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Who lived in a Palace like this?
Kensington Palace (London)
Member Name: garymarsh6
Kensington Palace (London)
Advantages: A slight insight into Palace life at Kensington.
Disadvantages: Poor displays that look tacky and quite honestly ridiculous.
Kensington palace is one of the great Royal Palaces to the West of London built originally in the 1600's for the Earl of Nottingham it was known as Nottingham House and only became a palace when King William III decided he needed a house nearer to London than Hampton Court to escape the Smokey atmosphere of London. A private road was built from the Palace all the way to Hyde Park corner and is known as Rotten Row it was used as the private road for the king and was able to carry several carriages abreast and was lit by 300 oil lamps thereby being the first artificially lit roadway in England. It was known as Route de Roi or Kings Road. This can still be found on the South side of Hyde Park. There are a couple of theories as to the meaning of rotten row the first being that there were rat infested cottages along the route or what is more than likely is the type of material used to cover the road as sand covered road which the King would ride along to reach the court of St. James at St. James Palace.
At the front of the palace are the famous black and golden gates where thousands on thousands of flowers were laid after the death of Diana Princess of Wales. These gates are probably the second most photographed and famous gates after Buckingham palace. They are quite ornate and look very nice. Behind the gates in front of the palace is a statue of King William of Orange who bought the house in the first place.
Who lived in a Palace like this?
Originally built for the Earl of Nottingham King William III and Queen Mary were its first Royal inhabitants. Queen Mary II died in the palace from Small pox in 1694 and The King died following a horse riding accident in 1704 and spent his remaining days at the palace. Queen Anne extended the palace which was then grandly updated and extended by King George I. Christopher Wren helped design and extend much of the palace and that is what we see today. There are great reception rooms in the Palace including the copular room the grand staircase for the Queens entrance and the different wings that form the Royal appartments. Henry Wise designed and laid out and the grand parterres, the fruit and vegetable gardens much of which was used to supply the kitchens of the palace. The gardens were and still are a peaceful haven within the palace grounds. The last King to live in the Palace was King George the II who improved the grounds and installed the round pond and created the Serpentine by damming the river Westbourne.
It was here in the palace that Queen Victoria was informed that her uncle King William III had died in the night and she had become Queen.
Most of the appartments are inhabited by minor Royals who lived in the sumptuous appartments for peppercorn rents until quite recently but after an enquiry into the Royal palaces it was discovered that the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent were paying a mere £70 a week to live in one of the five bedroom, five reception roomed appartments and were being subsidised by the Queen for the £10,000 a month rent. They were then forced to pay the going rates.
Princess Diana lived in the apartments 8 and 9 which were combined to make the accommodation for Prince Charles and the young princes at Kensington Palace when they first married. Following their divorce Prince Charles continued to live in High Grove house and St. James Palace whilst Diana and the Princes William and Harry lived in Kensington Palace. It was from Kensington Palace where her body lay overnight prior to her state funeral following her tragic death and the procession left the palace to Westminster abbey via Buckingham Palace passing St. James Palace en route.
My Visit to the palace.
We had not bought our tickets prior to visiting the palace and made our way to the ticket office. Unlike Buckingham palace the tickets are not timed entry tickets so once you have bought them you are free to go in. There was not much of a queue and in fact there was only one person in front of us. The ticket staff were very helpful as I wanted to take advantage of their special Palaces tickets and it allows you to enter not only Kensington Palace but four other sites as well including Hampton Court, Kew Palace, The tower of London and the Banqueting house. I shall explain about the tickets later in the review.
Exhibitions in Kensington Palace.
Queen Victoria exhibition. This is a permanent exhibition tracing the life of Victoria from a young age before she became Queen right through her reign. There are snippets of information about her childhood which was spent under the watchful eye of her mother the Duchess of Kent. How she met and was courted by Prince Albert and sketches they made of each other during their early life together along with musical pieces he had composed for her. There are statues and paintings depicting her life throughout her reign as she is celebrated as being Britain's longest reigning Monarch. One of the things that irritated the life out of me was that there was writing all over the display cases quoting sayings that Queen Victoria had made during her life time. For me it really spoilt the exhibition as they were famous enough sayings for someone who knows about the life ot Queen Victoria. Not only were the cases written on but also on the walls too. I found it quite unpleasant to be honest and did not like it at all.
There are various items of clothing for example embroidered baby booties for her son the Prince of Wales the dress she wore during the first Privy Council meeting she ever held and when she signed her first declaration as Queen signing it simply as Victoria R. Of course there are some of the clothes she wore when she was mourning the loss of her husband following his early demise and herself imposed period of Solitude and isolation. There are also photos and paintings about her life. I always found the life of Queen Victoria quite fascinating. Also on display along with her mourning dress is a black lacy umbrella.
Someone recently said to me that she was quite ugly but that is not true because when she was young she was quite beautiful and is depicted in paintings as being quite pretty. What most people remember of her was during her period of mourning when she was dressed very dowdily in Black and only with white lace bonnets or collars against the black background of clothes she wore.
As it is the Diamond jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II it is fitting to show paintings and photos depicting Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee procession through the streets of London and also of her posing for the camera. She is dressed in mourning dress with the familiar black silk dress and white veil with a small coronet on her head. This is probably the most likely way people remember her. If you are interested in paintings of the Young Queen Victoria you can Google it to prove that she was quite pretty when young.
Princess Diana exhibition.
There was a small selection of cocktail dresses worn by Princess Diana. They were pretty and would have looked brilliant on her but not so spectacular in the display cases. The wall paper on the walls leading to the Diana exhibition was Picasso like caricature type pictures which to be honest I thought was in poor taste really. I did not find this part of the exhibition that interesting although the ladies were quite impressed with her dresses. I am sure I have seen these dresses before somewhere either in Kensington Palace or at an exhibition at her family home in Althorp and I think that there could have been a little bit more about this famous woman who really brought so much attention to our Royal Family.
The Queens state Apartments.
We mounted the Queens staircase which was made especially for Queen Mary II so that she could make a grand appearance down the staircase to greet people or to get out to the sunken gardens which she adored. The steps are quite small steps which meant that she could come down the stairs in a graceful fashion. At the bottom of the stairway there is a small collection of suitcases to show how much baggage would have been necessary on one of her travels. What I absolutely hated was a dead tree which was in the stairwell rising right up to the top floor from which was hung bottles with paper boats in them? I am not sure of the relevance of this to the palace and to me it looked really stupid and not in keeping with the palace at all. Also along the walls of the staircase there were plain paper cut outs of people in long dresses and bouffant wigs which I thought was plain daft. Once at the top of the stairs you enter the State appartments of the Queen which were originally adorned by her collection of delft pottery and porcelain from the Far East.
The Queens appartments are less ostentatious than the Kings apartments some of the walls are covered in wood panelling. There are still some pieces of pottery on the large fire place mantel in the middle of the Queens Gallery. In the middle of this room there is a standing cabinet which showing her love of birds. On the walls are paintings of King William III and Queen Mary II and one of the Tsar Peter the Great who apparently stayed in another house wrecking it beyond manageable repairs. From the Queens apartment there are beautiful views of the gardens. The Queens apartment also contained small chambers that were intimate and were used for her entertaining of the King in small comfortable and cosy surroundings.
The Kings State Apartment.
The grand staircase that leads to the Kings Apartments are more ornate than the Queens Staircase. There are murals all the way up the walls which were painted by William Kent. These paintings are still quite beautiful although seem a bit dull and colourless. The first room you enter is the presence chamber where there is a small worn chair used by the King where visitors would bow and kiss his hand. The next grand room is the privy chamber where the privy council would meet. The room has tapestries all around the sides of the room. The room is quite large and the most beautiful ceiling mural adorns it. The Kings Gallery is quite a long room with red wallpaper from which several very large paintings hang. There is a copy of King Charles I riding into the city on horseback the original is in Buckingham palace in the long gallery. The walls were originally covered in green velvet but today it is covered with red damask wall paper which gives the room a very regal and royal look. The ceiling is covered in gold coloured murals which look really lovely.
From the Kings Gallery you enter some smaller chambers which were more private to the King including a drawing room, dining room and finally the last room is the Kings Bedroom with a four poster bed in it. Unfortunately as you reach this room there is another display of coarsely put together wooden boxes with openings on the side showing pictures of how ordinary people lived in their houses. These boxes were hanging off a dead tree again and seemed pretty daft to me and blocked the view of the bed.
One of the nicest rooms in the house is the copular room. In the centre of the room is a large carved wooden clock on dais. The clock used to play music from such composers such as Handel and Mozart. It was in this room that Queen Victoria was christened as a baby being named Alexandrina Victoria. The room has murals on the ceiling which were painted by William Kent who had spent some time in Italy and brought back his style of painting. It really is quite a beautiful room.
One of the ante chambers contains the Ermine coronation gown of King George II. It is on display in a glass case along with his shoes it was quite heavy gown and needed six pages to carry the train. Another room contains 15 small chairs for each of the 15 children of Queen Charlotte.
The gardens are well kept and quite beautiful with formal parterres to the front and the Eastern sides there are also variety of ponds and an Italian sunken garden. King George II and Queen Caroline spent quite a bit of money on the gardens which the Queen enjoyed immensely they were also responsible for the large round pond and also the forming of The Serpentine which was formed by the river Westbourne and bore holes were sunk to bring more water to the Serpentine which is also known as the long water. There are topiary trees in front of the palace which leads up to a small round pond with a Statue of Queen Victoria which was sculptured by the Queens daughter Princess Louise who lived in Kensington Palace. It is quite a stunning sculpture all in white on an octagonal base in one of the ornamental ponds. The grounds then fade out into the park which in its early years were stocked with deer.
The orangery was built for Queen Anne in 1704 to store the orange trees in the winter months that would have been out on the patio area during the summer months. In theory it is a greenhouse and is now used as a restaurant and you can have afternoon tea here. Inside the Orangery it is bright and painted white and is very pleasant to eat here although the lunch time menu was a bit miserly and quite boring to be honest. We had a smoke chicken, sun dried tomato and radish salad which was ok but not substantial enough for the price charged. Starters range from £6.95 to £9.95 Mains from £11.50 to £15.95 and desserts such as Eaton Mess were £6.95 to £11.50 for cheese and biscuits. This time as the weather was beautiful we ate out on the terrace rather than inside.
At the palace itself they have opened the Palace café where you can have light snacks of sandwiches or cakes and drinks both hot and cold. The prices here are more reasonable than the Orangery but when we were there we wanted to eat at the Orangery anyway besides there were no seats available as it was quite packed.
Admission Prices and times of opening.
The palace is currently open from 10:00 to 18:00 hours are slightly different over the winter months. Last admission is at 17:00.
Adult ticket is £15.95
Concessions for students and OAP's £13.50
Children under 16 years old are free.
You can also buy an annual membership for £43 which allows you free entry to five Royal Palaces including Kensington Palace, Hampton Court. Kew Palace, The Tower of London and banqueting house. You are also privy to certain benefits such as The Key ceremony at the tower and other benefits at the other palaces. I think this is of particularly good value as you are able to go as many times as you like throughout the year.
Would I recommend a visit to Kensington Palace?
If you are interested in history and architecture and art then I would recommend a visit. If you are travelling with children you can make the most of the grounds and adjacent Kensington and Hyde Park with all the facilities that are there. The Park land and lakes, the Serpentine plus the other activities in the park. The grounds of the palace are quite formal and beautiful to look at. Historically it is an important piece of Royal history and is quite fascinating for young and old alike. To see where Queen Victoria was born and grew up waking up to find that she was finally Queen. It was through her command that the palace be open for the public to visit otherwise it would have been turned into a museum or an art gallery.
I was quite disappointed with the way the Palace has been desecrated by the writing on the walls and over the display cases and also the daft displays but then I am sure that others may enjoy that kind of thing. Anyone with a modest interest of quotes by Queen Victoria would have known all these sayings but to have them plastered all over the place really spoilt the visit for me. Some of the writing was in silver which meant that with the sun shining in through the windows it was actually quite difficult to read. It really does not seem like most of the great houses and palaces around the UK and looks bereft of furniture and fittings. If I were to be honest I really would not recommend a visit here unless you really wanted to visit it. Overall I was really peeved with my visit there as we had taken some friends there for the visit and felt it was quite underwhelming in my opinion and they felt the same too. Fortunately we then went on to visit Buckingham Palace that more than made up for the disappointment.
Summary: Worth while making a trip if you have nothing better to do whilst in London.
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