Buckingham Palace is the working headquarters of the Monarchy, where The Queen carries out her official and ceremonial duties as Head of State of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh live in the private apartments on the north side of the Palace, while rooms on the upper floors of the north and east sides are occupied by other members of the Royal Family. Much of the ground floor and the south wing of the Palace are used by Household staff. The principal State Rooms used for court ceremonies and official entertaining occupy the main west block facing the gardens.
The Queen receives a large number of formal and informal visitors to the Palace. To be received by The Queen privately is to be granted an Audience. The Prime Minister has a weekly Audience with The Queen when both are in London, and before presenting a Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer always has an Audience. The Queen often receives members of the Privy Council, foreign and British Ambassadors and High Commissioners, bishops, senior officers of the Armed Services and the Civil Service.
Over 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as guests at occasions of all sizes, from small lunches to large-scale receptions. Some receptions have a theme, such as ‘The British Clothing Industry’, ‘Women in Business’ or ‘Maritime Britain’. At other times, the guests may be a successful sporting team or Commonwealth teams who are competing in the UK. The Queen’s Garden Parties are held three times each summer and are attended by roughly 30,000 guests.
The Diplomatic Reception is the main diplomatic social event of the year in London and reflects The Queen’s importance in the country’s diplomatic relations. It is the largest reception held at Buckingham Palace and takes place annually in early November. Over 1,500 people are invited from around 130 countries, including members of the British government, past Prime Ministers, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and other public figures.
Members of the public who are awarded an honour in either the New Year's Honours List or The Queen's Birthday Honours List receive their award at a ceremony known as an Investiture. Around 25 Investitures are held each year and are attended by about 120 people who are receiving their Order, decoration or medals. The majority take place in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace.
The highpoint of royal entertaining at Buckingham Palace today is the State Banquet, given by The Queen in the Ballroom on the evening of the first day of a State Visit of a foreign Head of State to the United Kingdom. The Ballroom is specially decorated for the occasion with flowers from the royal gardens and plate and porcelain from the Royal Collection.