LONDON -- Parts of Clarence House, the new London home of Prince Charles, his longtime lover and his sons, opens to the public Wednesday for the first time.
The Queen Mother Elizabeth lived in the 19th-century mansion until her death, and though it has been refurbished at a cost of $9.7 million, many of her personal touches remain.
Sculptures, paintings and books fill the five rooms open for viewing. Plaster work on the ceiling of one room shows the queen mother's crown, while a painting of her corgis stands on a table.
Framed photographs of the Princes William, 20, and Harry, 18, are joined by a photograph of George VI, deceased father of Queen Elizabeth II.
Visitors to the house near Buckingham Palace will also be able to see some of her extensive art collection, including works by John Piper, W.S. Sickert and Augustus John.
Tax dollars at work
Charles, who also has a private home, Highgrove, in western England, moved into the house from nearby St. James' Palace on Monday.
None of the private apartments, located on the upper floors and where Charles' longtime companion Camilla Parker Bowles also has rooms, is open to the public.
The cost of the renovations were paid for by taxpayers -- $7.2 million -- and by Charles, who dug into his own pocket to provide rooms for Parker Bowles.
The house has already proved popular -- 45,000 of the 46,000 tickets available for the open season lasting until Oct. 17 had been sold by Tuesday afternoon. Adults pay $8, children under 17 pay $5, and children under 5 go free.
Built in 1825, Clarence House was designed by John Nash for Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence, who lived there as King William IV from 1830 until 1837.
During World War II, it was used as headquarters for the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance Brigade and suffered bomb damage.
The queen, then Princess Elizabeth, lived there with her husband Prince Philip and Charles from 1950-52.