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Public Enters Buckingham Palace at Last

August 08, 1993| From Associated Press

LONDON — The public got its first glimpse inside Buckingham Palace on Saturday, and the verdict was nearly unanimous: The tour was worth the admission price, but as far as homes go the royals can keep it.

Despite the 30-minute delays for security checks, visitors emerged bewitched by the palace's magnificent furnishings and priceless artworks previously hidden from public view.

"We were all just kind of in awe," said Brenda Langstraat, a 19-year-old college student from Indianola, Iowa.

She and six friends camped outside the ticket booth overnight for the honor of being the first American tourists to pay the $12 admission fee to visit Queen Elizabeth II's London home.

"I wouldn't want to live there," said Langstraat, a student at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. "It's too impersonal. . . . I'd rather have a small flat with a few pieces of furniture and be in love."

Despite the hoopla, only 4,300 tickets were sold Saturday, well short of the 7,000 the palace had anticipated.

"It is much more important that everything should go smoothly and that everybody should enjoy their visit," said palace spokesman John Haslam. "As it was, we had a lot of satisfied customers."

The queen agreed to open Buckingham Palace to the public to help raise money to repair fire-damaged Windsor Castle, her beloved weekend home west of London.

An estimated 400,000 people are expected to visit during the eight weeks that the queen and her family are away on vacation this summer.

Palace officials expect visitors to spend about an hour to an hour and a half seeing how the royals live.

Eighteen of the palace's 600 rooms are on view, all filled with antique furniture, porcelain, paintings and tapestries.

The most popular rooms were the gilt-drenched White Drawing Room, where the Royal Family assembles before state occasions, and the Throne Room, with the chairs used for the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth and the 1937 crowning of her father, King George VI.

"I wanted to sit down (on a throne) real bad," said 14-year-old Luke Waldrum of Rockaway, N.J., who camped out overnight for tickets with his father. "I'd like to have the house, but I wouldn't like to have the pressure."

The main complaint--besides the no-photography rule--was that people would have liked to see even more.

"I wanted to see more, things like the bedrooms," said Keri Humphrey of Johannesburg, South Africa. "It is beautiful, but it is just pictures and furniture, pictures and furniture."

Pat Gregory, of Manchester, England, said of the empty state dining room, "You would think they could have let us see the tables set for dinner."

About 50 protesters, some wearing paper crowns, chanted anti-monarchy slogans at people waiting in line, but they were booed by the crowd and moved on by police.

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