History in the Making

An Historian About Kensington Palace

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!

Discovering Kensington Palace

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!

Side gates of Kensington Palace, London, England

Kensington Palace: Queen’s State Apartments

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.

House of Cards mannequin, introduction to Queens Apartments Tour at Kensington Palace

Suitcases representing the Glorious Revolution at Kensington Palace

Songbird installation in Queens Gallery at Kensington Palace

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.

Sit here to hear the walls whisper at Kensington Palace

Gramophone telling court secrets at Kensington Palace

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.

17 chairs representing Queen Annes lost children

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.

A room filled with boxes of courtier secrets at Kensington Palace


Kensington Palace: King’s State Apartments

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:

Grand Staircase to the Kings Apartments at Kensington Palace
King’s Apartments, Kensington Palace

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.

King's Throne at Kensington Palace

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!

Ceiling of the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace

Precarious house of cards in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace

Mural on ceiling in Kings Apartments at Kensington Palace

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.

Kings Gallery at Kensington Palace

.Fireplace in Kings Gallery at Kensington Palace

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).

Until tomorrow,
The Historian
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Murphy, Claire, ed. Discover Kensington Palace. Hampton Court Palace, Surrey: Historic Royal Palaces, 2012.

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10 thoughts on “An Historian About Kensington Palace”

    • The Cupola room is just STUNNING, and I plan on spending much more time there when I’m in the UK in Feb!! (4 trips to KP and still I go back 😂)

  • I could envisage walking through those state rooms with the photos provided. 🙂 I visited Woburn Abbey at the weekend and its state rooms were reminiscent of Hampton Court and Kensington Palace.
    I remember reading a review of the young prince’s exhibition and the chairs of the ‘lost babies’ of Queen Anne and the reviewer felt that exhibiting her gynaecological history was a bit creepy. Did it make you feel uncomfortable? I suspect if it was me, I’d look at the poignancy of the situation, sadly her gynaecological history was all-important for Anne.

    • I rushed through the Georgian part of Hampton Court Palace, and I am so sad for that!! And Woburn Abbey has been on my list to visit for a while, and this has only bumped it up my list.

      I don’t plan on having kids, so it perhaps didn’t touch me as much as others- it wasn’t creepy to me so much as immensely sad. These miscarriages and lost children represent SO MUCH of Anne’s life, and I think to leave it out of an exhibition about her life would do her a disservice. I thought that the chairs were actually a really creative way to represent those lost little people- it wasn’t graphic or dry like a tombstone or a list might be!

  • Aww – now you’ve got my wanderlust stirring – been too long since I’ve visited this place (not since my honeymoon, if not longer?). Need to figure out how and when I’m going to schlep my kiddos to the UK to show them this and my many many other favorite historical sites there! ?

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