Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Kensington Palace - At Home With The King.

Kensington Palace and grounds - in its 18th century heyday.
The surprising thing about Kensington Palace is its sense of intimacy. In last week's post I mentioned the Grand Staircase which is awe-inspiring but because of the cheeky, boldness of the Georgian mural, rather than its scale. At the top of the stairs, you turn right to enter the King's Presence Chamber - similar in size to a modern sitting room - rather than some huge, palatial chamber. However, this is where the comparison ends because the decoration is gorgeous and gaudy, leaving the visitor in no doubt they are in entering into a royal presence.
The gilded chair on which the King sat to recieve courtiers.
This one belonged to George II's son, Frederick.
 But then the palace plays a trick - the deeper in you go the larger and grander the rooms become. In the Georgian court you either had to be a person of great importance, or else afford ever increasing bribes, to progress further.

The room that most took my breath away was the Cupola room. It is overwhelmingly opulent with its fantastically painted ceiling with the Star of the Order of the Garter as the centre piece. The décor was designed by William Kent (see last week's post) and his first commission for George I.
The ceiling in the Cupola Room
(Thank you KP for allowing photos, but alas not flash photography.)
Kent was a controversial choice because his art was different - and in time came to set the tone for the Georgian era. His greatest rival, Sir James Thornhill was most put out that Kent won the job and his friends tried to undermine the young artist by casting aspersions on the quality of his work. They accused Kent of cutting costs by using inferior quality paint, especially when it came to the gilding - modern tests proved their claims to be false.
The Cupola Room - it was here Victoria was baptised.
It was in the Cupola Room that the future Queen Victoria was baptised. Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, were joined by the Prince Regent (later King George IV). It was George who decided the baby's name: Alexandrina (after the Russian Tsar) Victoria (after her mother).

Statue of Victoria in her coronation robes, in front of Kensington Palace.
Victoria was born at the palace.
As the size of the rooms increases, so they become less personal. Although a grand chamber, the King's Gallery lacks a human feel, although many events of historical importance took place here. Today the gallery is hung with red damask, which in 1725 replaced the original green velvet.
The King's Gallery, as it is today.
The first monarch to use the gallery was William III - he received his spies and planned military campaigns here. He even had a wind dial linked to the room so he could see if the winds were set fair for an invasion fleet to cross the English Channel. He held his 50th birthday party here…and it was also said to be the room where he caught the chill that eventually killed him.

The statue of William III outside Kensington Palace.
George I filled the gallery with fabulous paintings, of which the most famous are Tintoretto's "The Muses" and "Ester before Ahasuerus" and Van Dyck's portrait of Charles I. When King George inspected the room shortly after its completion he was said to be 'well pleased.'
The fireplace in the King's Gallery.
The future Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace and as she grew into a young lady evidently she needed more space. Her mother's solution was to divide the king's gallery into three. The alteration caused consternation but Victoria records her delight in her journal:
"…three lofty, fine cheerful rooms. my sitting room and very prettily furnished indeed."

Later in the 19th century the room was restored to its previous design.
Widget says "A palace isn't a home without a cat...or five."


  1. Kensington Palace is very nice and that we can see in the photographs. I like this palace because it has very huge space and also provides world class facilities.

  2. Hi,

    Lovely ad informative piece. The walls: silk or wallpaper? ;)


    1. Hi Francine,
      Officially the wall covering is described as 'damask' - which to me suggests embossed fabric, rather than paper.
      Great question!
      thanks for popping by,
      Grace x

  3. I asked because we have fabric on our walls, and panelling below! ;)

  4. HI Grace Elliot

    You have very well describe about the Kensington Palace. great work



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