As far as royal residences go, Kensington Palace in London was somewhat underwhelming. The brick exterior, which is probably one of the reasons why it didn’t seem like all the other palaces in Europe, reminded me more of a very large train station rather than a residence of the royals.
Dating back to 1605, the palace underwent a number of architectural expansions and additions over the years. The first royals who bought the palace as a residence in 1689, were William III (know as William of Orange) and Mary II. Their contributions included the additions of the Queen’s and King’s Apartments as well as other improvements that give Kensington its look today, including the orientation of the main entrance.
The next royal resident was Queen Anne, Mary’s younger sister. She was responsible for the creation of the gardens and the Orangery which today houses a very nice restaurant.
King George I spent lavishly on decorating and added more apartments, while the last reigning monarch to live in Kensington Palace, George II, left the overseeing of the residence to his wife Queen Caroline. She was the one who left a mark on the gardens and the way the are today.
The palace went through a lot of construction and modernization, including extensive restoration from the damage sustained during World War II. Today, it is the official residence of the various members of the royal family, including William and Kate.
The tour gains you access to a small part of the building, including the State Apartments. Our admission also included the Diana, Her Fashion Story exhibit. Unfortunately for us, the Victoria Revealed exhibit was temporarily closed, but we were there in time for the opening of the White Garden exhibition, a flowery tribute to Diana and her time at Kensington. All the plants in the garden are inspired by her life, style and image.
The palace is located in a park of the same name. It is a large, green space that offers a serene oasis in the middle of London. There are a number of parks like that in the city and the locals have been enjoying them for centuries. It’s easy to envision fashionably dressed men and women strolling through the many paths, and children running around under their nannies watchful eyes.
Sometimes when you tour a place or a castle, it is challenging to imagine what living there woud have been like for the people who lived there over the centuries. It is hard to imagine young Queen Victoria or other royal children running around and playing in the numerous rooms of the palace. Maybe it’s because today’s rooms are set up as exhibits rather than residential apartments.
Today’s Kensington Palace is the home to a number of members of the royal family. Their quarters are away from the tourists’ praying eyes and off limits to visitors. You can’t help but wondre if their apartments are full of antique furniture and keepsakes carried down from their ancestors, or are they living surrounded by modern furniture like the rest of us? It would be difficult to imagine any of them hanging out on a comfy couch watching Netflix, but then again, why not? They are people just like us.
I love visiting royal residences. It trully amazes me how much effort and expense has been put into creating such intricate spaces, but also the fact that so many things have survived! Maybe they don’t make them as they used to 🙂
Do you love castles and palaces? What are some of your faves? Let me know.
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