Several short scenes in Dancing King are set in what’s called the Buckingham Palace Library. Michael Kent-Hughes meets here with Josh Gittings , the man who becomes his chief of staff, the Monday after the family’s arrival in London. He tells Gittings that the volumes in the room are dusty, and he wished he had an inventory of what was in the room. Michael conducts interviews here, most notably the one with Geoffrey Venneman, one of the chief villains of the novel. Michael is using the library as a quasi-office until his own office is remodeled.
I should mention here that there is no official “royal library” in Buckingham Palace. I invented the room for the novel.
At the rear of the ground level of the palace, there is the Bow Room, a large room that arcs on the terrace side. On the official tour, you walk through this room to exit to turn in your tour head sets and find the refreshment tent. The Bow Room is officially a kind of waiting room for guests, until they’re conducted to meet with the monarch. There are rooms on either side of the Bow Room, which were originally designed to be the library. From early on, though, Victoria and Albert, the first to occupy the palace, used the two rooms and the Bow Room for other purposes.
There was a King’s Library, created by the king who reigned during the American Revolution, George III. When he came to the throne, there was nothing one could really call a library, and so he created and built one. The King’s Library, as it was called, was housed at Buckingham House, the predecessor to the palace. The library had four rooms, the largest of which was the Octagonal Library. George III also kept collections at Kew Gardens and Windsor Castle, mostly of subjects he was personally interested in and personal papers.
In 1823, George IV presented most of the collection of the King’s Library to the nation. For more than a century, this was housed at the British Museum near Russell Square in London, until the new British Library opened in 1997, where it is now stored. The collections at Kew and Windsor, however, were retained by the monarch.
Today, Queen Elizabeth has the Royal Archives and Royal Library at Windsor Castle. If you ever wondered what went on inside the large round turret-like building on the castle grounds, guess no more – it houses the Royal Archives, while the library is another part of the castle.
While most of the royal papers, books, and archival information is at Windsor, other royal locations contain small parts of the overall collection. These include an art reference library at York House in St. James Palace, a small reference collection and materials on Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s literature collection at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, collections at Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle, and a set of Parliamentary records at the Palace of Westminster (Parliament).
In a future book in the Dancing Priest series, Michael will receive an audit and assessment of all of the royal collections and libraries and, with the help of his staff, determine what to do with them.
Top photograph: the Octagonal Library at Buckingham House.