Hi, my name is Candice, and I’m obsessed with the British Royal Family.
I can’t help it. It’s been one of my obsessions since I was young, probably thanks to Disney and the whole fairytale aspect, which of course, is a gross misrepresentation of what I can only imagine it is actually like.
As a teen I developed quite the crush on William, which I definitely still have, regardless of his recent heart breaking hair loss or the *small* fact that we’re both married. I get teary-eyed thinking about Princess Diana, and watching Harry & Megan’s wedding last year was a definite highlight. So, certainly, this trip to London DURING THE YEAR OF A ROYAL BABY’S BIRTH was extraordinary for me.
In reality, London overwhelmmmmed me. We had limited “off” time and I wanted to see everything. Everything. We were staying next to Hyde Park, with a less than five minute walk to Kensington Palace, so on our last full day in London I made the decision that we were going in – and I’m so glad we did!
I could write a thesis on the history of Kensington Palace, so I’ll just give you some quick highlights:
- Kensington Palace was originally built in 1605 and purchased for King William III and Queen Mary II as a “simple” two-story mansion because their newly assumed residence, Whitehall Palace, was too close to the River Thames and they didn’t enjoy the flooding & fog. They made extensive changes to the palace, which included hiring Christopher Wren (famous London architect). Kensington Palace then became the ‘preferred’ Royal Residence for the next 70 years.
- King George I, who’s apartments we visited, was King of England from 1714 until he passed away in 1727. He was a spender, and while the residents of England may not have been thrilled with it I’m sure glad he was as the rooms were spectacular!
- William Kent was hired to do the decorating in 1722, and is credited with the amazing King’s Staircase, the Cupola Room, and also curated the majority of the art hanging throughout the apartment.
- King George II came into power after his father’s death and until 1760, and made no major repairs or changes to the palace at that time. His wife, Queen Caroline, did however redesign the gardens, including the Serpentine waterway, which you can still see today. After Queen Caroline’s death, King George II neglected the palace and many rooms fell into disrepair, leaving it as palace that was then used for “secondary Royalty”. Generations later, Queen Victoria was born and raised at Kensington, but upon becoming Queen (and because of her extreme upbringing – if you haven’t watched PBS Masterpiece’s Victoria I highly recommend it – nerd alert) she immediately moved to Buckingham Palace which has been the tradition ever since.
- During my visit, the Kings Apartments and the two Queen Victoria exhibits, Victoria: Woman and Crown and Victoria: A Royal Childhood were open, along with a small tribute to Princess Diana’s fashion. However, Kensington Palace (in parts tucked away from public view) is still home today to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka William, Kate, Prince George, Princess Charlotte & Prince Louis!), Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. And, of course, Princess Diana called Kensington Palace home during her marriage to Prince Charles. So – it was a super exciting place for me to visit!! And yes – I did yell up roped off stairwells & down hallways calling to William. A girl has to try.
Now this is an entrance (and my handsome husband)! Stepping into this staircase from the rather plain entrance way is truly like stepping into another world. William Kent is to thank for the gorgeous paintings, including himself in the group as a self-portrait and also the famous “Wild Boy” of Kensington. Between the artwork, the striking black and white tile, and the gorgeous lanterns that lead you up the staircase I could have easily spent an hour ogling!
The Presence Chamber
This would have been where the King received official guests, conducted businesses and made decisions. The ceilings were amazing and I know I would be easily intimidated by anyone sitting in that chair!
The Cupola Room
I mean….there isn’t much to say about this room other than it is unbelievable. The painted ceiling was incredible with the chandeliers. And the clock (cupola?) was so intricate, but I was surprised that I only found one clock face on all four sides – and it was teeny tiny! George II and Queen Caroline were big fans of the composer Handle, and would invite him to perform in this very room. Later, Queen Victoria would be baptized in this room as well.
King’s Drawing Room
The ceiling & the fireplace did it for me in this room. This was the “place to be”, and only those closest to the King made it this far into the palace as it was essentially the after-party room where card games and more were hosted.
This linear room was chock full of amazing 16th and 17th century works of art – and was so light & bright! I loved the weather vane above the fireplace, as I’ve never seen anything like that before and it still worked! It’s also said that the King would use this room to exercise in – I may be more inclined to exercise more if it was in a room like this!
- Get your butt to London!! Honestly – I’ve been dreaming of visiting for so many years now, and while it was great to have excuse it really made me realize that I need to stop thinking and just do. Also – our flights were insane – under $400 TOTAL ROUND TRIP NON-STOP for two of us (and granted….we had 2+ hour delays each way for different reasons….) BUT you can’t fly from Boston to Florida for that price! Keep an eye on flight prices and make.it.happen.
- One thing I realized about myself during this trip is that I need a tour, of some sort. I need to be told what it is I’m looking at, otherwise I go “yea, sure – it’s pretty/old/historic/English looking/cute” and move onto the next thing. I’m not sure if there is a guided tour available for this exhibit, but there are fancy looking red books on stands in each room which were super helpful and noted certain paintings or uses of the room. Don’t skip the books!
- Buying the tickets online saved a few bucks (same goes for many of the Royal Historic places, such as the Tower of London) but they don’t take emails on your phone as “proof” of the tickets – but our hotel concierge was super helpful and printed them out for us! Saving a few pounds at Kensington meant a few more pounds for a G&T at the pub later on ;0)
- Not into going inside the palace? Kensington Garden is a wonderful place for a stroll – rain or shine (we did both – I preferred the shine, but what can you do. Just get a good pair of rain boots for your trip!). Don’t expect flower gardens, but do expect a very peaceful greenspace that makes you forget that you are in the middle of a bustling city.