The Queen is being moved out of her rooms at Buckingham Palace as part of a huge £369million revamp that has seen more than 3,000 precious treasures, trinkets and historical artworks ‘decanted’ from the royal residence.
The painstaking ten-year project got underway last yearas rare and priceless items were carefully carried out of the Palace and into storage, or off to various displays.
Work has already begun on the palace’s east wing, with some 200 paintings, 40 chandeliers and 1,000 trinkets cleared from the affected rooms.
Her Majesty, who will turn 99 when work starts on her private apartments in the north wing, is said to be ‘immensely pragmatic’ and is happy to move rooms for the final two years of the project from 2025.
The palace refurbishment is being carried out after a ‘catastrophic’ fire risk was pointed out – meaning every inch of the 3000 miles of dangerous vulcanised rubber cabling running through the 315-year-old palace must be replaced – and to get to it – the treasures must be moved.
Priceless works of art from all over the world, family portraits and stunning antiques and carefully being collected up and moved out of the way while the east wing work is carried out.
There is expected to be major disruption to the palace which has 775 rooms, 1,514 doors and 760 windows until 2027.
But the Queen is not phased by the upheaval, it is being claimed.
‘The Queen is immensely pragmatic and she wants to stay in the palace,’ a senior royal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
‘She said let me know where you would like me to go.’
Towards the end of the works, the 92-year-old monarch and her husband Philip, 97, will have to move out of their apartment until 2027.
Dozens of the Queen’s staff will be put up in Portacabins on the palace lawn while work is completed.
The works will cost the taxpayer millions as the total total bill is expected to reach £369million.
The Sovereign Grant, which comes from general taxation, will be hiked up during renovation period to cover the costs.
And while there has been complaint about the taxpayers footing the bill, the palace will continue to operate as usual, generating millions for the economy through tourism and events.
The Queen currently gets an amount which is equivalent to 15 per cent of the profits from the Crown Estate, but this will increase to 25 per cent.
Buckingham Palace, originally Buckingham House, was built in 1703 and has been extended out ever since.
But many of the wires and inner workings which keep it functioning are becoming old and in need of replacement – hence the huge project.
The master of the Queen’s household overseeing the £369 million refurbishment of Buckingham Palace has vowed to stay within budget and time on the gigantic project.
Tony Johnstone-Burt said he took the responsibility of handling public money ‘extremely seriously’ and was ‘absolutely convinced’ that the 10-year phased works would reap both short and long-term benefits.
Mr Johnstone-Burt said: ‘We all take the responsibility that comes with using public funds to do all this work on such a national icon like Buckingham Palace extremely seriously indeed. on time, within budget and to the required specification.
‘I am absolutely convinced that by making this investment in the palace now, will not only avert much more costly and potentially catastrophic failure of the building in the years to come, but in the short term… will provide the opp for even more people to see this remarkable collection.’
If at the end of the ten year programme, they are under budget, the Treasury would be entitled to take the remaining funds back, he said.
Next week, a compound for builders will be erected on the forecourt of the palace as work starts on the famous east wing, the public facade which houses the balcony on which Queen Elizabeth and her family appear for significant events.
The palace will remain fully open for state visits and other regular events during the overhaul and its outward appearance will be unaffected as there will be no scaffolding.
Buckingham Palace was originally a large house built in 1703 and was acquired by King George III in 1761. It was extended in the reign of Queen Victoria while the front was refaced in 1914 when George V was king.
Renovation work hopes to bring the palace up to scratch and ensure that it is fit for purpose for the next 50 years.
Previously the Master of The Queen’s Household Tony Johnstone-Burt said: ‘We take the responsibility that comes with receiving these public funds extremely seriously indeed.
‘Equally, we are convinced that, by making this investment in Buckingham Palace now, we can avert a much more costly and potentially catastrophic building failure in the years to come.’
During the project the public will get the chance to see some more of the palace as 150 items go on display in Brighton at the Royal Pavilion, where The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited earlier this week.
It is estimated that the benefits of the upgrade, including longer summer opening hours, more private tours and savings due to the improvements, could be around £3.4 million each year.
The Queen spends around a third of the year hosting garden parties, receptions, investitures and other events at her official home.
She hosts more than 38,000 guests per year at garden parties, and hands out 15,000 awards in ceremonies held at the palace which was acquired by King George III in 1761.
It is hoped that renovations works will also be able to make the palace more environmentally friendly by replacing boilers and reducing its carbon footprint by as much as 10 per cent.
The Prince of Wales is said to be ‘fully engaged’ with the project while the Duke of Edinburgh is also keeping a close eye on developments, having formerly been involved in the reservicing of Windsor Castle in 1992.
The senior royal official said palace life would remain ‘business as usual’, with the historic ceremonies such as the Changing of the Guard continuing.
Two lifts are to be installed to improve access to visitors with mobility problems.
Workers will tackle three of the wings in clockwise, starting with the East, which has 200 rooms spread over six floors.
Some 3,000 Royal Collection items, including 200+ paintings, 40 chandeliers, 1,000 glass and china pieces and 100 mirrors, will be removed before wiring and pipes are replaced.
Some 150 items of decorative arts and furniture will return on loan to the Brighton Pavillion, where they were acquired by George IV in the early 1800s.
The West wing, where ceremonial duties, state visits and investitures are held, will be tackled ‘incrementally’ to try and keep it fully operational.