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A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hillmarker, one of the seven hills in Romemarker. In many parts of Europe, the term is also applied to relatively large urban buildings built as the private mansions of the aristocracy. Many historic palaces are now put to other uses such as parliaments, museums, hotels or office buildings. The word is also sometimes used to describe a lavishly ornate building used for public entertainment or exhibitions.


The word palace comes from Old French palais (imperial residence), from Latin Palātiummarker, the name of one of the seven hills of Rome. The original palaces on the Palatine Hill were the seat of the imperial power, while the capitol on the Capitoline Hillmarker was the seat of the senate and the religious nucleus of Rome. Long after the city grew to the seven hills the Palatine remained a desirable residential area. Emperor Caesar Augustus lived there in a purposely modest house only set apart from his neighbors by the two laurel trees planted to flank the front door as a sign of triumph granted by the Senate. His descendants, especially Nero, with his "Golden Housemarker" enlarged the house and grounds over and over until it took up the hill top. The word Palātium came to mean the residence of the emperor rather than the neighbourhood on top of the hill. Since modern times, the term has been applied to any place that is considered "palatial", including those which predated Palātium or were built by Asian cultures.

"Palace" meaning "government" can be recognized in a remark of Paul the Deacon, writing ca 790 and describing events of the 660s: "When Grimuald set out for Beneventum, he entrusted his palace to Lupus" (Historia gentis Langobardorum, V.xvii). At the same time Charlemagne was consciously reviving the Roman expression in his "palacemarker" at Aachenmarker, of which only his chapel remains. In the 9th century the "palace" indicated the housing of the government too, and the constantly-travelling Charlemagne built fourteen. In the early Middle Ages, the Palas remained the seat of government in some Germanmarker cities. In the Holy Roman Empire the powerful independent Electors came to be housed in palaces (Paläste). This has been used as evidence that power was widely distributed in the Empire, as in more centralized monarchies, only one supreme monarch would be allowed to call their home a palace.

Palaces around the world

The earliest known palaces were the royal residences of the Egyptianmarker Pharaohs at Thebes, featuring an outer wall enclosing labyrinthine buildings and courtyards. Other ancient palaces include the Assyrian palaces at Nimrudmarker and Ninevehmarker, the Minoan palace at Knossosmarker, and the Persian palaces at Persepolismarker and Susamarker. Palaces in East Asia, such as the imperial palaces of Thailandmarker Japanmarker and Chinamarker's Forbidden Citymarker, consist of many low pavilions surrounded by vast, walled gardens, in contrast to the single building palaces of Medieval Western Europe.


In Francemarker there has been a clear distinction between a château and a palais. The palace has always been urban, like the Palais de la Citémarker in Parismarker, which was the royal palace of France and is now the supreme court of justice of France, or the palace of the Popes at Avignonmarker.

The château, by contrast, has always been in rural settings, supported by its demesne, even when it was no longer actually fortified. Speakers of English think of the "Palace of Versaillesmarker" because it was the residence of the king of France, and the king was the source of power, though the building has always remained the Château de Versailles for the French, and the seat of government under the Ancien Régime remained the Palais du Louvremarker. The Louvre had begun as a fortified Château du Louvre on the edge of Paris, but as the seat of government and shorn of its fortified architecture and then completely surrounded by the city, it developed into the Palais du Louvre.

The townhouses of the aristocracy were also palais, although only if fairly grand - the entry level being set rather higher than in Italy. The Hôtel particulier was the term for less grandiose residences. Bishops always had a palais in the town, however their country homes were chateaux.

The usage is essentially the same in Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as the former Austrian Empiremarker. In Germany, the wider term was a relatively recent importation, and was used rather more restrictively.


Portugalmarker is a nation rich in beauty, history, culture, tradition, and much more. The north, with lush green mountains lined with vineyards, the center, with its rolling hills and plains lined with its many villages, as well as is south, with its Mediterranean plains and whitewashed villages nestled atop the promontories overlooking the great Atlantic are characteristically dotted with palaces like few other nations. From the Douromarker in the north to the Algarve region of the south, these palatial estates run rampant. The homes of royalty seem to be the perfect example of the beauty and culture that Portugal has to offer.Image:Palácio Nacional de Mafra (1).jpg|Mafra National Palacemarker A national Royal Palace in Mafra, PortugalmarkerImage:Pena-medio-cut.JPG|Pena National Palacemarker A national Royal Palace in Sintra, PortugalmarkerImage:Palácio das Necessidades 1997.JPG|Palacio das Necessidades A Royal Palace in the Portuguese capital of Lisbonmarker, PortugalmarkerImage:Palacio-da-Regaleira1 Sintra Set-07.jpg|Palacio da Regaleiramarker A Palace in Sintra, PortugalmarkerImage:Brejoeira.jpg|Palacio da Brejoeira A Palace in Moncaomarker, PortugalmarkerImage:Palace Hotel do Bussaco.JPG|Palace Hotel of Bussacomarker A Palace turned hotel in Serra do Bussaco, PortugalmarkerImage:Palacio Belem Lisboa.JPG|Belem Palacemarker The seat of the president of the Republic of Portugalmarker in Belem, Portugalmarker near the capital of Lisbonmarker or LisboamarkerFile:Queluz Palace fountains.JPG


Spain has some palaces of its own. One of these palaces is the Royal Palace of Madrid, also referred to as the Palacio Real.File:Jardines de Sabatini (Madrid) 06.jpgWith its decor and design it is definitely a must see when traveling to Madrid or Spain. When one looks at the design and style of the Palace one would notice no room is similar, it seems it took thousands of men to design because of all the various styles. Also, this palace just does not reign supreme because not just of its beauty but also its size. The palace is the largest palace in Europe with over 2,800 rooms. You could see the largeness of its size with just the imagination. You can see article for more details Royal Palace of Madridmarker


In Italy, any urban building built as a grand residence is a palazzo; these are often no larger than a Victorian townhouse. It was not necessary to be a nobleman to have your house considered a palazzo; the hundreds of palazzi in Venicemarker nearly all belonged to the patrician class of the city. In the Middle Ages these also functioned as warehouses and places of business, as well as homes. Each family's palazzo was a hive that contained all the family members, though it might not always show a grand architectural public front. In the 20th century palazzo in Italian came to apply by extension to any large fine apartment building, as so many old palazzi were converted to this use.

Bishop's townhouses were always palazzi, and the seat of a localized regime would also be so called. Many a small former capital displays its Palazzo Ducale, the seat of government. In Florencemarker and other strong communal governments, the seat of government was the Palazzo della Signoriamarker until in Florence the Medici were made Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Then, when the power center shifted to their residence in Palazzo Pittimarker, the old center of power began to be called the Palazzo Vecchiomarker.

Image:Ca da Mosto.jpg|The Ca' da Mostomarker, a 13th century Venetianmarker palace, the oldest building on the [[Grand Canal of Venice|Grand Canal]


In Central Mexicomarker, the Aztec Emperors built many palaces in the capital of their empire, Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City), some of which may still be seen. On observing the great city Hernan Cortés wrote, "There are, in all districts of this great city, many temples or palaces... They are all very beautiful buildings. Amongst these temples there is one , the principal one, whose great size and magnificence no human tongue could describe,.. All round inside this wall there are very elegant quarters with very large rooms and corridors. There are as many as forty towers, all of which are so high that in the case of the largest there are fifty steps leading up to the main part of it and the most important of these towers is higher than that of the cathedral of Seville..."

Also in Mexico is Chapultepec Castlemarker, or Castillo de Chapultepec, located in the middle of Chapultepec Park in Mexico Citymarker which currently houses the Mexican National Museum of History. It is the only castle, or palace, in North America that was occupied by sovereigns - Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, a member of the House of Habsburg and his consort, Empress Carlota of Mexico, daughter of Leopold I of Belgium. The palace features many objets d'art ranging from gifts of Napoleon III's to paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Mexican painter Santiago Rebull.

The National Palacemarker, or Palacio Nacional, located in Mexico City's main square, the Plaza de la Constituciónmarker (El Zócalo), first built in 1563, is in the heart of the Mexican capital. In 1821, the palace was given its current name and the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government were housed in the palace; the latter two branches would eventually reside elsewhere. During the Second Mexican Empire, its name was changed, for a time, to the Imperial Palace. The National Palace continues to be the official seat of the executive authority, although it is no longer the official residence of the President.

Image:MexCity-palacio.jpg|The National Palace in Mexico Citymarker.File:Castillo de Chapultepec 032.jpg|View of the gardens and Caballero Alto, the former observatory of Chapultepec PalacemarkerFile:NewFedBuildingDF.JPG| Part of the National Palace in the Zócalo, divided by the avenue Avenida 20 de Noviembre.File:DoorwayPalaceIturbideDF.JPG|Doorway of the Palacio de Iturbide, the residence of Mexico's first emperor, Agustin I.File:Palacio de las Bellas Artes (Mexico City).jpg|The Palacio de Bellas ArtesmarkerFile:Monterrey Palacio del Gobierno.jpg|Palacio de Gobiernomarker, Nuevo LeónFile:NationalPalace aSecondYartPerspective-Mexico City-Mexico.jpg|Gardens of the Palacio Nacional

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, by tacit agreement, there have been no "palaces" other than those used as official residences by royalty and bishops, regardless of whether located in town or country. However, not all palaces use the term in their name - see Holyrood Palacemarker. Thus the Palace of Beaulieumarker gained its name precisely when Thomas Boleyn sold it to Henry VIII in 1517; previously it had been known as Walkfares. But like several other palaces, the name stuck even once the royal connection ended. Blenheim Palacemarker was built, on a different site, in the grounds of the disused royal Palace of Woodstockmarker, and the name was also part of the extraordinary honour when the house was given by a grateful nation to a great general. (Along with several royal and episcopal palaces in the countryside, Blenheim does demonstrate that "palace" has no specific urban connotations in English.)

File:West facade of Buckingham Palace.JPG|Buckingham Palacemarker, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdommarker.Image:Palace of Westminster, London - Feb 2007.jpg|Palace of Westminstermarker, also known as the 'Houses of Parliament'


The history of Indiamarker is full of numerous dynasties that have ruled over various parts of the country. While most monuments of the ancient period have been destroyed or lie in ruins, some medieval buildings have been maintained well or restored to good condition. Several medieval forts and palaces still stand proud all over India. These magnificent buildings are examples of the great achievements of the architects and engineers of that age. The palaces of India offer an insight into the life of the royalty of the country. While some royal palaces have been maintained as museums or hotels over the last decades, some palaces are still home for the members of the erstwhile royal families. These forts and palaces are the largest illustrations and legacy of the princely states of India.

Floats of flowers in grand fountains, shimmering blue water of magnificent baths and private pools, doric pillars, ornamental brackets, decorative staircases, light streaming in through large windows, India possesses some of the most fascinating forts and palaces, a true royal retreat. It is not just a romantic longing for a royal experience, but also the search for the truly authentic Indian experience that brings thousands of heritage lovers to India's palaces.

Rajasthanmarker has a large number of forts and palaces that are major tourist destinations in North India. The Rajputs (collective term for the rulers of the region) were known as brave soldiers who preferred to die than be taken prisoners. They were also great connoisseurs of art and brilliant builders. The most famous forts and palaces in Rajasthan are located in Chittor, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Udaipur , Jaisalmir, Amber and Nahargarh. Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces manage some of the most iconic palaces of the region, Lake Palacemarker, Udaipur; Umaid Bhawan Palacemarker, Jodhpur; Fort Madhogarh, Jaipur and Rambagh Palace, Jaipur; and offer authentic royal retreats to the guests in all its grandeur, splendor and magnificence.

Image:UmaidBhawan Exterior 1.jpg|The Umaid Bhawan Palacemarker in Jodhpurmarker, IndiamarkerImage:Chandani Chowk RambaghPalace.jpg|Chandni Chowk Gardens at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipurmarker, Rajasthan, IndiaImage:Palace of Trivandrum.jpg|Kowdiar Palace, TrivandrummarkerImage:Mysore Palace Panorama.jpg|Mysore Palacemarker at Mysore, Karnataka, India

Puerto Rico and Hawaii

La Fortalezamarker is the home of the Puerto Rican governor. It is formally known as "Palacio de Santa Catalina". Also, in Hawaiimarker, the ʻIolani Palacemarker is the former home of the Hawaiian monarchy in Honolulumarker.


The Palacio Legislativomarker (Legislative Palace), is the house of the Uruguayan Parliament.


Malacañang Palace, or officially, Malacañan Palace, is the official residence of the President of the Philippines. The palace is located along the north bank of the Pasig River in Manilamarker. It is called Palasyo ng Malakanyang in Filipino, and Malacañan Palace when referred to as the official residence of the President of the Philippines, and simply Malacañang when referred to as the office of the president, as well as in everyday parlance and in the media. The palace was made famous as the home of President Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who were its longest residents, from 1965 to 1986. When President Marcos was deposed in 1986, the palace complex was stormed by the local populace, and the international media subsequently exposed the excesses of the Marcos family, including Mrs. Marcos' infamous collection of thousands of shoes.

File:Malacanang palace view.jpg|Malacanang Palacemarker, the official residence of the President of the Philippines.


There are buildings or mansions in the United States, not quite called "palaces", that have the grandeur of a typical palace, and which have been used as residences. The Hearst Castlemarker, Biltmore Estatemarker, and the White Housemarker are examples.

On the continent of Europe, these royal and episcopal palaces were not merely residences; the clerks who administered the realm or the diocese labored there as well. (To this day many bishops' palaces house both their family apartments and their official offices.) However, unlike the "Palais du Justice" which is often encountered in the French-speaking world, modern British public administration buildings are never called "palaces"; although the formal name for the "Houses of Parliament" is the Palace of Westminstermarker, this reflects Westminster's former role as a royal residence and centre of administration.

In more recent years, the word has been used in a more informal sense for other large, impressive buildings, such as The Crystal Palacemarker of 1851 (an immensely large, glazed hall erected for The Great Exhibition) and modern arenas-convention centers like Alexandra Palacemarker (which is no more a palace than Madison Square Gardenmarker is a garden).

The largest in the world is Palace of the Parliamentmarker in Bucharestmarker, Romaniamarker . Built during the socialist regime, no effort or expense was spared to raise this colossal neo-classic building.

For the household staff of palaces, see great house.


  1. Mexico-Tenochtitlan: Ancient City
  2. Office of the President website

See also

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