time capsule. Newspapers and cigarette boxes from that era have been found as the floorboards have been taken up.The East Wing — which faces The Mall — is having new elevators put in to make the building more accessible and energy-efficient. Rooms have been completely stripped of flooring and furniture and thousands of artworks and artifacts have had to be removed to allow this to happen.To accommodate the essential renovations, around 3,000 pieces from the Royal Collection had to be decanted from the East Wing for protection.Despite the ongoing construction, the Queen is still using parts of the palace that haven’t been taken over by builders. This week, she met the Prime Minister there for the pair’s first face-to-face weekly audience since March 2020. While the Queen isn’t expected to return to the palace full time just yet, things are returning to some sense of normality, and we can expect her to use her administrative hub in London more frequently in the months to come.The Queen’s treasurer, Sir Michael Stevens, justified the increased spending on the palace refurbishments during the pandemic, saying: “Obviously as we look ahead to 2022 we have the Platinum Jubilee celebrations to look forward to and all our works plans for Buckingham Palace are designed to ensure the Palace can play a significant part in those celebrations, such as garden parties and of course the balcony appearance at Trooping the Colour.”The meetings between the Queen and Prime Minister are usually closed-door events with the conversation unrecorded but cameras were allowed in for the start of the face-to face on this occasion. ANNOUNCEMENTSThe Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace in 2015 A senior palace source has admitted the royal household “must do more” to improve the diversity of staff as its annual financial report was released. The Sovereign Grant report disclosed for the first time that the proportion of ethnic minority employees within the royal household is 8.5% — with a target of 10% by the end of 2022. According to a 2011 census, 14% of the population of England and Wales were from an ethnic minority background, while in Scotland it was 4%. The yearly financial statement also revealed the royal household has continued to work on improving its diversity strategy, which existed before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex‘s allegations of racism within the royal family earlier this year.The figures “are not what we would like but we are committed to improving this,” the senior palace source said, adding that the decision to release the diversity statistics was to “ensure that we are both open and transparent about our efforts to improve and we fully expect to be held accountable for the progress that we make.” Read the full story here.WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENINGWilliam and Harry will reunite next week.Kensington Palace has confirmed Princes William and Harry will appear at the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother, Diana, in the Sunken Garden of the royal residence next Thursday. The brothers will be joined by members of the statue committee as well as the sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley, and the garden designer, Pip Morrison.Philip celebrated in new exhibition.A new public display to celebrate the Duke of Edinburgh’s legacy has opened at Windsor Castle. Curated by the Royal Collection Trust, “Prince Philip: A Celebration” collects objects that mark significant moments and achievements from the life of Britain’s longest serving consort. Among the pieces curated for the exhibition is the Chair of Estate from the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, a portrait Philip commissioned of himself as chair of the Restoration Committee that oversaw works following the 1992 Windsor fire, and a First Nations feather headdress he was given in 1973 while on a visit to Canada.Curators adjust a portrait of Prince Philip by the artist Ralph Heimans in the Great Hall of Windsor Castle.Meghan’s secret messages for Archie in her book.The Duchess of Sussex made sure to hide a few nods to her mother-in-law, the late Princess Diana, in her children’s book, “The Bench.” Meghan said illustrator Christian Robinson included details, like Diana’s favorite flowers, for her son Archie to pick up on. The duchess also said she hoped readers would feel represented in the pages of her book in an interview broadcast on National Public Radio last weekend.It’s swan-counting time!The yearly census of the swan population on the River Thames has been announced across three days in 2021. The historic Swan Upping ceremony — which takes place during the third week of July each year — dates back to the 12th century, when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans, which were eaten at banquets and feasts. These days, the monarchy’s swan marker counts the number of young cygnets to ensure the population is protected. Announcing the schedule, the Queen’s current Swan Marker, David Barber, said the public had been alert during the lockdown and reported injured swans for rescue. He also said there had been a noticeable increase in river pollution, which was “entirely avoidable,” adding it has had “a devastating impact upon both the wildlife and the environment.”Swan Uppers row upstream during the census in 2019. PHOTO OF THE WEEKThe Duke of Cambridge turned 39 this week, garnering the usual shoutouts from family members on their social media accounts. To celebrate William’s final birthday of his 30s, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, shared a couple of snaps alongside their message. One was of the pair with William at an event, while the other was a black-and-white throwback of baby William on his father’s knee.Prince Charles cradles his son Prince William at Kensington Palace in 1982.William’s birthday came a day after he surprised runners at a Father’s Day race held at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. William attended privately but together with his two eldest children, George and Charlotte, the royals counted down the start of the race. See more photos of William through the years in our gallery below. Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William through the years – As the first-born child to the late Princess Diana and the Prince of Wales and second in line to the British throne, Prince William has never been far from the public eye. Click through the gallery for a look back at every year of his life so far.Hide Caption 1 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince Charles and Princess Diana leave St. Mary’s Hospital in London with Prince William on June 22, 1982. A bulletin announced that the royal baby weighed 7 pounds, 1 1/2 ounces.Hide Caption 2 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William takes his first steps in public with his parents in the walled garden at Kensington Palace on December 14, 1983.Hide Caption 3 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsAccompanied by his nanny Barbara Barnes, Price William waves as he leaves St. Mary’s Hospital after visiting his mother and his newborn brother, Prince Harry, on September 16, 1984.Hide Caption 4 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William through the years – From the balcony of Buckingham Palace, a young Prince William watches the Trooping of the Color in 1985 with Lady Gabriella Windsor, left, and Lady Zara Phillips.Hide Caption 5 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William waves from a carriage en route to the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson on July 23, 1986.Hide Caption 6 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William attends his first day at Wetherby School on January 15, 1987.Hide Caption 7 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsIn 1988, Prince Charles and Princess Diana visit Palma De Mallorca, Spain, with their two sons.Hide Caption 8 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William and Prince Harry ride bicycles with their parents in 1989 while on holiday in the Scilly Isles.Hide Caption 9 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsOn a private beach in 1990, Prince William shovels sand onto his mother. Photos of the young prince with his adoring mother were common as media interest swelled.Hide Caption 10 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William and Prince Harry wave from the deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1991.Hide Caption 11 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrincess Diana and Prince William wait for Prince Harry after attending the annual Easter Sunday church service in 1992 at St. Georges Chapel inside Windsor Castle.Hide Caption 12 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William grimaces after riding Splash Mountain at Disney World’s Magic Kindom in Florida. He was with friends of the royal family on a three-day vacation in 1993.Hide Caption 13 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsAccompanied by Prince William, Princess Diana arrives at Wimbledon before the start of the women’s singles final in 1994.Hide Caption 14 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsQueen Elizabeth II, Prince William and Prince Charles attend a service commemorating VJ Day outside Buckingham Palace in August 1995. The event was in honor of the day Japan surrendered to Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.Hide Caption 15 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince Charles and Prince Harry, at left, stand for anthems as Prince William, right, looks around during the Wales-Scotland game in the 1996 Five Nations rugby championship.Hide Caption 16 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsAt age 15, Prince William and his brother Harry, 12, bow their heads after their mother’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997. Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris that August.Hide Caption 17 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William receives flowers from an adoring crowd in Vancouver on March 24, 1998. He was on a weeklong vacation with his father and brother, though they also made time for official engagements.Hide Caption 18 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsBritain’s Queen Mother joins Prince Charles and his sons during an occasion marking her 99th birthday at her London residence in 1999.Hide Caption 19 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William hammers a log while helping construct walkways in a remote village in Chile during his Raleigh International expedition in 2000.Hide Caption 20 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsIn 2001, Prince William, left, and Prince Harry take part in an exhibition polo match in Gloucestershire, England.Hide Caption 21 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsThe royal family stand vigil besides the Queen Mother’s coffin at Westminster Hall on April 8, 2002. Prince William, right, stands alongside Prince Harry, Princess Anne and Sophie of Wessex.Hide Caption 22 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsA London officeworker licks a first-class stamp that was issued to mark Prince William’s 21st birthday in 2003. Commemorative coins were also minted for the occassion.Hide Caption 23 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William makes his water polo debut for the Scottish national universities squad in the annual Celtic Nations tournament in 2004.Hide Caption 24 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsIn 2005, Prince William graduates from St. Andrews University in Scotland with a degree in geography.Hide Caption 25 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsQueen Elizabeth glances up at her grandson, right, as she inspects the parade at the Royal Military Academy in 2006. Prince William graduated as an Army officer and later went on to receive his Royal Air Force pilot’s wingsHide Caption 26 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William and Prince Harry speak on stage with Sir Elton John, far left, during a concert they put on to celebrate Princess Diana on July 1, 2007. The event fell on what would have been their mother’s 46th birthday and marked 10 years since her death.Hide Caption 27 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William sports a beard for the first time in public at a Christmas Day church service in 2008. He was clean-shaven by early January.Hide Caption 28 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William walks with a group of homeless people during a 2009 hike with Centrepoint, the United Kingdom’s largest youth charity for the homeless. William became the patron of the organization in 2005.Hide Caption 29 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsDuring his first official overseas visit, Prince William is welcomed to Sydney with a traditional smoke ceremony by local Aboriginal elder Uncle Max in 2010.Hide Caption 30 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsAfter their wedding service, Prince William kisses his wife, Kate Middleton, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on April 29, 2011.Hide Caption 31 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince William throws a foam javelin as his wife, now the Duchess of Cambridge, stands at his side during a visit to Nottingham, England, on June 13, 2012. The couple were in the city as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee tour, marking the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.Hide Caption 32 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge depart St. Mary’s Hospital in London with their newborn son on July 23, 2013. Prince George was born a day earlier, weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces.Hide Caption 33 of 34 Photos: Photos: Prince William through the yearsPrince George and his parents celebrate his first birthday at a butterfly exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London on July 2.Hide Caption 34 of 34
“The awards ceremony will be a truly global event, connecting people from all over the world to celebrate these inspiring leaders and their innovations to solve the world’s greatest environmental challenges.”
Prince William announcing the inaugural Earthshot Prize Awards will be held in London on October 17 The Duke of Cambridge revealed the award ceremony would be held at London’s Alexandra Palace. The Earthshot Prize will celebrate those trying “to solve the world’s greatest environmental challenges” and see five finalists claim £1 million (around $1.4 million) each.
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