A look inside the newly refurbished palace after its £12 million renovation
- 17 May 2012
- by Barbara Boyle
Kensington - a palace for everyone'. This is the title and motto of the recently completed project to restore
Kensington Palace to its former glory. Glory that has come with a £12 million price tag and a two-year wait - still the investment has certainly paid off! The
Golden Gate on the southern front - witness in 1997 to the outpouring of grief for
Princess of Wales, in the form of a sea of flower bouquets - used to be firmly shut. Now the gates have been flung open to the public and you are free to wander in. The entrance to the palace on the eastern facade is equally welcoming with new landscaping reconnecting the palace to
Kensington Gardens. For decades the palace was hidden behind a barrier of fences and overgrown shrubbery, not unlike the residence of
The Prince Charming, in this case, was Historic Royal Palaces - the independent charity which oversees five Royal Palaces in London. They obtained funding partly from the Heritage Lottery Fund and partly from charitable trusts and private donations. Work started in 2009 and was completed this year in time to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.
Inside, in the rooms entitled Victoria Revealed (one of three permanent exhibitions at the palace) you will see live film footage of the procession for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The refurbishment of Kensington Palace celebrates two long-lived and popular monarchs: Victoria and Elizabeth II.
Our Queen, however, still has her consort; Victoria lost hers to typhoid fever in 1861 when they were both 42. The death of her dear Albert plunged Victoria into obsessive grief and the Mourning Room is devoted to this 'magnificent obsession'. One of the most precious objects on display is a novel by Sir Walter Scott that Victoria was reading to Albert as he lay dying. After his death, she placed a mourning card in the book to mark the last page she read to him.
But life before his death - with the exception of a lonely and isolated childhood - was extremely happy for Victoria. A room called Falling in Love recounts Victoria's abiding love for her adored husband. Loving extracts from her diaries are woven into a carpet specially commissioned for this room. Childhood and Family is the title of the room in which it is believed Victoria was born and which she shared with her controlling mother throughout her childhood. The Red Salon (below) is where she met her Privy Council for the first time, on the morning of June 20, 1837 when she became Queen at the age of 18. And there is the Stone Staircase where she first set eyes on Albert (the one in the movie, The Young Victoria, was filmed at a different, much grander location).
Each 'route', or set of rooms, is filled with intriguing displays. Some of the rooms are breathtaking in their magnificence. The King's State Apartments, in particular, compare favourably with any grand Italian palazzo. In 172, George I commissioned William Kent, a young artist recently returned from his studies in Italy, to undertake the interior decoration. He won the commission over his more established rivals because he came in with the lowest quote. Proving that even back then, home owners had to shop around for the most reasonable price!
The curation throughout this new exhibition is thoughtful and tasteful, interactive displays do not detract from the grandeur of the surroundings. It stands to reason that there is much to take in: for 300 years royalty inhabited this palace, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have just moved in! We recommend that you spend the day there, though we can't guarantee that you'll hobnob with Will and Kate - they live in Princess Margaret's former residence, which has a private walled garden, so sadly no snooping! Enjoy the incredible heirlooms instead, such as these adorable silk baby shoes belonging to Queen Victoria. Bet Victoria Beckham would like to get her paws on some just like these for Harper Seven!