By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will vacate her private rooms at Buckingham Palace in 2025 as part of a 10-year refit of the building to prevent a catastrophic disaster such as a fire or a flood, a senior royal official said on Friday.
The palace is undergoing a 369 million pound ($481 million) reservicing programme to replace ageing and dangerous electrical wiring and boilers. It started in April last year and is due to be completed in 2027.
Towards the end of the works, the 92-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 97, will have to move out of their apartments in the palace’s north wing for about two years when work starts there in 2025.
“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’.”
So far, 3,000 metres of old cabling has been removed from the palace and work is now underway to empty the famous East Wing, the public facade of the building which includes the balcony on which the royal family appears on special occasions.
Next week, a compound for 200 contractors will be erected on the forecourt to one side of the building.
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However, 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, said Tony Johnstone-Burt, Master of the Queen’s Household
“I am absolutely convinced that by making this investment in the palace now, we will… avert a much more costly and potentially catastrophic failure of the building in the years to come,” he said.
The emptying of the East Wing will mean three of the queen’s four children – Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – moving their offices. Heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles will be unaffected as his London home is at nearby Clarence House.
Some 3,000 artworks and other items such as beds, clocks and chandeliers from the Royal Collection, housed in 200 rooms in the wing – the palace’s largest – will be moved out over six months to allow the work to begin.
Tim Knox, Director of the Royal Collection, said some of these items would go on public display at other palaces while 150 objects would return to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, George IV’s “bizarre” seaside home on the south coast of England from where they were moved in 1850 when that residence was sold.
Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 as a large private home and was only acquired by the monarch, King George III, in 1761.
The East Wing was part of an extension built in the reign of Queen Victoria. The front facade was refaced in 1914 in harder-wearing Portland stone when George V – Elizabeth’s grandfather – was on the throne.
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