Kensington Palace: A Visitor's Guide
Kensington Palace in London is a working Royal residence. Of great historical importance, Kensington Palace was the favorite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Today Kensington Palace accommodates the offices and private apartments of a number of members of the Royal Family. Although managed by Historic Royal Palaces, the Palace is furnished with items from the Royal Collection.
Today Kensington contains the offices and London residences of The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, The Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Princess Margaret, Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester used to live in Kensington Palace and have their offices there.
Kensington Palace stands at the western end of Kensington Gardens and is perhaps the finest building in the Borough. Originally called Nottingham House, it passed into royal ownership in 1689 when it was acquired by William and Mary.
After William III’s death in 1702 the palace became the residence of Queen Anne. Wren designed the Orangery for her and a 30-acre garden was laid out by Henry Wise. Further extensive alterations were carried out for George I and William Kent painted the elaborate trompe l’oeil ceilings and staircases. The last monarch to live at Kensington Palace was George II, whose consort, Caroline of Ansbach, influenced the development of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. For her, Charles Bridgman created the Serpentine, the Basin and Grand Vista and the Broad Walk.
Early one morning in June 1837 Princess Victoria, who was occupying apartments in Kensington Palace, awoke to the news that she was Queen of England. She immediately moved to Buckingham Palace. Kensington Palace first opened to the public in 1912 with a display of relics and objects relating to the City of London. It attracted 13,000 visitors in just one day. The museum pieces now form part of the collection at the Museum of London. Visitors today can see the State Apartments, the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection that includes outfits from the 18th century to the present day, the Orangey and sunken gardens.
The palace was the London home of Diana, Princess of Wales and is still home to several other members of the Royal Family. The State Apartments and the Court Dress Collection are open to the public and highlights of a visit include the recently restored Kings Apartments and a magnificent collection of paintings. The Court Dress Collection includes a fabulous and very rare court mantua made sometime between 1750-53 and the ‘exploded’ gentleman’s outfit – everything from underclothes to fine lace cuffs and all part of the elaborate costume worn to Court by an 18th century gentleman. The Orangey Cafe adjacent to the Palace serves light lunches and snacks throughout the year.