Inside Clarence House

Explore The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall's London residence.

Clarence House, St James's Palace: the garden front (1861/1861) by Joseph Nash Jnr (d.1922)Royal Collection Trust, UK

A brief history

Clarence House was first built between 1825 and 1827 for The Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) and his wife Adelaide. It was designed by architect John Nash. From 1949 to 1952 it was the home of Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, and later The Queen Mother, who lived at Clarence House for 50 years. The Prince of Wales moved into the house in 2003.

The Royal Family in the garden at Clarence House (1951/1951) by Unknown PersonRoyal Collection Trust, UK

A young Prince Charles in the garden at Clarence House, with his mother Her Majesty The Queen (then HRH Princess Elizabeth), his father The Duke of Edinburgh, and sister Princess Anne.

Arrival at Clarence House

Visitors to Clarence House are first greeted by the gardens, designed by The Prince of Wales in 2004-05 in memory of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The portico is in Doric style and was built during the 1870s for Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, as part of C.B Waller's remodelling of the South Front of the house.

Clarence House, H.R.H.'s Town Residence' (1861/1861) by Unknown PersonRoyal Collection Trust, UK

"The major change since the house was built for The Duke of Clarence has been that the entrance was moved. The original front door and entrance hall have been replaced by The Library (between The Morning Room and The Dining Room) and there was a conservatory where The Entrance Hall now stands," explains Kathryn Jones, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts for Royal Collection Trust.

Through the main entrance, visitors find themselves in this grand Entrance Hall, adorned with art.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1900-2002) (1952/1959) by Unknown PersonRoyal Collection Trust, UK

"Inside, its appearance has changed with every new occupant. In its history it has contained a Russian Orthodox chapel and amazing armouries, although today it still honours the taste of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother – in the Morning Room in particular, I think – where you can see her Chelsea porcelain and her painting collections," Kathryn says.

The Princes of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in the garden at Clarence House (2018) by Clarence HouseClarence House

"The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have now made it into their home, so it reflects their taste," Jones explains.

"The major change has been in The Dining Room which has the unusual and striking bronze coving to the ceiling," she adds.

"The other thing that always strikes you when you are inside the house is how much the garden is present – many of the rooms look out into the garden and there is a sense of it almost like an extra room to the house."

The Clarence House Annual Review 2018 (21st Century)Clarence House

Here The Prince of Wales receives and entertains visitors from the UK and abroad, and hosts other official engagements.

Clarence House is also home to offices for The Prince of Wales's Household, who support Their Royal Highnesses' day-to-day work and liaise with the hundreds of organisations whose work they're involved with.

As their 2018 annual review shows, The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are engaged in work across a wide range of causes and subject areas.

At the far end of the Entrance Hall hangs The Queen Mother's Garter Banner.

Garter Banners belong to Knights and Ladies of The Order of the Garter - the oldest and most senior Order of Chivalry in Britain.

Garter banner by BritishRoyal Collection Trust, UK

In medieval times, King Edward III was so inspired by tales of King Arthur and the chivalry of the Knights of the Round Table that he set up his own group of honourable knights, called The Order of the Garter.

Nearly 700 years later, the knights are now both male and female. They used to be limited to aristocracy, but today are chosen from a variety of backgrounds, in recognition of their public service.

The Queen Mother's coat of arms combined the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom with the arms of her father, the Earl of Strathmore.

The Royal coat of arms consists of three golden lions on a red background (for England), a red lion on a golden background (for Scotland), and a golden harp on a blue background (for Ireland).

The Queen Mother's family crest, of the Bowes-Lyons, features two quarters showing blue lions (Lyons) and two quarters showing three stringed bows (Bowes).

During their lifetimes, Knights and Ladies of the Garter are entitled to display their Garter Banners in St George's Chapel, Windsor - the spiritual home of The Order.

On their death, these banners are often returned to the Knight's family. The late Queen Mother's banner therefore resides in her former home, Clarence House, with her grandson The Prince of Wales.

The Prince is himself a Royal Knight Companion of the Garter, while Her Majesty the Queen is the Sovereign of the Garter.

You can click and track to admire the fine detail of the stitching on this remarkably well-kept piece.

Dinner service by Chamberlain & Co.: Worcester (c. 1786-1852)Royal Collection Trust, UK

These pieces come from the 'King of Hanover' dinner service of Worcester porcelain (c.1795) and are displayed in a cabinet in The Entrance Hall, on the ground floor of Clarence House.

The Lancaster Room

The first right off the entrance hall leads to The Lancaster Room. It is used as a waiting room for visitors to the house, and is home to eight watercolours of Windsor Castle, painted by John Piper during the early 1940s.

The Prince of Wales receives His Holiness Pope Tawadros IIClarence House

Clarence House receives many visitors throughout the year - including Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, religious leaders, and guests from the many charities with which Their Royal Highnesses are involved.

The Duchess of Cornwall decorating The Clarence House Christmas Tree.Clarence House

However, says a Clarence House spokesperson: "it’s always particularly special when we host one of the many schools who we invite to tour the house and learn more about its history and Their Royal Highnesses’ work."

Each year, he adds, The Duchess of Cornwall also invites children from Helen & Douglas House, a children's hospice, to come and decorate the Clarence House Christmas tree.

"It’s a lovely moment for them and their families, and The Duchess always makes sure there is a Welsh Guard in full uniform on hand to put the final decoration on the top of the tree!"

The Morning Room

The Morning Room was originally designed as the breakfast room and, between 1949 and 1952, was used as The Duke of Edinburgh's study. More recently, a Clarence House spokesperson says: "The Morning Room has seen some very special moments, such as the Christening photographs for Prince George and Prince Louis." The elaborate ceiling plasterwork shows Queen Elizabeth's crown, and the large south-facing window looks out onto the garden.

The Library

This room was originally designed by Nash as The Entrance Hall. It was the then Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh who first fitted the room with bookshelves, which have since been replaced by free-standing bookcases. The Queen Mother used it as a smaller dining room, for dining with a more intimate number of guests, as a Clarence House spokesperson explains: "The Queen Mother started the tradition of hosting visiting Heads of State for tea, and the library as seen in this picture is set up in the way it would have been in her day. Their Royal Highnesses continue to uphold this tradition."

Twelve historical rulers of Bavaria by After Ludwig Michael von Schwanthaler (1802-48)Royal Collection Trust, UK

Four gilt-bronze statuettes of Bavarian rulers, by After Ludwig Schwanthaler, sit on top of the bookcases.

They are part of a set of 12 statue reductions presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert on her birthday in 1843.

The remaining statues from the set can be found in The Dining Room and Lancaster Room.

The Dining Room

This room has always been used as a dining room, and was redecorated in its current 'Pompeian' style during the most recent refurbishment of the house. According to a Clarence House spokesperson: "The Dining Room is often used when His Royal Highness hosts large meetings at Clarence House. But it has also witnessed some really memorable family occasions, such as the dinner hosted for Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, in honour of their Diamond wedding anniversary."

As Kathryn points out, the ceiling is accented by striking bronze coving, which was added by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.

Above the fireplace is another portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Also in The Dining Room is this 1718 David Willaume sideboard dish and ewer, engraved with the arms of The Bowes family.

Ewer, Willaume, David I, From the collection of: Royal Collection Trust, UK
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Cup and cover, Augustine Courtauld (c. 1686-c. 1751), From the collection of: Royal Collection Trust, UK
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To its left is this 1738 Augustine Courtauld cup and cover, with twisted serpent handles. It was later engraved with the coronet and initials of Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex.

The Garden Room

The Garden Room was created by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from two rooms, which formed part of the 1870s extension. As the name suggests, it offers beautiful views out onto the garden, and it is home to these impressive musical instruments, a grand piano and golden harp.

The Duchess of Cornwall (2018) by Clarence HouseClarence House

The Garden Room is also home to a number of framed family photographs from Their Royal Highnesses' personal collection, many of which sit on top of the piano.

This photograph of The Duchess of Cornwall was also taken in The Garden Room.

The Royal Family, Clarence House, 2018, From the collection of: Clarence House
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The Prince of Wales with Prince George, Clarence House, 2018, From the collection of: Clarence House
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Also worth noting is this fine late 17th century red and black lacquer secretaire.

Unfinished portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1939-40) by Augustus John (1878-1961)Royal Collection Trust, UK

The Queen Mother's influence

Many of the items in the house reflect the style and interests of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who lived in Clarence House for five decades, from 1953 until her death in 2002. "Their Royal Highnesses love Clarence House and although they have made it their home with their own personal touches, The Queen Mother's legacy lives on and is evident throughout the house," says a Clarence House spokesperson. This portrait of her, by Augustus John, still hangs above the fireplace in The Dining Room. 

The Horse Corridor

The Horse Corridor was part of the 1870s extension of Clarence House, and today pays tribute to the late Queen Mother's love of horses. 

Clarence House ground and garden tour groupRoyal Collection Trust, UK

Click here for more information on Clarence House's summer openings.

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