The UK's Royal Palaces Are Set to Reopen as Coronavirus Closures Lead to Estimated £30 Million Loss

Victoria Murphy
Photo credit: Matthew Lloyd - Getty Images
Photo credit: Matthew Lloyd - Getty Images

From Town & Country

Like so many tourist attractions, royal palaces across the UK were forced to close their doors to the public when the coronavirus pandemic took hold. But it is announced today that many will be reopening as the devastating impact of closures on revenue and jobs begins to become clear.

The Royal Collection Trust charity, a department of the royal household responsible for managing the public openings of sites including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, said that it was “delighted” to announce that many of its attractions will reopen on July 23. However, the Buckingham Palace State Rooms, Clarence House, and Frogmore House in Windsor will not open this summer “owing to the operational challenges of social distancing.”

Photo credit: SOPA Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: SOPA Images - Getty Images

“The safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff are our priority. Therefore, in line with Government guidance, we have introduced a number of measures to ensure that the Palaces, Galleries and shops can reopen safely and visitors can return with confidence,” the Royal Collection Trust said in a statement. The sites that are reopening will do so five days a week, remaining closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They are Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, and the Queen’s Galleries at Buckingham Palace and Holyroodhouse.

Visitors must book tickets in advance and will be guided by signs and one-way routes to maintain social distancing. There will also be hand sanitizer provided along the route as well as plexiglass screens at till points and card payment only.

Additional changes could also be evident. For example, Windsor Castle is home to the portrait of Sir Thomas Picton, which has recently had its description updated to include his links to slavery in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. A Trust spokeswoman said that their publicly available object records are "continually under review."

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

The Royal Collection Trust has described the COVID-19 pandemic as “by far the greatest challenge” in its history, saying that closures have had “a very significant and serious impact on our finances.” The Trust has estimated that it will have lost £30 million by the end of this financial year. A spokeswoman said the Trust has taken out a £22 million loan and has taken steps to implement a pay freeze, reduce employer pension contributions, and is offering voluntary redundancies to employees.

Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity which runs royal visitor sites including Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace, has also announced that The Tower of London will reopen on July 10 following a 16-week closure. The iconic fortress will hold a special ceremony at the reopening on Friday morning, lowering the drawbridge to welcome a maximum of just over 1,000 visitors per day. The Tower houses the Crown Jewels and this exhibition will be reopening with social distancing measures. The charity said it is facing a £98 million shortfall in its finances following the pandemic. Last month they put out a plea on social media asking people to book a visit, become a member, make an online purchase or donation, posting: “We’ve got to be honest - we need your help.”

Photo credit: Pawel Libera - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pawel Libera - Getty Images

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