Kensington Palace in London is a working Royal residence. Of great historical importance, Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Today Kensington Palace accommodates the offices and private apartments of a number of members of the Royal Family. Although managed by Historic Royal Palaces, the Palace is furnished with items from the Royal Collection.
Kensington Palace stands at the western end of Kensington Gardens and is perhaps the finest building in the Borough. Originally called Nottingham House, it passed into royal ownership in 1689 when it was acquired by William and Mary.
The King's asthma dictated a move from Whitehall Palace to the healthier air of Kensington. Sir Christopher Wren was engaged to design improvements to the house and the Clock Court and the South Front, including the 96-foot Long Gallery were added.
After William III's death in 1702 the palace became the residence of Queen Anne. Wren designed the Orangery for her and a 30-acre garden was laid out by Henry Wise.
Further extensive alterations were carried out for George I and William Kent painted the elaborate trompe l'oeil ceilings and staircases. The last monarch to live at Kensington Palace was George II, whose consort, Caroline of Ansbach, influenced the development of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. For her, Charles Bridgman created the Serpentine, the Basin and Grand Vista and the Broad Walk.
Queen Victoria spent her childhood at Kensington Palace and it was here in June 1837, that she learned of her accession to the throne.
Diana, Princess of WalesThe palace was the London home of Diana, Princess of Wales and is still home to several other members of the Royal Family.
The State Apartments and the Court Dress Collection are open to the public and highlights of a visit include the recently restored Kings Apartments and a magnificent collection of paintings.
The Court Dress Collection includes a fabulous and very rare court mantua made sometime between 1750-53 and the 'exploded' gentleman's outfit - everything from underclothes to fine lace cuffs and all part of the elaborate costume worn to Court by an 18th century gentleman.
The Orangery Cafe adjacent to the Palace serves light lunches and snacks throughout the year.
In 1689 William III bought the Jacobean mansion originally known as Nottingham House from his Secretary of State, the Earl of Nottingham, and commissioned Christopher Wren to extend and improve the house. This included the construction of Royal Apartments for the King and Queen, a council chamber, the Chapel Royal and the Great Stairs. A private road was laid out from the Palace to Hyde Park Corner, wide enough for three or four carriages to travel abreast down it, part of which survives today as Rotten Row. Until the death of George II in 1760, Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns.
Queen Victoria was born and brought up in the Palace and news of her accession in 1837 was brought to her there by the Lord Chamberlain and the Archbishop of Canterbury. It had been expected that Victoria would reign from either Kensington or St James's Palace but almost immediately she moved to Buckingham Palace and never again stayed at Kensington.
Queen Mary (grandmother of the present Queen) was born at Kensington in 1867. The Duke of Edinburgh stayed there in his grandmother's apartment in 1947 between his engagement and his marriage.
Today Kensington contains the offices and London residences of The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, The Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Princess Margaret, Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester used to live in Kensington Palace and have their offices there.
Historic parts of Kensington Palace are open to the public. Kensington Palace is also home to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, with items of Royal, ceremonial and court dress dating from the 18th century to the present day.