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Kensington Palace


Kensington Palace State Apartments
Kensington Gardens
W8 4PX
Information line: +44 (0)870 751 5170

Kensington Palace Visitors Information.

Notting Hill Gate, Gloucester, High Street Kensington


Kensington Palace, a rather unpalatial building on the west side of Kensington Gardens, did not become a palace until William III decided the air at Kensington might benefit his lungs. Nottingham House, as it was then called, had been built in 1661 for his Secretary of State, the Earl of Nottingham. The King and Queen Mary moved from Whitehall in time for Christmas in 1689.

Architects Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor were immediately commissioned to make various improvements to and enlarge the Jacobean house. Further modifications were made under the orders of George I. Despite the small rooms, William Kent introduced palatial splendor to the palace with his magnificent trompe l'oeil ceilings, Colen Campbell's Staircase and lavishly decorated State Apartments. Kent, under the instruction of Queen Anne, also laid out the gardens- annexed from a small chunk of Hyde Park. This trick was again utilized by Queen Caroline, wife of George II, who completed the 275 acre Kensington Gardens after adding Round Pond and Long Water.

Kensington Gardens

The Orangery, built in 1695 sporting finely carved interior panels by Grinling Gibbons, and the King's Gallery, built in 1704, were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. It is now open for morning coffee, light lunch and tea.

Queen Victoria, born in Kensington Palace on May 14, 1819, was baptized in the fabulous Cupola Room. She lived here throughout her childhood until June 20, 1837, her accession to the throne. She then made an unprecedented move to Buckingham Palace and ruled her kingdom from there.

The statue of Queen Victoria in front of Kensington Palace
The Palace Today

The state apartments, opened by Queen Victoria to the public in 1899, have since been restored to their former 18th Century grandeur with selected paintings and furniture from the Royal Collection. The painted decorations by William Kent have also been refurbished. The suite of rooms used by Queens Mary II, Anne and Victoria contain some of their personal effects and furniture. It is a bit surprising amid the 18th Century elegance to enter the suite of rooms done entirely in the Victorian style. The last room to be seen by visitors is the Cupola Room, the most splendid of the 1720's additions. Intended to be the main State Room, it is decorated with pilasters and gilded statues of Roman gods and emporers. In addition to the State Rooms, the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection is open to the public.

A wide variety of trees are the backdrop for sculptures by G.F. Watts, Henry Moore and George Frampton- whose fairytale image of Peter Pan is near the Long Water. The statue of William III in front of the south facade was a gift to the subject by Kaiser Wilhelm.

Peter Pan, left, and William III, right

The Palace is home to Princess Margaret, Princess Alice the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Formerly the London residence of Diana, Princess of Wales, Kensington Palace bore the brunt of the tremendous public outpouring of sympathy following her 1997 death in the form of hundreds of thousands of bouquets of flowers piled upon the palace gates.

The Palace Today

Links to my other London Attractions pages

Windsor Castle
Buckingham Palace
St. James' Palace
Hampton Court Palace
St. Paul's Cathedral
H.M. Tower of London
Tower Bridge Experience
Trafalgar Square & Admiralty Arch

Westminster Abbey
St. Margaret's Church
Houses of Parliament

The Royal Family's Official Website
The Royal Palaces Official Website
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Last Updated: 9 May 2004

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