Royal Family's Residences Highlight the Nation's History

Reed Travel Features

LONDON -- Travelers interested in tracing the British royal family tree can visit several of the family residences.

Following is a list of the royal residences open to visitors:

* Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of the Royal Family for more than 150 years. Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to live in Buckingham Palace. The 19-year-old Queen took up residence just three weeks after her accession on July 13, 1837. About 18 of the state rooms are open to the public, as are the Queen's Gallery and the Royal Mews. The palace is open to visitors Aug. 8 through Oct. 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; admission is about $15 per adult. Tickets can be purchased the day of the visit in Green Park or in advance by calling (011) 44-171 321-2233; for more information, call (011) 44-171 799-2331.

* Kensington Palace, also in London, was the favorite residence of sovereigns until the death of George II in 1760. Queen Mary (grandmother of the present Queen) was born at Kensington in 1867, and Queen Victoria was born and raised in the Palace. The palace also served as home to Diana, Princess of Wales until her death last month. It was expected that Victoria would reign from either Kensington or St. James' Palace, but almost immediately she moved to Buckingham Palace and never again stayed at Kensington. Kensington contains the offices and London residences of Princess Margaret, Princess Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. The state apartments and the Court Dress Collection are open to the public. Kensington Palace is a member of Historic Royal Palaces. Admission is about $8; for information, call (011) 44-171 937-9561.

* Windsor Castle, located in the Berkshire town of the same name, has the longest history of all of England's royal palaces. It is the only residence to have been in use by the royal family since the days of William the Conqueror in 1066. Today, Queen Elizabeth spends her weekends at the castle. Just look for the Union Jack above the Round Tower, which indicates that she is in residence. A must-see here is a replica Queen Mary's doll house, a seven-story palace with electricity, running water and elevators. Parts of Windsor Castle still are under renovation from a fire in 1992. The state apartments and George's Chapel also are open to visitors. For details, call (011) 44-175 383-1118; admission is about $15 per person. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March to October; from November to February, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

* Sandringham, in Norfolk, England, is used as a vacation home by the royal family. All the main ground-floor rooms used by the family are open to visitors. A museum displays Royal treasures, and the gardens should not be missed. Bought in 1862 for the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), Sandringham House is set in over 60 acres. Queen Elizabeth and other members of the family regularly spend Christmas at Sandringham and make it their official base until February each year. The house is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. March 28 to July 21 and Aug. 7 to Oct. 5. The museum and grounds are open during the same dates from 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. (the grounds are open from 10.30 a.m.). Admission to all three venues is about $7.50 per person.

* Balmoral Castle, located near the village of Ballater in northeast Scotland, has been a royal residence since 1852. The royal family traditionally spends part of its summer there. The estate grounds, gardens and exhibitions (including works of art and furniture from the castle displayed in the ballroom) are open to visitors from May to July. For more information, call the local tourist office at (011) 44-131 975-5306.

* The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is Queen Elizabeth's official residence in Scotland. It is open to visitors, except when she is in residence. Located at the bottom of Edinburgh's historical Royal Mile, the palace has been a royal residence since the reign of Queen Victoria. The oldest part of the palace, the royal apartments, was the home of Mary Queen of Scots upon her return from France. It was in these rooms that Mary's husband allegedly had her secretary, David Rizzio, murdered. The palace is open to visitors daily January through March from 9:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.; April through October from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., and November through December from 9.30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. For information, call (011) 44-131 556-1096; admission is about $9 per person.

Details on the homes of the royal family can be obtained from the British Tourist Authority at (800) GO 2 BRITAIN.

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