If the walls at Kensington Palace could talk, they would have plenty to say. Home to the Royal family for well over 400 years, this is where 18 year old Princess Victoria became Queen, Princess Margaret entertained the in crowd in the swinging sixties and Princess Diana brought up her children. It is now the London base of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Kensington Palace is definitely one of my favourite royal palaces and a great place for a micro-venture. Much of the palace is cared for by Historic Royal Palaces. Of course, private apartments in current use are not on show, but you can visit many historic state apartments.
These include The King’s State Apartments dating from the Georgian era (King George I and onwards) and The Queen’s State Apartments which belonged to King William III and Queen Mary II, the only monarchs in British history to reign jointly. I always feel like I’m stepping back in time when I wander through the beautiful rooms, with their opulent furniture and priceless artworks lining the walls.
One of my favourite parts of Kensington Palace is the Victoria Revealed exhibit. Victoria Revealed is a wonderful walk through the life of a woman, a wife, a mother and a Queen. Entering the Red Saloon where she became an Empress in a time when men ruled the world, I saw the strikingly tiny dress worn by Victoria and thought about how very young she was on that fateful day. How daunting to be one of the most powerful people in the world at the tender age of 18!
As I moved through to the rooms she lived and worked in, words from Queen Victoria’s diaries were everywhere – on the carpet, on the display cases, and on squares of card hanging from red ribbons. I saw her letters and her sketchbook from when she was a child, and read the diary entry written the night she met Prince Albert while standing in the exact place she did when she laid eyes on the love her life for the first time.
Queen Victoria’s wedding dress is displayed with the words “Oh, this was the happiest day of my life”. Even the uniform Prince Albert wore on their wedding day bears her loving words embroidered on the back of the collar and on each cuff. I always feel as if I am walking through her life, and often have tears in my eyes by the end of this innovative and evocative exhibit.
Fashion Rules, an exhibit exploring the wardrobes of The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales is another of my favourite places at Kensington Palace. The exhibition begins with The Queen’s dresses from the 1950’s and moves through the decades, sharing film, photographs and quotes, along with beautifully preserved pieces from three iconic royal wardrobes.
To finish off the adventure, there’s nothing like a walk through Kensington Gardens, which adjoin the palace. They used to be the private palace gardens but are now one of London’s eight Royal Parks. Kensington Gardens also the home of the famous Peter Pan statue, the Serpentine Gardens and the Albert Memorial. You can spend hours wandering here on a fine day and you never know who you might see – there have been photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge walking the family dog here!
If you’d like to share in the adventure, check out the Historic Royal Palaces website.