Kensington Palace was built in 1605 but it wasn’t until the summer of 1689 that it became associated with the British royal family.
William III and Mary II bought the mansion and instructed Sir Christopher Wren to expand it, adding three-storey pavilions at each of its four corners. For the next 70 years, Kensington Palace was the favoured residence of British monarchs, including Queen Anne, George I and George II.George I enlarged the palace with lavish new royal apartments, as well as commissioning the then unknown William Kent to redecorate the state rooms. The final additions occurred in George II’s reign, when Queen Caroline hired Charles Bridgeman to create a landscape garden that formed the basis of the modern Kensington Gardens.
After the succession of King George III, the palace became used for minor royalty, until, in 1819, the future Queen Victoria was born and raised there. It was at Kensington Palace that she was told she would be queen and where she held her first privy council.
Queen Victoria then moved to Buckingham Palace, granting rooms in her old palace to family and retired retainers. Kensington Palace has been home to many royal family members in the 20th century too, including Prince Philip, before his wedding to HM Queen Elizabeth, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Prince Edward. Its most famous residents, however, were HRH Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, who moved there after their marriage in 1981. Princes William and Harry both grew up in the palace and it remained Princess Diana’s home until her death.
But you don’t have to be royal to experience this public palace and private house. We can all walk in the footsteps of Georgian royals, making our way through the magnificent King’s Apartments.We can experience the state rooms, where monarchs received courtiers, ministers and foreign ambassadors, all vying for power and royal patronage. And we can stroll through the gardens to the historic Sunken Garden, much admired by Princess Diana, who loved the garden’s changing floral displays, a tradition which continues today.
Kensington Palace is also where you’ll find Diana: Her Fashion Story, an extraordinary display of the princess’ garments, from glamorous and glittering evening gowns to examples of her 1990s ‘working wardrobe’.
Beautifully curated, this exhibition allows you to follow the princess’ story through her clothes, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances to the more confident ensembles of her later life. It also explores the way in which she navigated her unique position in the public eye, learning to use her image to engage and inspire people and to champion the causes she cared about. Such was the success of the exhibition when it opened last year, that it will continue for 2018 with a changing selection of exquisite outfits, including some items never before displayed at Kensington Palace.
KENSINGTON PALACE KENSINGTON GARDENS, LONDON W8 4PX +44(0)20 3166 6000