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|Town or city||Kensington Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London|
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|Town or city||Kensington Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London|
Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
Today, the State Rooms are open to the public and managed by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces, a nonprofit organisation that does not receive public funds. The offices and private accommodation areas of the Palace remain the responsibility of the Royal Household and are maintained by the Royal Household Property Section.
Kensington Palace, formerly known as Nottingham House, has its origins as a Jacobean mansion built in 1605 by Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham in the village of Kensington. Shortly after William and Mary assumed the throne as joint monarchs in 1689, they began searching for a residence better situated for the comfort of the asthmatic William, as Whitehall Palace was too near the River Thames for William's fragile health.
In the summer of 1689, William and Mary bought Nottingham House from Secretary of State Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham for £20,000. They then instructed Sir Christopher Wren, Surveyor of the King's Works to begin an immediate expansion of the house. In order to save time and money, Wren kept the structure intact and added a three-story pavilion at each of the four corners, providing more accommodation for the King and Queen and their attendants. Wren then re-oriented the house to face west, building north and south wings to flank the approach, made into a proper cour d'honneur that was entered through an archway surmounted by a clock tower. The royal court took residence in the palace shortly before Christmas 1689, and for the next seventy years, Kensington Palace was the favoured residence of British monarchs, although the official seat of the Court was and remains at St. James's Palace, which has not been the actual royal residence in London since the 17th century.
Additional improvements soon after included Queen Mary's extension of her apartments by building the Queen's Gallery, and after a fire in 1691, the King's Staircase was rebuilt in marble and a Guard Chamber was constructed, facing the foot of the stairs. Building abruptly stopped when Mary II died of smallpox in Kensington Palace in 1694, but in the following year William had constructed the South Front which included the Kings' Gallery where he hung many works from his picture collection. In 1702, William suffered a fall from a horse at Hampton Court and was brought to Kensington Palace, where he died shortly after. After William III's death, the palace became the residence of Queen Anne. She had Christopher Wren complete the extensions that William and Mary had begun, resulting in the section known as the Queen's Apartments, with the Wren staircase, known as "The Queen's Entrance", with shallow steps so that Anne could walk down gracefully.
Queen Anne's most notable contribution to the palace was the Sir John Vanbrugh designed Orangery that was built for her in 1704, and a magnificent baroque parterre 30 acre (121,000 m2) garden was laid out by Henry Wise. For Prince George of Denmark, the consort of Queen Anne, Charles Bridgeman swept away the outmoded parterres and redesigned Kensington Gardens in a form that is still recognizable today: his remaining features are The Serpentine, the basin called the Round Pond, and the Broad Walk.
George I spent lavishly on new royal apartments from 1718. Three new state rooms were created known as the Privy Chamber, the Cupola Room and the Withdrawing Room with elaborate ceilings painted by William Kent. Kent finished his commission by painting the King's Grand Staircase. The last reigning monarch to use Kensington Palace was George II who did not undertake any major structural changes to the palace during his reign, though large portions of the palace were locked up and neglected with the death of his wife Queen Caroline.
After George II's death in the palace in 1760, Kensington Palace was only used for minor royalty. The son of George III, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn was allocated two floors of rooms in the palace which he renovated for his use. It was here that his daughter, Victoria was born on May 24, 1819 and her christening conducted in the Cupola Room the following month. The Duke of Kent and Strathearn died nine months after the birth of his daughter and she grew up in the confines of the palace in an unhappy and lonely childhood as a result of the Kensington System adopted by her mother, Victoria, Duchess of Kent and John Conroy her mother's comptroller of the household. It was at Kensington Palace where Victoria was told of her accession to the throne at the age of 18 in 1837. Other royals to live in the palace included the Duke and Duchess of Teck, parents of Queen Mary (grandmother of the present Queen), who was born at Kensington Palace in 1867. Edward VIII called the palace an "aunt heap" because of the number of royal relatives residing there.
By the end of the 19th century, the State Rooms were severely neglected. The brickwork was decaying and the woodwork was infested with dry rot. Calls were made for the palace to be demolished, but Queen Victoria declared that "while she lived, the palace in which she was born should not be destroyed." In 1897, Parliament was persuaded to pay for the restoration which was completed two years later. The State Rooms were opened to the public on the Queen's birthday, 24 May 1899. This began the palace's dual role as a private home to royalty and a public museum. Queen Mary was instrumental in opening the State Apartments as a temporary location for the London Museum (now known as the Museum of London) from 1911 to 1914. The State Apartments were filled with showcases, some containing hundreds of objects including 18th century costumes and dresses worn by Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary. The museum returned from 1950 to 1976 before it moved to its permanent home at the Barbican Centre.
In 1981, apartments 8 and 9 were combined to create the London residence of the newly married Prince of Wales and his wife, Diana, and it remained the official residence of Diana after their divorce until her death. Her sons, Princes William and Harry were raised in Kensington Palace and went to local nursery and pre-preparatory schools in Notting Hill, which is a short drive away. According to Andrew Morton, the palace was a "children's paradise" with its long passageways, a helicopter pad, and many outdoor gardens, including one on the roof where the family spent many hours. Upon Diana's death on 31 August 1997, the gold gates at Kensington Palace became the focus of public mourning with over one million bouquets, reaching 5 feet (1.5 m) deep in places, placed as tribute before them stretching out into Kensington Gardens. Diana's coffin spent its last night in London at Kensington Palace. A tenor bell was sounded at 9:08 am on 6 September 1997 to signal the departure of the funeral cortege. The coffin was carried from the palace on a gun carriage, and was taken to the ceremony conducted at Westminster Abbey.
Apartment 10 at Kensington Palace, the five-bedroom, five-reception grace-and-favour apartment of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, caused a controversy when it was claimed that the couple paid a rent of only £70 per week, though the they fulfilled no official duties on behalf of the Queen. A committee of British MPs looking for "value for the money" demanded they be evicted. The British Monarchy Media Centre denied these reports and stated that, "The Queen is paying the rent for Prince and Princess Michael of Kent's apartment at a commercial rate of £120,000 annually from her own private funds... This rent payment by The Queen is in recognition of the Royal engagements and work for various charities which Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have undertaken at their own expense, and without any public funding." It was announced that from 2010, that Prince and Princess Michael would begin paying rent of £120,000 a year out of their own funds to continue living in the apartment.
On 6 November 2011, it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would move from their temporary residence, of a cottage on the Kensington Palace grounds, to the four-story, 20-room Apartment 1A, formerly the residence of Princess Margaret. After 18 months of renovations at a cost of approximately £2 million, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge moved into the apartment in October 2013. On 28 March 2012, it was announced that Prince Harry had moved his residence from Clarence House to a one-bedroom apartment at Kensington Palace.
The Kensington Palace State Rooms underwent a two-year, £12 million ($19 million) renovation, underwritten with contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as other public and private sources. The re-opening of the palace occurred in time for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee. Visitors now can choose four different routes throughout the palace that offer exhibits incorporating cutting-edge digital presentations, interactive experiences, and even audio sequences that bring to life the gatherings of gowns, antique furniture, and other memorabilia of notable residents of the palace including William and Mary in the Queen's State Apartments, the court of George I and II in the King's State Apartments and the life of Queen Victoria in the rooms most associated with her. The fourth exhibit displays selections of Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe in the 1950s, Princess Margaret from the 1960 and 70s and Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s during their fashion heydays. The grounds of the palace were also renovated with enhancements including eliminating railings, fences, and shrubs that had undermined royal gardener Charles Bridgeman’s original landscaping. Two new public gardens to the south and east of the palace were installed that connect the property to Kensington Gardens. 
The King's Gallery at Kensington Palace, from The History of the Royal Residences by W. H. Pyne (1819)
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