Thursday, June 27, 2013

Building of the Week: Kensington Palace

Oh, dear.  Yesterday was just one kerfuffle after another.  I'd promised you a "Treat of the Week" on Wednesday, but one of the many kerfuffles was a loss of electricity.  And, so, I will be giving you this week's "Treat of the Week" tomorrow as part of the usual Punch-filled day of fun.  After all, Mr. Punch does love a good treat, and this week's, I'm sure, would suit him nicely.

In the meantime, I thought we'd take a look at Kensington Palace...  

Let's begin.  

Nestled elegantly in Kensington Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England, Kensington Palace has been the home to many members of the Royal family for over three hundred years.

Most recently, the palace has served as the primary residence of the late Diana, Princess of Wales as well as her children, Princes William and Harry, and the late Princess Margaret. Presently, the palace is the comfortably, yet lavish, home of The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Since for the last century, the palace has been the residence of many a female member of the Royal family, Edward VIII referred to Kensington as “The Aunt Heap.” He was really quite unpleasant, I think.

Nottingham House
Originally, a rather square Seventeenth Century mansion sat on the grounds. Initially called Nottingham House, it was the home of the Earl of Nottingham. The land was sold by Nottingham’s heir to King William III in 1689. At that time, Chelsea was actually still quite undeveloped and King William wanted to live there so as to be away from the smoke and soot in the air in London proper.

Sir Christopher Wren expanded the house considerably, re-orienting it to face West, changing the floor plan, adding ornate staircases and galleries, and altering the gardens to make it a more fitting residence for the King. The house was renamed “Kensington House” and still had not achieved palatial status.

The Orangery
For the next seventy years, Kensington House was the favored Royal Residence and remained relatively unchanged until 1704 when Queen Anne added the “Orangery” (essentially a greenhouse or conservatory), had the gardens made more formal and commissioned Wren to create a new grand staircase and ceremonial entrance.

By 1718, King George I had begun to occupy the house which had attained the status of palace. He spent a small fortune in redecorating the Royal apartments and commissioned William Kent to create lavish frescoes and murals for the state rooms.

George I's Interior, 1722
George II was the last reigning monarch to live at the palace. Thereafter it was used as a residence for minor members of the Royal Family. It was the girlhood home of young Queen Victoria and her mother and also the birthplace of Mary of Teck.

In the 1980’s a newly married Prince Charles and Princess Diana made the palace their residence and it remained Diana’s home after divorcing Charles. Today, it still houses members of the Royal Family, but also serves as a museum and opens its state rooms to the public. Kensington Palace is often the location for special exhibitions hosted by the Historic Royal Palaces Charity—such as the current exhibit of Royal wedding gowns.  Last year, the palace was  transformed into "The Enchanted Palace" as part of a special display of Royal artifacts. 

For more information about Kensington Palace, visit the official Web site of the Historic Royal Palaces which features a rather nifty bit of animation. 

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