Sun, Oct 07, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Buckingham Palace starts clear-out before huge refit

AFP, LONDON

Thousands of works of art, clocks, chandeliers and furniture are being removed from Buckingham Palace as part of a major refit, royal officials said on Friday.

More than 200 rooms over six floors of the east wing, which faces out onto The Mall, will be emptied over the next six months to prepare for the replacement of aging electrics and pipework.

Objects being removed include 200 paintings, 40 chandeliers, 100 mirrors, 30 clocks, 200 books, 40 historic textiles and 560 items of everyday furniture, from beds to desks and chairs.

It is part of a £369 million (US$484 million), 10-year project to upgrade Queen Elizabeth II’s London residence, which officials fear is at risk of a “potentially catastrophic” failure, which includes fires and floods.

Some of the most urgent work has already been carried out, notably removing 3,000m of decades-old rubber cabling, which has become cracked, leaving the electrical wires exposed.

The rest of the renovations are to be done wing by wing, although the State Rooms are to be dealt with incrementally to ensure they remain open for formal banquets and public tours.

The queen’s private apartments in the north wing are to be done last, in 2025, when the monarch, now 92, moves to another part of the building.

Her husband, Prince Philip, who was involved in the repairs of Windsor Castle after a major fire there in 1992, has been keeping a close eye on the project, the official said.

So has the queen’s son and heir Prince Charles. It is possible that he will be king before the renovations are finished.

The refurbishment program began in April last year, after the British parliament agreed to the funding, and officials have spent much of the time since in detailed planning.

Funds for the project are to come from increasing the share the royals receive from the Crown Estate, which manages royal properties, from 15 percent to 25 percent over the period.

The cabling work so far has unearthed some asbestos, as expected, but also a few surprises.

Several old cigarette packets and an 1888 cutting from London’s Evening Standard newspaper were found beneath the floorboards, and mysteriously, a boat paddle was found behind a wall.

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