Buckingham Palace's East Wing has opened for the first time in 175 years – and it's brought a mysterious secret feature to light

Defined by richness, elegance, and exuberant floral wallcoverings, the rooms behind the palace's iconic balcony hold never-before-uncovered secrets

(Image credit: © Royal Collection Enterprises Limited 2024 / Peter Smith)

For the first time in history, Buckingham Palace will open its private East Wing to the public, and the reveal has uncovered some of the building's oldest secrets.

The wing, which was completed 175 years ago, encompasses the palace's façade and features the iconic central balcony, where the British Monarch and members of the Royal Family have gathered for public appearances since 1851.

From tomorrow, July 11th, small visitor groups can enjoy a tour of the East Wing’s Principal Floor, which has never been accessible to the public before. To celebrate its opening, TV host Lorraine Kelly visited the royal residence, and during her tour, she unveiled some of Buckingham Palace's secrets to the world. First: A secret passage behind a mirror in the White Room.

Buckingham Palace

The Centre Room, located in the newly-opened East Wing

(Image credit: © Royal Collection Enterprises Limited 2024 / Peter Smith)

'This room hides a fantastic secret. If I walk over here, you can see it looks like a beautiful mirror; it’s absolutely gorgeous. But there’s something very special about this huge mirror,' Kelly says in the footage that aired on the British channel ITV.

In front of the mirror, Kelly stands by a large cabinet, which, she reveals was used as a handle. Placing her hand underneath the cabinet, she says: 'You can pull it out; I’m not going to pull it right out; it’s actually a hidden doorway... The doorway leads to the Royal Family’s private apartments in there! The King, of course, can use it to enter or leave the room discreetly whenever he so wishes. Isn’t that great?'

According to reports, this White Room is one of the more intimate spaces in the palace. The late Queen Elizabeth formerly entered via the hidden door before receiving guests. 

Buckingham Palace

(Image credit: © Royal Collection Enterprises Limited 2024)

For visitors who are looking to explore the East Wing, they can tour the Centre Room, from which they will have a view of the balcony, and the ornate Yellow Drawing Room, with its towering Chinese porcelain pagodas. The tour will also pass through the 240-foot-long Principal Corridor, which spans the entire width of the palace and features paintings by artists including Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

Together, these rooms contain examples of the finest Chinese and Japanese porcelain and 19th-century furniture in the Royal Collection.

Buckingham Palace

(Image credit: © Royal Collection Enterprises Limited 2024 / Peter Smith)

The East Wing was added to the Palace between 1847 and 1849 to provide space for Queen Victoria’s growing family, enclosing what had previously been a U-shaped courtyard. It's impossible not to note the wing's rococo decorating ideas – many of which reflect George IV’s love of Asian art and design.

The wing's construction was financed through the sale of the Royal Pavilion, George IV’s seaside retreat in Brighton, and many of his goods were transferred to the wing – meaning the space is a celebration of Chinese-themed décor.

Buckingham Palace

(Image credit: © Royal Collection Enterprises Limited 2024)

The Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace is from Thursday, July 11th to Sunday, September 29th, 2024. Visitor information and tickets are avaiable through the Royal Collection Trust now.

Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden |  $17.41 on Amazon

Buckingham Palace: A Royal Garden |  $17.41 on Amazon
This volume serves as a guide to the garden, complete with specially commissioned photography. It allows you to follow 'along through the seasons' alongside the Palace’s Head Gardener, Mark Lane.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.