The recently announced underground expansion at Kensington Palace has been misquoted by a number of headlines as providing more space for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; it is, in fact, for the use of Historic Royal Palaces and its visitors.
Incorrectly dubbed an ‘iceberg extension’ for William and Catherine, a new building will be created underneath the Orangery restaurant, which currently serves tourists to the Palace. The two-storey 1500sqft underground space will provide 100 HRP staff with office space, from which the charity conducts its business, access to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, and new kitchens and facilities for the Orangery restaurant.
The Orangery is actually a separate building from Kensington Palace, which is where Queen Victoria was raised, and was the home of Diana, Princess of Wales. It was built in 1704 for Queen Anne, the last Stuart Monarch, who wanted an elaborate greenhouse for her citrus trees; weddings may take place in the red-bricked building.
It appears the charity is vacating some space within the Palace proper, to help accommodate the Cambridge’s and Prince Harry’s staff, as the Duke and Duchess return to London full-time this autumn. Prince George will start school in the capital in September. Clarence House, located on the Mall over two miles away, is currently the location of their offices, which makes things logistically difficult.
HRP lease this space from the Royal Household in return for the upkeep of the other parts of the palace, often a costly job.
A statement from HRP has clarified that ‘Members of the Royal Family have no involvement in this project’.
It also explains that visitor numbers to the site ‘have significantly increased’ since its refurbishment in 2012 and the space is needed to ‘enable us to better serve our visitors and support the exhibitions, education and events programme and curatorial projects at the palace’.
HRP, a charity which receives no government money, is self-funding the expansion. A decision for planning permission at the Grade I listed site is expected at the end of April.