Kensington Palace is definitely one of my favourite royal palaces in London. The palace 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 is still very much a working Royal palace today. It is the London base of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their family, as well other senior Royals.
The inhabitants of Kensington Palace all have separate dwellings within and outside of the palace. For example, Apartment 1A, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live, is a 4 storey, 20 bedroom home. There are also cottages and small houses in the private grounds.
The private homes at Kensington Palace are accessed by a separate entrance and security is understandably tight. However, you can visit many of the historic portions of the palace which are cared for by Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity.
Kensington Palace – The King’s State Apartments and The Queen’s State Apartments
The King’s State Apartments date from the Georgian era (King George I and onwards). The Queen’s State Apartments were the home of King William III and Queen Mary II, the only monarchs in British history to reign jointly. The state apartments are full of opulent furniture and priceless artworks line the walls. It is quite breathtaking.
Victoria – A Royal Childhood
Victoria: A Royal Childhood is a deep dive into the not always happy childhood of the Princess Victoria. You can see her sketchbooks and some of her toys, as well as visit the room she was born in. I was fascinated to find out that baby Victoria was delivered by Mademe Siebold, a well respected female obstetrician. Female doctors of any kind were sadly pretty rare in those days. Madame Siebold also delivered the baby who would become Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.
You can also read the diary entry written the night Queen Victoria met Prince Albert whilst standing in the exact place she did when she first laid on him as well as walk through the door Victoria walked through to meet her first Privy Council the day she became Queen. As a history buff, I found it very exciting to walk in her footsteps.
Life Through a Royal Lens at Kensington Palace
Life Through a Royal Lens is a beautifully curated photographic journey through the life of the Royal Family from the Victorian era to the present day. It’s a deep dive into the Royal Family’s relationship with photography and includes many intimate photos, some taken by family members.
Ever since Queen Victoria and Prince Albert became the first royal patrons of The Royal Photographic Society in 1853, the Royal Family has taken a keen interest in photography. Her Majesty The Queen was a patron of the Royal Photographic Society for 67 years, handing over to HRH The Duchess of Cambridge in 2019.
From the first image ever taken of a member of the Royal Family – Prince Albert in 1842 – through early photographs of The Queen taken by her father His Majesty King George VI and into the present day – this is a real behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of the royals.
One of the photographs that really struck me was of Queen Victoria and her eldest children. The Queen scratched out her own face, because she did not like how she looked. What a loss of history! It is so sad that she did not feel more comfortable in front of the camera. We all need to put ourselves in the picture, and Queen Victoria was no exception.
My favourite photographs included Cecil Beaton’s photographs of The Queen and her family when she was a child, as well as one taken by Lord Snowden of Princess Margaret sitting in the bath wearing a crown. Snowden’s feet and legs are just visible at the edge of the shot and the photo was likely developed in the dark room in the basement of Kensington Palace. I also loved a never before shared photograph of The Queen and Prince Philip taken at the sitting to mark their seventieth wedding anniversary. The way they are looking at each other is just gorgeous.
Of course, there are plenty of photographs of Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Princes William and Harry and their families.
I thoroughly enjoyed Life Through a Royal Lens, and recommend you visit if you are able. The exhibition closes on 30th October 2022 and tickets must be booked in advance via the Historic Royal Palaces website.
Previous Exhibitions at Kensington Palace
Past special exhibitions have included:
Victoria Revealed at Kensington Palace
Victoria Revealed was a wonderful walk through the life of Queen Victoria. 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. It made me think 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 as well as some of her dresses.
The uniform Prince Albert wore on their wedding day bears her loving words embroidered on the back of the collar, on each cuff and on the tails of his blazer.
“Excellent Albert”, “Oh My Angel Albert”, “dearly loved” and more, the words of a bride head over heels in love with her groom. Queen Victoria’s wedding dress was displayed with the words “Oh, this was the happiest day of my life”.
The exhibit was laid out chronologically and gives the feeling of walking through Queen Victoria’s life and I had tears in my eyes by the end.
Diana – Her Fashion Story
Diana – Her Fashion Story, was a special exhibition held at Kensington Palace back in 2018. It was a fabulous journey into the life of a Princess. Many of the outfits were instantly recognisable, and the exhibit was incredibly moving. You really can see how Diana, Princess of Wales, developed into her role, and later, into a new life as a humanitarian and philanthropist.
It was especially interesting to see how her clothes echoed this transformation. There were also designer sketches, photographs, video and tributes to the late Princess.
I also enjoyed the Fashion Rules exhibition back in 2013.
A Walk in Kensington Palace Gardens
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 The Princess Diana Memorial Statue and The Diana Memorial Playground, the Peter Pan statue, the Serpentine Gardens and the Albert Memorial. I particularly like the Queen Victoria statue in front of Kensington Palace, which was lovingly designed by her daughter Princess Louise (Duchess of Argyll) in 1893.
You can spend hours wandering in Kensington Gardens on a fine day. The lake is particularly beautiful. Also, you never know who you might see. A few years ago, the Duchess of Cambridge was photographed walking the family dog there.
Whether you are into history, a fan of the royal family, or just enjoy a good day out, Kensington Palace is a wonderful place to visit. If you’d like to share in the adventure, check out the Historic Royal Palaces website.
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