Most people can only dream of living in a bona fide palace—but in the eyes of some members of the British royal family, it’s a fate best avoided.
Buckingham Palace dates back to the early 1700s, and has been the monarch’s primary residence since the reign of Queen Victoria. From the outside, the expansive property seems to ooze splendor. Even the photos from inside convey a regal aura, all gilded finishings and multi-tier chandeliers.
But that doesn’t mean the Palace makes a great home—or that it’s even entirely safe to inhabit. It was only a few years ago that the asbestos began to be removed, a process which may take a further decade or more to complete. In April of 2017, 10,000 feet of “unsafe” rubber cabling had to be removed, for fear of a “catastrophic” failure, per the Telegraph. Furthermore, bits of masonry are subject to fall of the building’s facade, one of which narrowly missed Princess Anne in 2007. Rather than fully fix the roof, staff place buckets of water out to catch any leaks. There was a rodent scare in 2001, which a palace spokesman tried to smooth over with this less-than-reassuring statement: “The ratio of mice to men is very low and there’s no question of the Queen having to flee to Windsor.”
A much-need sweeping renovation, which is projected to cost £369 million ($480 million), is currently underway, and in 2025, Queen Elizabeth will even have to move out of her apartment at the Palace to accommodate the construction. Ever the practical monarch, she’s taking this in stride, reportedly telling palace staff, “Let me know where you would like me to go” during the renovations.
The future king, however, is not quite so prepared to sacrifice for Buckingham Palace. Prince Charles has long been a committed environmental advocate, and his concerns lie as much with the property’s lack of sustainability as his own comfort.
“I know he is no fan of ‘the big house’, as he calls the palace,” a source told the Sunday Times. “He doesn’t see it as a viable future home or a house that’s fit for purpose in the modern world. He feels its upkeep, both from a cost and environmental perspective, is not sustainable.”
The future of Buckingham Palace may look much more like that of a museum than a home. As the Sunday Times reported in the same article, Palace staff have begun to discuss the possibility of using the building only for official occasions, and potentially the time it’s open to the public.
“What’s to say Buckingham Palace can’t be opened to the public for at least six months, while keeping the state rooms pristine for use during big occasions?” One source asked, while another added, “It makes perfect sense commercially to offset the costs of running such a big place by extending availability to the ticket-buying public.”
A spokesman for Clarence House—the residence in which Prince Charles would prefer to stay—maintained that Buckingham Palace would continue to be the “official London residence of the monarch.” What “official London residence” means is up to some interpretation.
A source speaking about Prince William had a slippery phrasing as well: “We have continued to say that Kensington Palace will be the Duke of Cambridge’s residence throughout the next reign, whereupon he will move into Buckingham Palace.” Continued to say, or continued to mean it?
Regardless, it seems fair to say that Buckingham Palace, like many of the mainstays of the British monarchy, may have some changes coming once Prince Charles accedes the throne.