Buckingham Palace by A.A. Milne

‘Buckingham Palace’ is one of the poems that A.A. Milne wrote featuring his famous characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh books. It is for these works, and the major stories/poems based on the characters that Milne is best-remembered. His son was famously the inspiration for the character of Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals, the inspiration for the other characters. In this particular poem, Milne only includes Christopher from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  

Buckingham Palace by A.A. Milne

 

Summary of Buckingham Palace 

‘Buckingham Palace’ by A.A. Milne is a deceptively simple children’s poem that comments on the role of a king and the public’s understanding of that role. 

Throughout ‘Buckingham Palace’ the speaker describes how two characters, Alice and Christopher, go to the palace every day to see the changing of the guard and with the hope of seeing the king. They are consistently disappointed in regards to the latter and between the two of them allude to complexities or lack thereof, the king has to deal with every day and his ability to “know” everyone he rules. 

You can read the full poem Buckingham Palace here. 

 

Structure of Buckingham Palace 

‘Buckingham Palace’ by A.A. Milne is a six stanza poem that is separated into sets of five lines, known as quintains. These quintains follow a simple and repetitive rhyme scheme AABBA, changing slightly from stanza to stanza. All three of the ‘A’ rhymes remain the same throughout the six stanzas. They are known as identical rhymes, meaning the same words, “Palace,” “Alice,” and “Alice,” are used.

A reader will immediately notice additional examples of repetition in ‘Buckingham Palace’. These are seen through the use and reuse of refrains, for example, the first line of each stanza “They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace” and the last line of each stanza “Says Alice”. The second line of every stanza is also repeated in full. This is a common literary device in children’s poetry and something that benefits the rhythm of the poem and the ease with which a child will be able to understand and read it. 

 

Literary Devices in Buckingham Palace

In addition to repetition, Milne makes use of several other literary devices. These include but are not limited to alliteration and allusion. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “time” and “tea” in the last stanza and “parties” and “pound” in stanza four. 

Sibilance is similar to alliteration but it is concerned with soft vowel sounds such as “s” and “th”. This kind of repetition usually results in a prolonged hissing or rushing sound. It is often used to mimic another sound, like water, wind, or any kind of fluid movement. There is a good example in line four of the second stanza with “sergeants” and “socks”.

An allusion is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to mind without directly stating it. The name “Christopher Robin” is a clear allusion to the larger canon of Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poems that Milne famously wrote. A reader should also consider the allusions to the life of a soldier and the king. For an adult reader, these lines might take on additional meaning.

 

Analysis of Buckingham Palace

Stanzas One and Two

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
(…)
“One of the sergeants looks after their socks,”
Says Alice.

In the first two stanzas of ‘Buckingham Palace,’ Milne introduces the reader to the basic structure of the poem. There is a clear emphasis on repetition, as seen through the use and reuse of lines one, two, and five. It appears that over and over again Alice and Christopher, the well-known young boy from the Winnie-the-Pooh books, went down to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. 

His companion Alice has a special interest in the guards, she claims she’s getting married to one. There are several allusions in these stanzas to the life of a soldier, the role of the king, and his appearance, or lack thereof, at the palace. 

 

Stanzas Three and Four 

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
(…)
“I wouldn’t be King for a hundred pounds,”
Says Alice.

Although they visit the palace with the intention of seeing the king they are unable to. He does not come out anywhere that they can see. It’s unclear if this is something that should’ve happened and didn’t or just the dreams of young people. Despite the king not being there, Alice wishes him well “all the same”. There is an interesting line in the fourth stanza where Alice shows some understanding of the role of king, its highs, and its lows. 

There are “big parties inside the grounds,” but she states that she wouldn’t be “King for a hundred pounds”. This is a good example of a perfect rhyme, with “ground” and “pound,” but it also shows that there is something inside Alice that understands the role of the king in a way that a young boy like Christopher Robin might not. 

 

Stanzas Five and Six 

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
(…)
“Sure to, dear, but it’s time for tea,”
Says Alice

In the last two stanzas of ‘Buckingham Palace,’ all the lines repeat again as they have been throughout the previous four stanzas. There was a “face” peering out from the palace but it isn’t the king. They appear to be disappointed by this and Alice thinks that he must be busy “a-signing things”. There is something sarcastic about this statement as though Alice does not quite feel that signing things is that important in the larger scheme of life. 

In the last stanza, the young Christopher Robin asks if “the King knows all about me”. This is an odd and complex question which raises issues around the role of the king. As well as how a young child might perceive that role as more god-like than anything else. 

Alice dismisses this quickly, saying yes for sure but its “time for tea”. This line concludes the poem and brings the youth back into their day to day life. 

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