Built in 1605, Kensington Palace has been home to many famous members of the royal family, including King William, Queen Mary, Queen Anne, King George l, King George ll, Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth ll, Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Prince William and Prince Harry were raised at Kensington and the palace became a site for mourners when Princess Diana died.
Most recently, it has become the London residence of Prince William and Princess Kate. They moved in the same week that I visited! No, I didn't catch a glimpse of them, as the public areas are only a small part of the palace. The palace has undergone substantial renovations over the years, including when it was severely damaged during the Blitz in World War Two.
I arrived at Kensington Palace on a very rainy Tuesday morning, while Dan was stuck in our hotel room, working. I thought that it would be a good idea to walk through Hyde Park, but just as I reached the middle of the park, it began to pour. Luckily, Kensington Palace had lockers available and I could store my wet coat while touring.
After paying my admission and checking my coat, I stood in the central hub of the tourist portion of the palace and I was faced with four paths, each leading to four different exhibits. The palace is designed to be toured in any order, as each path leads to a different topic. It's very well organized. Luckily, I visited on a slow day and didn't have to deal with crowds, but even do, I think by having four separate sections, it keeps the crowds dispersed and manageable.
I started with Queen Victoria, which led me through several rooms in the palace that were important during her childhood and during her reign. Each room was filled with artifacts from her life, such as her bassinet, her dollhouse and her wedding dress. I walked through the room where she was born and the room where she had her first meetings as queen. There were artifacts from Prince Albert's Great Exhibition, which we learned about while on our tour of the Royal Albert Hall. The section ended with Victoria's mourning dresses that she wore after her beloved, Prince Albert passed away.
Here is a picture of the central hub of the of the Palace. Illuminated on the walls are the titles of the various portions of the museum. To the right, you can see Victoria Revealed, which was the first part that I toured.
Next I learned about the first and second King Georges and visited the rooms associated with their courts of the 1700's. I walked up the King's Grand Staircase and into the rooms used at court. As I learned from the informational placards, the further a person was allowed to go in the series of rooms, paralleled their closeness to the King and their potential influence over him. The room with the painted ceiling and magnificent chandelier reminded me of the ballroom in Beauty and the Beast.
Kensington Palace often felt like an art installation and sometimes, it was weird. The King's Grand Staircase was lined with glass boxes that contained dioramas of life at court and if you sat in the window seats in the King's Gallery, you could hear the whispers of gossiping courtiers. In the Queen Victoria section, there was a diorama portraying her grief after Prince Albert. The creepiest and most "artsy" part of the palace was in the final section that I visited, Queen Mary's Staterooms. More on that later..
The most fun part of the museum was the Fashion Rules, which showcased dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth ll, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. The dresses from the 50/60/70, were gorgeous...while Diana's dresses of the 80's were a reminded of the terrible fashion trends of that decade!
The last part that I visited was The Queen Staterooms, rooms that were important during the reign of William and Mary in the late 1600's. This area was bizarre. It was filled with objects like paper birds and glass bottles hanging from the ceiling and it had a sinister vibe. A memorable part of the exhibit was eighteen little empty chairs to signify Queen Anne's eighteen children who died. Court gossip was also a huge theme in this section, with areas where you could listen to the whispers of courtiers.
Kensington Palace has beautiful gardens too!
Kensington Palace is a bit strange, but definitely a place filled with Royal History and a beautiful landmark. If you're visiting London, it should be at the top of your must-see list. It's an half day attraction that can easily be combined with touring one of the local museums or spending a day walking around Hyde Park.