I’m not easily starstruck in museums or historic houses, but Kensington Palace took me a bit by surprise. I was only planning on going to the royal dresses exhibit, but had a look round the whole palace while I was there. Strolling into the rooms lived in by Queen Victoria and seeing her wedding dress, the room she was born in, her childhood toys and drawings, and insights into her life with Prince Albert was quite moving.
My enduring image of Queen Victoria is of her mourning dress after Prince Albert’s death, i.e. of England’s longest serving monarch as an old lady. So to come to her childhood home and learn bout her life was really interesting.
Away from Queen Victoria a grand staircase leads you up to the Georgian suite of rooms, built by George I who tore down part of the palace to create his own grand state rooms – the Cupola Room, Privy Chamber and Withdrawing Room. It’s kind of a weird thing to be in a Georgian building actually built by the person the style is named after rather than just being ‘in the style of’ the Georgian period.
I followed the children’s tour as I went through, which you can pick up at the bottom of the staircase. This takes you on a ‘choose your own adventure’ style tour as you work your way into the King’s good-books either by playing it cautious and fair or risky and underhand. I tried to shake off my natural cautiousness and chose the latter, but luckily still made it into his illustrious retinue! Phew.
The Queen Anne rooms were perhaps my least favourite, but I really enjoyed the talk I stumbled onto with explanations of James II’s exit in 1688, William of Orange’s arrival in England and why on Queen Anne’s death the Honovarian King George was invited to become king – she apparently hated George, but as she died without an heir (there’s a rather strange exhibit signifying the 17 children she sadly lost) and as the closest Protestant in line to the throne without any dangerous Catholic connections George Ludwig was to become George I of England in 1714.
I really enjoyed my visit, perhaps because I didn’t have massive expectations, but its a lovely palace and really does bring you close to Kings and Queens of England, in the rooms they lived in, and in Queen Victoria’s case, the rooms she grew up in,
Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, London, W8 4PX