Nice house thought the queues fell short

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THE ROYAL Family let the paying public into its corporate headquarters for the first time yesterday, to help fund the Windsor Castle repairs.

It was not, however, a first-day sell-out - out of a maximum 7,000 tickets only 4,314 visitors, at 8 a head, had been admitted by the time the ticket office closed at 4pm. But the gift shop did a roaring trade, taking more than 35,000. For the first couple of hundred visitors, the Buck House Experience included several hours sitting in a queue on Friday, a night under a blanket in the Mall, half an hour in a shuffling queue yesterday morning, a 10-minute walk across a busy roundabout and another half-hour's queuing to get through security. After an hour going round the palace, there followed 20 minutes of interviews with German TV, Dutch TV, Canadian radio, the Mail on Sunday and the Brian Hayes programme for Radio 2.

'Neat,' said Luke Waldrun, 14, an American in a back-to-front baseball cap. When pressed, he elaborated: 'Real neat.' The Mall was chosen for the palace's ticket office because it 'gives a safe and pleasant environment in which over 5,000 people can queue'. Yesterday, to many people's delight, the maximum never exceeded 900, most people did not wait more than two hours. Nobody seemed to mind being allowed in to only 18 of the more than 600 rooms or the crowds, or the ropes. They were just grateful to be able to get so close. Some would have liked to see the bedrooms but were not complaining.

Everybody was happy with the 10 mugs, the 4 crown-shaped chocolates, and the 2 first day cover envelopes in the gift shop. Royal Collection Enterprises, the family's commercial arm, had gauged public taste exactly.

(Photograph omitted)