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Secret facts about Buckingham Palace's swimming pool where King Charles learnt to swim

Peep Show star Sophie Winkleman, Lady Frederick Windsor recalled using the pool to recover from her car accident

Buckingham Palace secret pool where King Charles learned to swim
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Georgia BrownSenior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
Nichola MurphyDeputy Lifestyle Editor
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Buckingham Palace is one of the most staggering royal residences in King Charles' property portfolio. With 775 mysterious rooms, rumours of hidden tunnels connecting the palace with the outside world, and a little-known-about swimming pool built in 1938, the royal headquarters isn't without its secrets. 

The so-called secret Buckingham Palace pool was commissioned by King George VI so that his daughters, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth, could swim without attracting any outside attention. Edna Healey writes in The Queen’s House: A Secret History of Buckingham Palace: "In summer 1938 it was decided to build 'a swimming bath and squash court on the north side of the Palace in one of Nash’s conservatories.''"

WATCH: Inside Buckingham Palace's lavish renovations

Sophie Winkleman, wife of Lord Frederick Windsor and star of noughties sitcom Peep Show, confirmed the Buckingham Palace pool was very much still in use when she told Tatler that the late Queen Elizabeth II insisted she use the pool to recover from a car accident injury. 

After admitting to the late Queen her physiotherapy wasn't working, the monarch replied: "We can’t have that. You have to go in the water." 

Sophie continued: "She told us that when horses had broken backs, they swam, and so she let me use her pool at Buckingham Palace. That’s the reason I got better. It was so typically thoughtful."

Keep reading to discover everything we know about the Buckingham Palace pool…

The building was originally a conservatory

King Charles' royal residence Buckingham Palace© Dan Kitwood

Before being converted into a swimming pool, the building acted as a conservatory designed by architect John Nash.

The swimming pool was built as a surprise for the late Queen

King George VI, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret collect water from a swimming pool at the Royal Lodge

According to a newspaper article in January 1939, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth returned from Balmoral to find the surprise swimming pool at Buckingham Palace. 

"The surprise was a new swimming pool, which was specially constructed for the two little princesses so they may have their weekly swimming lessons next year at their own home," it read.

The interiors are very practical

rince William warms up as he makes his water polo debut for the Scottish National Universities Squad i© Getty Images

Unlike the luxury you would expect inside the palace walls, the swimming pool is actually built with practical materials.

A letter from Sir Philip Sassoon, from the Ministry of Works, to King George VI in 1938 when the pool was being designed requested that the walkway around the pool was to be made of vitreous mosaic tiles, rather than glazed as they are "less harsh in appearance and less slippery". 

However, some thought did go into the aesthetic. He also suggested that the edges of the pool were to be marked in black, with two bands of green, one below the level of water and another at the bottom of the pool, to add "sparkle and liveliness to the water".

It survived World War II bombs

Princess Margaret swims while on holiday August 1967 in Costa Smeralda, Sardinia.© Getty Images

The pool house had only been completed for one year before it was bombed during World War II. On 10 September 1940, a bomb shattered all the windows in the North Wing of Buckingham Palace.

Pictures of the exterior show the building replicates that of the Roman baths, with concrete plinths, a vaulted ceiling and large glass windows. However, the interior remains just for the eyes of the royal family and special guests.

Many royals have learnt to swim at the pool

Prince William warms up before his water polo debut for the Scottish National Universities Squad© Getty Images

It is not only where the late Queen and her sister Princess Margaret perfected their swimming technique, but also where Her Majesty's children King Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward all took their first strokes. 

Princess Kate has also taken her three children to learn to swim in the pool over the years – and we have no doubt it's a big hit with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis

Speaking to former world and Commonwealth champion James Hickman in 2014, Kate reportedly told James that George "loves the water and he grabs things to splash with".

King Charles invited his friends to sail model boats

Young Prince Charles outside the little Welsh Cottage at the Royal Lodge at Windsor© Hulton Deutsch

Buckingham Palace's pool wasn't just a place to swim for Charles – he used the water to sail model boats and reportedly even invited his school friends to join.

Prince Phillip used it on a daily basis

Prince Philip wearing casual clothes with his hands on his hips whilst looking at the camera© Getty

The late Prince Philip supposedly used the swimming pool for his daily exercise when at the London residence with the Queen.

King Charles used to throw his kids into the pool

Then-Prince Charles In Kilt And Sporran And Shepherd's Crook Walking Stick With Prince William & Prince Harry At Polvier, By The River Dee, Balmoral Castle Estate in August 1997© Tim Graham,Getty

King Charles and the late Princess Diana also loved to have fun in the water with their kids. Both Prince William and Harry learnt to swim there, while Charles also revealed how he got William to love the water.

"I threw him in the swimming pool on occasions. Instead of putting him off, it enthused him," he admitted during an event at the British Sub-Aqua Club.

The private pool isn't just for the royal family

Buckingham Palace aerial shot© Getty

Members of the Staff Sports Club can also use the pool, provided it doesn't clash with one of the royals' swims.

"The rule is that if a staff member is swimming and one of the Royals appears, they have to get out, unless invited to remain, which often happens,’ Brian Hoey explained in his book, Not In Front of the Corgis: Secrets Of Life Behind The Royal Curtains.

"If when the staff member turns up a Royal is already in the pool, the servant, and this includes senior members such as the Private Secretary or Keeper of the Privy Purse, will not attempt to join them."

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