The semblance of royalty cannot be felt better in any other place on earth than in London as the monarchy still exists here, although in name, and there are majestic palaces, parks and gardens galore in the city. Although the Queen stays in the iconic Buckingham Palace when she is in town, many royal family members stay at Kensington Palace which is set in the beautiful Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Many British Royal Family members have stayed here since the 17th century, particularly Queen Victoria and Diana Princess of Wales. At present, its residents include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, th8e Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
The palace is set in beautiful surroundings and is open to the public for visiting the State Rooms and for viewing the many paintings on display and other objects from the Royal Collection. The palace, particularly the State Rooms were in bad shape by the end of the 19th century but on the prerogative of Queen Victoria, restoration work was done and the State Rooms were opened to the public in 1899 on the Queen’s birthday. This was the beginning of the use of the palace both as a Royal residence as well as a public museum. The State Apartments were turned into a temporary location for the London Museum which is now the Museum of London from 1911 to 1914. During this period, the State Apartments were filled with hundreds of objects in showcases, including 18th-century costumes and dresses worn by Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary. The museum moved to its permanent location on London Wall in 1976.
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For seeing the magnificent interiors of the palace, four different routes are available that are ideal seeing the exhibits of cutting-edge digital presentations, interactive experiences as well as audio sequences bringing to life the various gowns, antique furniture, as well as other memorabilia of famous Royal family members who have stayed here. These include those belonging to William and Mary in the Queen’s State Apartments, the court of George I and II in the King’s State Apartments and the rooms associated with Queen Victoria, providing glimpses into her life. A selection of Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe in the 1950s and that of Princes Margaret from the 1960 and 1970s as well as that of Diana Princess of Wales in the 1980s is displayed in the fourth exhibit. The palace grounds were also renovated with eliminating railings, fences and shrubs and two new gardens were also installed.
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The Palace Museum is divided into five areas each providing glimpses into a different era of the palace’s history. You can see photos and dresses that Diana had worn and a new exhibition on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in a small wing. There is an area especially dedicated to Queen Victoria that recreates important dates in history and displays original furniture, works of art and clothing of that time.
While visiting the palace, if you follow the arrows to the Red Saloon you will see the place where the first Privy Council meeting of Queen Victoria was held in 1837. You can see the table around which the meeting was supposed to have taken place as well as the sentence “I was nervous…” written on it. As you move round the rooms, you will see more of these sentences that were probably uttered by her. You will see a photo in the left that displays her wedding dress and the words “Oh, this is the happiest day of my life” written across the glass front.
The original beautiful Jacobean staircase leading to the Queen’s State Apartments is adorned with leather trunks, ropes and flying seagulls. Even in the magnificent Queen’s Gallery, you can see birds that gave the impression that probably the Queen loved birds. However, they look out of place in this historic room.
The staircase leading up to the King’s Apartments is adorned with paintings that may or may not be original but they depict William Kent’s recreation of the court of George 1st. While still enjoying the magnificent rooms, you will suddenly reach the King’s Gallery that has not-too-beautiful modern fake gold decorations hanging from the original chandeliers of the room. Most visitors cannot but help commenting about this abnormality. However, you will find stunning, original features in all the rooms but with unwarranted decorations that detract from the original masterpieces.
The other features of the palace include Queen Caroline’s Cabinet of Curiosities which has a collection of objects from all around the world. The 16th century King’s staircase depicts frescoes of the court of King George 1. The State Apartments of Queen Mary have been preserved over time.
One of the grandest parts of the palace is an Orangery that was built in 1704 and is ideal for having high tea which is a quintessential English tradition. It offers splendid surroundings that feature ivory white walls and Roman pillars that provide the right environment for visitors to relax and get rejuvenated. The impressive building has admirable marble busts in the alcoves and it offers a great English garden feel.
The other important feature of the palace is the Sunken Gardens which was planted in 1908 and offers impressive flower displays throughout the year, making it an absolute must for any flower lover to see. The gardens are in full bloom with a large range of exotic flowers between April and October and they provide an oasis of tranquillity in the midst of the hustle and bustle of central London.