Monday, January 7, 2019

London: A Visit to Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace. I remember seeing it with my mom when we traveled here in 1973. I had recently graduated from college and while we didn't know it, she was ill with her cancer during the trip. She was my Invisible Traveling Companion on my trip with Rick. (I wrote about the experience of having an invisible companion HERE at Modern Creative Life, so I hope you'll stop by and check it out!)

We know Kensington Palace as the home of the modern young royals. Diana raised her boys there, William and Harry both currently live at Kensington Palace in the apartments along with many other royals. And many know it was the birthplace of Victoria, and indeed, the place where she was informed she was now Queen.


Not everyone realizes it goes back much farther in history. In 1689, William and Mary purchased a smaller mansion and asked Sir Christopher Wren to oversee an expansion. He added onto the mansion, turning it into a palace with apartments for the King and Queen. Their time there was short; Mary died of small pox in 1694 and William, following a horseback accident in 1702.


Queen Anne was the next to live there and continue the renovations. (This is the Queen Anne of the film, "The Favourite," much of which is set in Kensington Palace and not filmed there!) The King Georges I and II were the last to live there, with it turning into a home for minor royals after. Not the least of these was Princess Alexandrina Victoria, George IV's niece, who became known as Queen Victoria.


When you enter, you have the option to go to the Queen Victoria section or to the older sections first. We chose Victoria because -- well, she's Victoria, the woman who was never supposed to be Queen and until the recent milestone of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, the longest reigning English monarch.

You walk up the staircase which overlooks the foyer. It was here that Victoria is said to have first seen Prince Albert, who she would later marry.



In this section you will first enter the room where she met with her ministers the morning she awakened and was told she was queen. They were all there -- Lord Melbourne, Lord Wellington, and even Earl Grey, for whom the tea is named. The names of those who gathered there are stenciled on the wall. It also had a few costumes, which I think one could try on. (We didn't!)


One of Victoria's gowns is on display. I liked how they did it with the mirrors surrounding it so one could see front and back.


I also loved this lovely portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, a German artist who often painted the Royal Family. This is a private portrait, commissioned and posed for by Victoria as a surprise for Albert's 24th birthday. She wrote in her journal: 'He thought it so like, & so beautifully painted. I felt so happy & proud to have found something that gave him so much pleasure.' In a later journal writing she referred to it as 'my darling Albert's favourite picture' (Journal, 2 January, 1873). (Source: Royal Collection Trust)


There were also portraits of many of her family members, including -- in the nursery (where I took precious few photos or else they were so bad I deleted them) a family "tree" of sorts listing all her children. Here is one of her daughter Vicky and her husband, Fritz, father of Kaiser Wilhelm II.


(I'm disappointed I didn't photograph more in the nursery. It was her most personal room, the one in which she spent the most time growing up, practically imprisoned by her mother and her mother's advisors, presumably for protection and quite possibly from influences.) It included her dolls and dollhouse, other toys and a cradle. In a way, the most personal of the rooms.

A chapel-like room focused on Prince Albert and included a lovely bust of the prince as well as video. There was also an area in which several of her tiaras were on display.



We were told they were indeed "the real thing"  apart from one earring in the set below. The necklace, earrings and brooch were designed in 1843 by Prince Albert for Victoria, and she wore it to a banquet at Trinity College, Cambridge, to celebrate Albert's appointment as chancellor. She also wore it to her son's christening, paired with lace from her wedding dress. In 1845, Albert worked with jeweler Joseph Kitching to design the tiara. Delighted with her gift Victoria wrote in her diary of her husband's "wonderful taste."


Here's a better look.


They were all lovely.


I should mention here we were touring independently but periodically the palace has what they call "explainers" who do a 15 minute or so talk about the area. We had toured much of the Victoria section before we saw the "explainer." It was well worth returning for, as he truly amplified the context of her reign, history and impact -- especially in saving the palace itself. Plus, he was loads of fun with a great sense of humor. Here's our "explainer" in that first room we visited.


Then it was on to the Kings and Queens apartments. These were exceedingly opulent. Think gold, paintings, silk on the walls.


As one might expect, no expense was spared on the beautifully painted and gilded ceilings.


Kind of a jaw-dropper.


One can imagine many gatherings, some of which the Explainers described vividly.


Take a look at this gown.


Then consider hitting the bathroom in this. Well, first of all, there wasn't a bathroom. So a page would go about to the ladies with a chamber pot, "enter" through the back of the gown and hold the pot so the woman could relieve herself (presumably while sipping champagne!)


I was intrigued with the interesting looking game tables.


I wonder how one played these?!


The Queen's Bedroom was quite elegant.


But my favorite was the Cupola Room.


The room was designed by renowned architect, landscape designer and Palladium-style aficianado William Kent. It was part of the remodel of the King's State apartments in the 1720s and rather than using stone for the columns, he saved money by using timber and plaster.


King George II and Queen Caroline were patrons of George Frederick Handel, who dedicated compositions to them and served as their children's music teacher. One can imagine elegantly dressed guests dancing the minuet and country dances in the Cupola room. (In the photo above you can see the shadows of dancers of the past through the video projections.) Meanwhile the Queen, noted for her love of gambling, took on guests in the Drawing Room.


At the center of the room is the Temple of the Four Grand Monarchies, a clock that represents the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian and Roman dynasties and that originally played music by Handel, Arcangel Corelli and Francesco Geminiani.


 There were, of course, numerous artifacts, paintings and pieces of decorative art. I have to say that although this seems simple by the more ornate standards of most of the rooms, I really did love this part.


I've gone on long enough. Lest you should think our visit to Kensington Palace only featured things from several centuries past, the next post till take you on a more recent recollection.


See you soon!

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40 comments:

Valerie-Jael said...

What a lovely place to visit, I can imagine you there, drinking it all in and enjoying the wonderful pieces that are shown there. This is really history made accessible. Have a great week, hugs, Valerie

Christine Graves said...

Wow, beauty at every turn. Only thing better is if I get to go see it for myself. Thanks for giving me a arm chair tour!

Jean R. said...

What an interesting place to tour. Victoria was a beautiful young woman in that portrait and it sounds like she and her husband really loved/liked each other which isn't always the case with royalty.

Pamela said...

Don't you love the "explainers" who bring the past alive?

La Table De Nana said...

I bet you love it all Jeanie..especially imagining your beautiful companion with you:)

Iris Flavia said...

Comments are closed at your other blog, but I just wanted to let you know... beautiful post, you have me in tears.
That darn cancer.
Good thing you didn´t know in those two weeks and could gather beautiful memories like that.

I never knew Kensington Palace was that huge, oh, my!
And the interior, amazing.

LOL, I thought Earl Grey is but a tea´s name! The mirrors is a clever thing, too!
Impressive rooms and such a high ceiling! I wonder how they kept it warm in winters back then!
You made me laugh with your concerns about the bathroom - the solution is a bit... oh, my!
Thank you for the tour, Jeanie.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

What fun! After being in love with Victoria and The Crown I am intrigued by Kensington Palace. Seeing the place is on my bucket list along with all of London.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I love that you went to London with your mom. I hate that she died at such a young age and I can see how she was a travel companion with you on this trip as I am sure so much of what you saw brought back memories of your time in London with her. I've never taken a trip with mom - maybe that is something we will do someday, perhaps with Paul is toe? My dad's ankles bother him too much to enjoy a trip with lots of walking but I think my mom would enjoy going somewhere with me - maybe to Scotland as that's part of her heritage (her maiden name is McDougall).

London was my first trip outside of the US. I went during spring break of my sophomore year of college to visit a friend that was studying abroad. It was such an amazing trip. We visited Kensington Palace but all I remember from that visit was seeing Diana's gowns! We were pretty obsessed with her so that was a 'must see' on that trip! I knew way less about the royals at that time than I do now. I learned so much from watching "The Crown" and am anxiously awaiting the next season, although I will miss see Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth as she did such an excellent job!!

Regine Karpel said...

Thank you.

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Oh Jeanie.. what a fabulous visit! Love the bathroom remark! Have a happy, healthy new year!!

Lilbitbrit said...

Such a lovely view of the palace. Also that you went there with your mum, such memories. That's poignant.

David Gascoigne said...

Kensington Palace certainly has a good deal to tell about British history and the difference in the lifestyles of pampered royalty and the common man. One thing I have never been able to fathom is the worldwide (and ongoing) fascination with Diana, and especially by Americans who overthrew a monarchy so many years ago. Mind you, I think that Trump is trying to re-establish it. Now there will be a dynasty for you! But I doubt that Mar-a-Lago will have the same appeal as Kensington Palace.

Lauren @ My Wonderfully Made said...

How absolutely fascinating! Sure can't imagine living in a place like that! But my favorite was the "bathroom" part. YIKES!! Don't think I'd want some stranger parting my gown and inserting a chamber pot hahahahaha!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I was really enjoying the 'walk in the park' but then I looked up here and got interested in these photos! How amazing! You sure got to do and see a lot on your trip. I'm so glad you are sharing...I doubt if I ever get to see this in person! Sweet hugs!

Sandra Cox said...

We saw the exterior but didn't realize you could tour it.
Great historical info. Thanks.

William Kendall said...

What a grand place! I wasn't aware you could tour it either. Beautiful shots.

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, the photos and commentary make me feel like I was riight there. I am so enjoying my armchair travel with you! Looking forward to the next post.

Marilyn Miller said...

Thank you for sharing this. We debated about this tour and even went in to buy tickets, but my legs were hurting so much we skipped it. Now I am more sad to not have seen it. Your pictures help. I did love walking the grounds and gardens and we have had tea in the Orangerie. It is a wonderful place to visit.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Thanks for the tour in this post and previous ones as we are looking forward to a visit across the pond possibly in the next year or so. It was great to see the palace interiors. i especially enjoyed the lunch selfie too.

Tracy said...

Oh, this is lovely! I've always loved Kensington Palace! It's just such a beautiful place, and the gardens, the history--sooo much to love! That portrait of Victoria by Winterhalther for Albert has a dreamy almost bedroom like quality. The tiaras and jewels are STUNNING! The gowns "back in the day" certainly presented a logistics problem when "nature called"... haha! How fun to go back through your photos, Jeanie... Last time we were in London we stayed in the South Kensington area and loved it... Oh, to go back! :) ((HUGS))

Rita C. said...

Love the tour, thanks! I always laugh when I see those who hooped dresses. I say you could set a table on those!

Running on empty said...

Thankyou, Jeanie, I didn’t know one could go right into Kensington Palace. I presume the current crop of royals have their own entrances. Queen Victoria’s gown is back in fashion with that neckline. The jewels are pretty wow.

Joanne Huffman said...

I enjoyed reading about your trip with your mom; how nice to have her in your heart with this trip with Rick. I also really enjoyed seeing Victoria’s jewels. I don’t usually like the royal jewels; but these are lovely.

Victoria Zigler said...

Thanks for taking us on your tour with you.

Also, thanks for answering my unasked question regarding ladies going to the bathroom in those gowns. Is it bad it's actually something I'd wondered about?

thepaintedapron.com said...

I feel like I've had quite an advanced history lesson Jeanie, wow, thank you for sharing and teaching me so many amazing things. The art is stunning, the size of the palace unimaginable, and the dresses and the chamber pots not easily forgotten!
Jenna

The French Hutch said...

oh Jeanie, what a wonderful tour through Kensington Palace with you! I've been there, twice, once with my husband, sister and brother in law. Oh how we enjoyed it and then once with my bestie. The first visit was early March and we walked in from the park in back, covered in daffodils. I will never forget that, so beautiful. I really enjoyed your photos, some shots I remember and others I don't remember (think I need a return visit).You really did get some great photos. Now, I'm going back for another look, don't want to miss anything.

Hena Tayeb said...

Oh wow so amazing. So much history. Thanks for sharing.

http://www.henatayeb.blogspot.com

Sandra Cox said...

I agree with Princess/Queen Victoria. Prince Albert did have excellent taste.

Mary K.- The Boondocks Blog said...

Jeanie this was such a wonderful recap. Thank you for that since I don't expect to be going to England anytime soon. I really enjoy all this info about the royals and am a bit obsessed with them. My daughter and I watch all these period movies and series constantly. Now I need to catch up with the Favorite. Have you seen the series on Netflix with Queen Elizabeth?

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Jeanie, another beautiful part of your trip that you have shared with us. Thank you for all of it. Of course, the "potty" story stands out in my mind as a great highlight, but then I clicked over to your other post and that was so beautifully written. We are so lucky to have the great memories of our mothers and such a blessing that you had that time with her. They certainly will be forever be in our hearts..Happy New Year..xxoJudy

carol@The Red Painted Cottage said...

Jeanie, I must get to London, England and take this tour! Ever since watching The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS, plus more; I've been fascinated with the English monarchy.

Marie Rayner said...

Oh Jeanie, we went to Kensington Palace several years ago when we were down to London for a weekend. I don't remember seeing half of what you have shown us. We must have missed the best bits. I did have a nice drink in the coffee shop and bought myself a fab umbrella! I have enjoyed your photos very much. It makes me want to go back and see it properly! xoxo

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Thank you so much for taking me on such a lovely tour of the Palace. Love Victoria's gown (with the mirrors behind) and all the other beauties.

Sandra Cox said...

That first gown of Queen Victoria is beautiful.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I don't know how I missed this post, but I'm here now. This was wonderful and I really enjoyed it. While I was researching the Kings and Queens AB I made for my friend, I remember reading the portrait Victoria made for Albert was rather scandalous, since women were never seen with their hair down in those days. No one saw it for years except Albert, Victoria, and the artist.

This brought back wonderful memories for me as my research went in depth with Victoria. I was so happy to see you were there and I look forward to more of this fabulous place one of these days. So grateful for you and your photos, too.

I wanted to let you know about a comment you left me about the paint chip trees and you turning them into place settings for Christmas next year. I suggest you glue two trees together back to back before you cut the trees. There is writing on the back of each paint chip that would distract from the beauty of the place setting. The large Behr ones are the best and you get them at Home Depot.

My name is Erika. said...

I haven't visited Kensington but it is now on my list if and when I ever get back to London. Wow. What a fascinating place. There are so many cool things to see, but especially the Queen Victoria dress and jewels, as well as that other dress. The "potty" story is interesting. Can you imagine being the page who had to walk around with the pot? Hugs-Erika

Liz@ HomeandGardeningWithLiz said...

Thank you for the tour at Kensington Palace! It’s hard to imagine what’s inside so I enjoy seeing the interiors. The jewelry and clothing are intriguing especially that crazy extra wide dress! The thought of someone bringing a chamber pot to use while in that gown is hard to imagine! Looking forward to your next round of pictures at Kensington Palace!

Red Rose Alley said...

How exciting that you visited Kensington Palace. Such a grand place, isn't it? And so much history. I really like the canopy in the bedroom. The artwork on the ceilings is magnificent. And what really caught my eye is the emerald set and tiara, as Emerald is my birthstone. : )

What a wonderful experience you and Rick had visiting this place, Jeanie.

~Sheri

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Katie Mansfield said...

You got to take pictures. There was a lot in London that said no photography. I love the gown.

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