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10 Interesting Facts and Figures about Kensington Palace You Might Not Know

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Kensington Palace, whose first royal residents were King William III and Queen Mary II, was built in 1605 by Sir George Coppin and was known as Nottingham House after Heneage Finch, the First Earl of Nottingham, purchased it in 1619. It became a royal residence in 1689 when William and Mary purchased it from the Second Earl, Daniel Finch. It has always been the home of one royal or another, even after George III left it for Kew Palace, most recently being the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. With such a history to the residence, you can be assured that many interesting facts can be found within its walls.

A Cure for What Ails You

Queen Anne moved into Kensington in part due to her husband, Prince George’s, asthma. During that time in the 17th Century, Kensington was surrounded by countryside and greenery, being a lot more rural than the Borough of Kensington is today. Their belief was that the fresh air would be good for him, whereas they felt that the Palace of Whitehall was “grimy”.

Half and Half

While half of the palace has long been divided into apartments for members of the royal family, the other half is open to the public as a tourist attraction. The palace is open to visitors from March through October and again from November to February. There are wonderful displays within the palace from all eras of its history.

Halted Renovations

William and Mary hired famed architect Sir Christopher Wren to begin renovating and expanding Kensington in 1689. However, when Mary died of smallpox in 1694, the construction halted. A few years later, William completed the renovations, including the King’s Gallery.

A Sad Place for Women

Unfortunately, Kensington hasn’t always been a happy place for its female royal residents. In addition to Mary’s fatal bout of smallpox, Queen Anne became pregnant seventeen times while living at the palace, but was never able to produce an heir to the throne who reached adulthood. Queen Caroline also died after her eighth pregnancy, when an umbilical hernia resulted in an ill-advised surgery. Further, Princesses Margaret and Diana were fairly unhappy during her time at the palace.

War and Art

The Privy Chamber for William and Mary features themes of the Roman gods Mars and Minerva. Mars was associated with William’s military victories, while Minerva represented Mary’s wisdom and patronage of the sciences and the arts.

Not So Good News

King George II didn’t get on well with his son, Prince Frederick, at one point having him banned from Kensington. When Frederick died after getting hit in the chest with a cricket ball, the news was delivered to George as he was playing cards. George’s response to his son’s death? “Good.”

Haunted Nursery

Like any good palace should be, Kensington has its fair share of ghosts. King George II is said to haunt the palace where he lived. Another is “Peter the Wild Boy”, whom George I brought back to Hanover after finding him living in the woods. It is thought that Peter suffered from a genetic condition known as Pitt-Hopkins and it is believed that he haunts the King’s staircase. Princess Sophia is another royal ghost in the palace. Apartment 1A, home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as Prince George and Princess Charlotte, is rumoured to be one of the more haunted palaces in Kensington Palace.

Party Central

Princess Margaret and her ex-husband, Lord Snowden, would throw extravagant parties at Kensington attended by plenty of celebrities. The Beatles were frequent guests of these parties and would even perform sing-alongs around the piano.

Momentously Victorian

Many of the important events of Queen Victoria’s life happened at Kensington. Not only was the queen born in the palace, but she met Prince Albert there, and heard of her accession there. It was thought she would continue to live there after becoming queen, but she opted for Buckingham Palace instead.

It’s Rotten

A private road was built from Kensington to Hyde Park Corner that was wide enough for three-to-four carriages to ride abreast. Part of the road eventually became the major thoroughfare known as Rotten Row.

John Rabon
Author: John Rabon

John is a regular writer for Anglotopia and its sister websites. He is currently engaged in finding a way to move books slightly to the left without the embarrassment of being walked in on by Eddie Izzard. For any comments, questions, or complaints, please contact the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson's haircut.

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  1. in 2006 I went to see the Mario Testino exhibit of photos of Diana, Princess of Wales in the public area of KP. As I prepared to leave the exhibit a docent asked me if I would like to see Princess Margaret’s former home, Apartment 1A? I said I would love that and she pointed me towards a door. I entered the empty apartment (Margaret had been dead for four years by then) and wandered through a, frankly very shabby empty apt with creaking floors, paint peeling off window ledges and a moldy looking emerald green carpet on the formal staircase! I was rather shocked as I had envisioned the Queen’s sister living in great luxury . Of course it had stood empty for four years by then. When I read that William and Catherine would live there and that the renovations would cost a great deal of money. I said to myself. I am not surprised. That place was a sad sight. I personally would not have wanted to live there in the conditions I saw!

  2. A follow up to my previous post on KP. In 1991 a friend and I went to see Diana’s wedding Dress at KP. At that time the State Apartments were not fullu furnished fully not really open to the public as they are now. In fact she and I were among 4 visitors that day! It was dark where the dress was displayed and we failed to see a guard sitting quietly in a dark corner and were quite startled! We wandered through the sparsely furnished State rooms and the only thing I can clearly remember is Queen Victoria’s bedroom where she was forced to sleep in the same room as her mother until she actually became Queen. I recall a wonderful painting of her being advised that she had become Queen on the death of her uncle, William IV (but that may have been somewhere else!). On the way out we were stopped and asked if we would help them with a survey of what was the best way to showcase the State rooms. So, back then it was by no means the famous place it is today. On our way through the gardens we heard a helicopter and there was Diana, leaving for an engagement! Such great memories.

  3. I just returned from a visit to KP with my 2 daughters and I too, also had been there in 1991. I told my girls how different it is now than in 1991, when, just as Maureen recalls, there were few visitors, a short tour and only a few rooms to visit. I recall seeing the display of Princess Diana’s wedding dress at that time, although I didn’t get to see Diana on that visit, as Maureen did! I did, however, get to see her in 1993, when she was arriving at a theatre in Leicester Square for a movie premiere. And on this year’s visit to London, we saw the entire Royal family, including William, Harry and Kate, at the Trooping the Colour. So fun!

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