We’re not going to let the major Royal event of 2018 go without a mention. Referring of course to the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the 19 May at St Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. Once married, the couple will live together in the second largest apartment of Kensington Palace – moving out of Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of the palace.
Kensington Palace has been the west London home to many British monarchs and members of the Royal family since the seventeenth century. It was originally built as a Jacobean house in 1605, then came into the ownership of the Earl of Nottingham (hence Nottingham cottage) and subsequently purchased by its first Royal inhabitants King William and Queen Mary in 1689.
William and Mary preferred the country location in Kensington to the damp Thameside conditions at Whitehall Palace – and it took them both away from political life at Westminster, which neither enjoyed. William and Mary ruled as joint monarchs; the last monarchs to do so. Sadly, Queen Mary died of smallpox in 1694 – you can visit the room where she died – also the birthplace of the Old Pretender (father of Bonnie Prince Charlie!). The devastated King William ruled alone until his death in 1702, but was not a popular monarch. It was he who discontinued the practice of ‘showing’ one’s daily routine to the court and public – a French tradition that was popular in England in the seventeenth century. During their reign, William and Mary commissioned Christopher Wren to improve the facilities and appearance of the Palace and this is largely what we see today.
Queen Anne, Mary’s sister (both daughters of King James II) also lived at the palace during her reign. It was here that many of her fifteen pregnancies were aborted – her only son died young at Hampton Court Place, leaving no heir.
King George I lived at Kensington Palace, commissioned extravagant staircases and the beautiful Kings Gallery to attract the London glitterati, but then promptly died upon there completion – leaving it all to his son King George II and his wife Caroline of Ansbach. George and Caroline hosted some renowned parties at the palace!
King George III (the grandson of George II) ignored Kensington Palace, but did leave the furniture and fixtures intact – in darkened rooms – for the next generation. It was his fourth son, Edward Duke of Kent that made Kensington Palace his home. Edward was father to Princess Victoria. Upon her birth in 1819, little did he expect that Victoria would become Queen Victoria at the age of eighteen. Victoria lived at Kensington Palace her entire childhood. You can visit where Victoria was born, baptised, slept and where she held her First Council in the Red Salon.
More recent inhabitants at Kensington Palace have been Princess Margaret, Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales.
Today, it is home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Catherine). And soon to be joined by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It’s likely the Queen will grant Harry a royal dukedom on his wedding day; making them Duke and Duchess, likely of Sussex.
Tip: book tickets on-line and make sure to print them in order to skip the queues. Enjoy your visit.