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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Regency History’s guide to Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace
Where is it?

Kensington Palace is situated in Kensington Gardens in London.

History

Kensington Palace started life as a Jacobean mansion built around 1605. It was bought by William III and Mary II in 1689 and was transformed into a royal palace by Sir Christopher Wren so that the King and Queen could live away from the London air.

The palace is now in the care of Historic Royal Palaces.

Georgian connections

Kensington Palace  from The History of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Kensington Palace
from The History of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
George I and George II both used Kensington Palace as one of their principal residences, but after the death of Queen Caroline in 1737, much of the palace fell into disrepair.

Neither George III, George IV nor William IV chose to live at Kensington Palace. They granted “Grace and Favour” apartments to courtiers and members of the royal family. These included:

Kensington Palace through the Gold Gates
Kensington Palace through the Gold Gates
Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens
Kensington Palace from Kensington Gardens
Kensington Palace as a tourist attraction

Visiting royal palaces is not a new entertainment. Although not opened to the public until 1899, it was possible to see inside Kensington Palace during the Regency period.

According to Feltham's Picture of London for 1818:
The palace is a large and splendid edifice of brick, and has a set of very handsome state apartments, and some beautiful staircases and ceilings, painted by Verrio and others. He continued: The whole may be seen any day except Sundays, by applying to the housekeeper, for a trifling douceur. (1)
The State Apartments

The King's Staircase

The King's Staircase, Kensington Palace
The King's Staircase, Kensington Palace
The Great Staircase, Kensington Palace, from The History of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Great Staircase, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Queen Caroline's Drawing Room

Queen Caroline's Drawing Room, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819) The Queen's Bedchamber, Kensington Palace, from The History of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Queen Caroline's Drawing Room, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Queen's Bedchamber

The Queen's Bedchamber, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Queen's Bedchamber, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Queen's Dining Room

The Queen's Dining Room, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Queen's Dining Room, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Queen's Gallery

The Queen's Gallery, Kensington Palace
The Queen's Gallery, Kensington Palace
The Queen's Gallery, Kensington Palace, from The History of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Queen's Gallery, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Presence Chamber

The Prescence Chamber, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Prescence Chamber, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Admirals' Gallery

The Admirals' Gallery, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Cupola Room

The Cupola Room, Kensington Palace
The Cupola Room, Kensington Palace
The ceiling of the Cupola Room, Kensington Palace
The ceiling of the Cupola Room, Kensington Palace
The Cupola Room, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The Cupola Room, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The King's Drawing Room

The King's Drawing Room, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The King's Drawing Room, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Learning to play Hazard  in the King's Drawing Room, Kensington Palace
Learning to play Hazard
in the King's Drawing Room, Kensington Palace
The King's Closet

The King's Closet, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The King's Closet, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Queen Caroline's Closet

Queen Caroline's Closet, Kensington Palace, from The History of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Queen Caroline's Closet, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The King's Gallery

The King's Gallery, Kensington Palace
The King's Gallery, Kensington Palace
The King's Gallery, Kensington Palace, from The History  of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The King's Gallery, Kensington Palace, from The History
of the Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Victoria Revealed

Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace on 24 May 1819. It is believed that she was born in the North Drawing Room of her parents’ apartments.

Room in Kensington Palace where Queen Victoria was born with inset plaque stating her date of birth
Room where Queen Victoria was born , Kensington Palace
This room is normally open to visitors, but the Victoria Revealed exhibition is currently closed until the end of June 2017.

Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent, died suddenly less than a year after her birth, and Victoria and her mother were left virtually penniless. They returned to their apartments at Kensington Palace where Victoria was brought up in relative seclusion.

When William IV visited the palace in August 1836, he discovered that the Duchess of Kent had adopted some of the state rooms and altered them to suit herself. William was furious and publicly complained about the liberties his sister-in-law had taken and announced his wish that he would live long enough for Victoria to reach her 18th birthday, thereby preventing the Duchess from becoming regent. His wish was granted; he died just four weeks after Victoria turned 18.

Enlightened Princesses

Enlightened Princesses is the story of three influential royal women: Queen Caroline, wife of George II; Princess Augusta, George III's mother; and Queen Charlotte, George III's wife. This exhibition runs until 12 November 2017.

http://www.regencyhistory.net/2016/04/scottish-artists-1750-1900-2016.html
Close-up of Queen Charlotte from Queen
Charlotte with her two eldest sons by
Allan Ramsay (c1764-9)
Photo taken at Scottish Artists Exhibition
at Queen's Gallery (2016)
Diana, her fashion story

This major new dress exhibition to celebrate the life of Diana, Princess of Wales is currently on display at Kensington Palace and runs until 28 February 2018. You have to queue separately for this exhibition and it is proving very popular, so expect to wait a long time to get in!


This post was expanded and updated after our last visit in March 2017 and updated for new exhibition in June 2017.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy our guide to Kew Palace.

Note
(1) From Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)

Sources used:
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)
Humphrys, Julian, The private life of palaces (Historic Royal Palaces, 2006)
Pyne, WH, The history of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House and Frogmore (1819)

Kensington Palace official website

Photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

4 comments:

  1. I do love George's robe; so dramtic!

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  2. I was so surprised to find it at Kensington Palace - not a palace that George III had much to do with!

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  3. I recall that Diana Spencer's wedding gown was on display in a glass case in Kensington Palace.

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    Replies
    1. I think that must have been part of a special exhibition, Susan. It is normally on display at Althorp House, Northampton, her family home.

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