One of the most popular attractions in London with 394,000 visitors last year, Kensington Palace has centuries of history to tell…
1 – Kensington Palace was built by William III and Mary II to help ease the King’s asthma outside of the capital. It was known as ‘Nottingham House’ originally, as the Jacobean house was owned by the Earl of Nottingham.
2 – Numerous treasures have been found within the palace walls: works by Henry VIII’s court painter, Hans Holbein the Younger, were found in a drawer at the palace. Queen Caroline, consort to George II, was thrilled with the discovery.
A book of drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci, thought to have belonged to Charles I, was also unearthed in 1770 during the reign of George III.
3 – Princess Margaret lived in Apartment 1A, which now belongs to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Diana, Princess of Wales, occupied Apartment 8 with her sons, while The Duke and Duchess of Kent have Wren Cottage, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester Apartment 1, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Apartment 10. There are rumours Princess Eugenie may move in if she marries her long-term boyfriend. Have a look at the layout here.
4 – George II was fond of this as a residence. An evening of cards saw him and friends get a little rowdy: Countess Deloraine’s chair was pulled away as she sat down – which the King found hilarious. She did it back to the King, who -suffering from haemorrhoids – didn’t appreciate the joke from his humiliated friend.
5 – This is where Princess Alexandrina – the future Queen Victoria – grew up, first met Prince Albert, and was told she had become Queen after the death of her uncle, William IV at the age of 18.
6 – The King’s Apartments are deliberately quite bare. Courtiers would queue up to try to have an audience with the King, and so furnishing was kept minimal to allow space for crowds.
7 – Royals don’t just live in the Palace – there are a few cottages within the grounds which are inhabited by members of the Royal Family. Nottingham Cottage, north of the complex, was where Prince Harry lived as a bachelor and, before moving to Frogmore Cottage at Windsor with wife Meghan, and then to the USA.
8 – Kensington was first opened to the public in 1899, after an ageing Queen Victoria ordered the palace to be restored. Historic Royal Palaces now runs the parts of the Palace open to the public, focussing on Queen Victoria’s and Diana, Princess of Wales’ stories. You can buy tickets here.
9 – The walls of Kensington Palace have seen numerous births and deaths. Queen Mary II died of smallpox here in 1894, while her sister, Queen Anne, suffered numerous heartbreaking miscarriages and stillbirths, ending her days at Kensington. But Princess Victoria May of Teck, who became Queen Mary (consort of George V) was born at the palace, as was Queen Victoria.
10 – The statue of Queen Victoria which sits outside of the palace was created by her daughter, Princess Louise. It was unveiled in 1893, when the palace was in a state of disrepair. Louise won a public competition to craft a likeness of her mother, but her work was initially anonymous.