Heads up: This is a whopper of a post. I love palaces. Just love them. And Kensington Palace is the creme de la creme of palaces for me. I will be heading back to London for a short bit (just a day), and I will be stopping by Kensington Palace! Just to walk around, though, not to go through it again. The exhibits are still the same as when I was there last, we are crunched on time, and it’s another £19, so I will hold off on that. However, it is still one of my absolute favourite places in the world. I had the chance to go to four different exhibits at Kensington: Victoria Revealed, Fashion Rules, The King’s Staircase/Apartments, and the Queen’s Apartments. The King’s and Queen’s Apartments are permanently there. As any other historical building, no flash was allowed, but that did not stop me from snapping away to my heart’s content!
Kensington Palace in General
Kensington Palace was built for William III and Mary II in 1689 as a refuge. At the time, Kensington was very much separate from London, thus allowing the family a retreat from the busy world of London. It was originally a country house, and was built up into a palace by Sir Christopher Wren (architect of St Paul’s Cathedral). Workers were working so quickly that at point part of the building collapsed injuring some workers and killing one. A fire also broke out, burning down an entire wing. Fast forward to George I who hired a certain young artist, a William Kent, to jazz up the place. I know I have talked about this book numerous times, but I cannot praise Lucy Worsley’s book Kensington Palace enough. She looks at the Kent period at Kensington, and paints a complete and fascinating picture of life at court. Get it here!
Starting with the Queen’s State Apartments, aka Tour 2. The Royal Apartments were my favourites of the entire palace, the staff of the Historic Royal Palaces did an absolutely brilliant job with these exhibitions. The Queen’s Apartments were mainly for Queen Mary II’s relaxation, so it is a very different feeling from the King’s.
The song bird installation (above) “in the Queen’s Gallery today is inspired by the song birds that Mary kept in the gallery in velvet-trimmed cages.” (27) I don’t think a lot of people realise that they are there, but they caught my eye immediately. After the Gallery, there is a room full of whispered gossip and fragments of stories. If you lean close enough (or sit in the right place), you can hear excerpts of actual letters and memoirs detailing the volatile nature of court.
As mesmerised with Kensington Palace and the Georgian Court as I am, I don’t think that I would have been able to survive. High five to these gentlemen and gentleladies for making it through! I could have easily spent an hour in this room alone, just listening, but I didn’t subject anyone I went with to that. The following installation shows the fate of Queen Anne’s children- her eighteen little hopes. It really illustrates how badly she wanted children, and drives home the magnitude of her loss.
Prince William was the only of her children to survive past toddler-hood. (Is that a word? I made it a word.) He unfortunately passed away shortly after his eleventh birthday, an amazing extravaganza illustrated in this installation. Each individual box has a different silhouette of events and people in his life. So very, very intricate.
(Seriously. LOOK AT THIS CHANDELIER.)
Moving on to the King’s State Apartments. Starting with the King’s Staircase, you and your eyes are immediately informed that this is an important place. This is Kent’s showpiece. The interesting thing about this staircase is that every person painted is a member of staff at Kensington and not an aristocrat. It is difficult to take a good picture of the Staircase with no flash allowed, so this is from Anglotopia:
An interesting thing about this throne? People had to bow to it even when it was empty. The Georgian kings were very much about their etiquette and ceremony. The Presence Chamber impressed upon those who entered just who they were (hopefully) coming into contact with.
The Cupola Room is detailed and exquisite, Kent’s attention to detail is matched by few. This was the first room in the Palace that Kent worked on. Queen Victoria’s christening actually happened here!
The King’s Gallery is an incredibly well-known image of Kensington Palace, the red damask is striking and gives the impression of majesty. All of the picture frames were designed by Kent, and the paintings were collected by him, as well.
A post will be following soon with Victoria Revealed and Fashion Rules! My apologies for going on, but I do hope that you have enjoyed the post. All information comes from Discover Kensington Palace (see citation below).
Murphy, Claire, ed. Discover Kensington Palace. Hampton Court Palace, Surrey: Historic Royal Palaces, 2012.