Clarence House is a royal residence in London, situated on The Mall, in the City of Westminster. It is attached to St. James’s Palace and shares the palace’s garden. For nearly 50 years, from 1953 to 2002, it was home to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It has since been the official residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Clarence House, which stands beside St James’s Palace, was built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of John Nash for Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence. Today Clarence House is the official London residence of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Clarence House also served as the official residence for Prince William from 2003, until his marriage in April 2011, and for Prince Harry from 2003 until 2012. It is open to visitors for approximately one month each summer, usually August, and is one of many royal buildings in London.
The house has four storeys, not including attics or basements, and is faced in pale stucco. It has undergone extensive remodelling and reconstruction over the years, most notably after the Second World War, such that relatively little remains of the original structure as designed by John Nash.
Since 2003, the term “Clarence House” has often been used as a metonym for the Prince of Wales’s private office. The term “St James’s Palace” had been previously used.
Clarence House is Grade I listed on the National Heritage List for England.
The house was built between 1825 and 1827 to a design by John Nash. It was commissioned by the Duke of Clarence, who in 1830 became King William IV of the United Kingdom (reigned 1830–1837). He lived there in preference to the adjacent St James’s Palace, an ancient Tudor building which he found too cramped.
From William IV, the house passed to his sister Princess Augusta Sophia, and, following her death in 1840, to Queen Victoria’s mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. In 1866, it became the home of Queen Victoria’s second son Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, also Duke of Edinburgh, until his death in 1900.
Alfred’s younger brother Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Queen Victoria’s third son, used the house from 1900 until his death in 1942. During his tenure, for a brief period in the 1930s it was the location of the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies until all universities in London were evacuated in 1939, and the school temporarily relocated to Cambridge. During World War II it suffered damage by enemy bombing during The Blitz (1940-1). Following the death of the Duke of Connaught in 1942 it was used by the Red Cross and the St John Ambulance Brigade as their headquarters during the rest of World War II . Following their marriage in 1947 it became the residence of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Their daughter, Princess Anne, was born there in 1950. In 1953, after the death of her father King George VI (d. 6 February 1952), and her succession as Queen Elizabeth II, she moved to Buckingham Palace and her mother the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and her other daughter, Princess Margaret, moved into Clarence House. Also at the start of her widowhood the Queen Mother purchased the Castle of Mey in Scotland as a summer residence. Princess Margaret later moved into an apartment in Kensington Palace, whilst the Queen Mother remained at Clarence House and at the Castle of Mey until her death in 2002. In 2003 Charles, Prince of Wales moved to Clarence House, having undertaking a massive refurbishment. The house was completely rewired, most of the major rooms were redecorated by the interior designer Robert Kime, and the building was given an external facelift.
With a reception at Clarence House, Prince Charles welcomed representatives of all fourteen nations participating in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, as well as tournament organisers.
During its history, Clarence House has been altered, reflecting the changes in occupancy over nearly two centuries. It was the London home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from 1953 until 2002 and was also the home of The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, and The Duke of Edinburgh following their marriage in 1947.
Today Clarence House is the official London residence of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Clarence House also provides office accommodation for The Prince of Wales’s Household, who support Their Royal Highnesses in their official engagements and liaise with over 350 organisations with whose work they are involved.
The principal rooms of the house are used by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall for receptions and other official entertaining and to receive official visitors to the UK.
To prepare the building for The Prince of Wales, Clarence House underwent extensive refurbishment and redecoration.
The colour schemes have been adjusted in most rooms, new textiles introduced, and several new pieces from the Royal Collection and from The Prince of Wales’s own art collection added.
The alterations are designed to reflect the change of occupancy, while maintaining the familiar atmosphere of a much-loved family house.
Clarence House is open to the public during the summer months. Visitors are given a guided tour of the five rooms and adjoining spaces on the ground floor.
The arrangement of the rooms and the grouping of their contents remain recognisably as they were in Queen Elizabeth’s time, with much of Her Majesty’s collection of works of art and furniture in their former positions.
Very much a home, Clarence House is the last remaining great London house to be maintained in the purpose for which it was built. As the official London residence of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, it continues to play a part in the life of the Royal Family and the nation.
Clarence House, one of the last remaining aristocratic townhouses in London, is the official residence of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. Built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of John Nash, Clarence House takes its name from its first occupant, William Henry, Duke of Clarence, later William IV.
The arrangement of the rooms and the groupings of their contents remain much as they were in Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s time, with important works from Her Majesty’s collection of art in their original positions. A tour of the House includes five rooms on the ground floor where official engagements are undertaken by Their Royal Highnesses.
In the Duke of Clarence’s time the Lancaster Room, the first room off the Hall, was the Equerry’s Room and has served as a waiting room for visitors ever since. The Morning Room was originally designed as the breakfast room. The large window into the garden was added by the Duchess of Kent around 1841. The Library was used by The Queen Mother for intimate dinners when she lived in the house. The Dining Room is enhanced with gilding and ceiling decoration from the early 1900s. The Garden Room was created from two rooms which Princess Margaret lived in before her marriage.
The tour of Clarence House begins in the garden, where you can see the formal area added by The Prince of Wales in 2004–5 in memory of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The planting was laid out to His Royal Highness’s own design by members of The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.
The Royal Collection
Many of the pieces on display in Clarence House form part of The Queen Mother’s collection, and are displayed according to her layout. Elsewhere are examples of Chinese porcelain, some originally made for the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, a Tompion clock made for William III at Kensington Palace, and works by Landseer and Bogdani.