Would you ever imagine that a Royal residence could be described as ‘wacky’? Most likely not, but the newly re-opened Kensington Palace could be described as exactly like that. The Palace has just undertaken a 2 year £12 million restoration project.
The building has an ancient and distinguished architectural and historical lineage. The earliest part dates from the Jacobean period and was a remodelling of Nottingham House in 1689 by William and Mary, who wanted to escape the dampness of Whitehall, for the sake of the asthmatic king. Extended and partially re-built from 1718 by George I, our first Hanoverian King, the Palace continued to play an important role in the life of many of our best known royals.
Kensington Palace was the lonely childhood home of Queen Victoria, who was actually born there in 1819. The restored Palace has a permanent exhibition, Victoria Revealed, which provides an intimate portrait of her life. Her passionate love for Prince Albert is revealed through personal objects, journals and early photographs. In more recent years, it has been best known as the London home of Princess Margaret, and Lady Diana and Prince Charles during their marriage in the 1990s. The next most famous residents will be the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who will also make the Palace their London base.
So Kensington Palace breathes and shimmers with history. It is this history which is re-told in a highly imaginative albeit whimsical way. ‘Whispering walls’ quite literally murmur stories of the secret and public lives of previous residents. Relax on a window cushion, and the walls will speak to you, re-telling stories of the past as they’ve seen it parade through the building and all is slowly, subtly revealed by the whispering spirits of this ancient building. Intrigued? Well you might be, so do visit this stylish palace which offers a very modern take on its illustrious historical past. But be warned, you need to listen carefully or you’ll miss the plot!
Open daily, 10:00 – 1:00 until 31st October (1000 – 1700 from November onwards). Tickets can be booked online and children under 16 go free with a paying adult. A combined historic Royal palaces ticket is also available. On two Fridays in June and July, the Palace will be open until 10 pm for an especially atmospheric visit. Go to www.hrp.org.uk for more information.
Outside the Palace further delights await with the restored sunken garden, created in 1908 after a 17thcentury Hampton Court garden much admired by Pepys. Queen Ann’s Orangery, dating from 1704, is also a highlight, where you can now eat lunch in style! On the doorstep of Kensington Palace lies Hyde Park, 350 acres of open parkland also steeped in history. Acquired from Westminster Abbey by Henry VIII, the park has featured prominently in the history of London ever since.
Exhausted? Retire to Patisserie Valerie’s in Kensington High Street for a well-earned cup of tea and a delicious cake. And then home to your London Loving Apartment to relax, and refresh for the evening ahead.