Kensington Palace - History
Kensington Palace has been a royal residence for over 300 years and boasts many captivating stories. Once a modest mansion known as Nottingham House, the residence was converted into a lavish royal retreat by William III and Mary II. Since then, several Stuart and Georgian monarchs have resided in the Palace.
Queen Victoria is the most notable royal to have resided at Kensington Palace before moving to Buckingham Palace in 1837. After her move, the Palace became home to minor royals such as her daughter Princess Louise.
As time passed, many famous royals such as Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, Prince William and more have called Kensington Palace their home.
Kensington Palace History
Sir George Coppin built a two-story Jacobean mansion in Kensington in 1605. This mansion was bought by Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham in 1619 and named Nottingham House. In 1689, when William III and Mary II ascended to the throne as King and Queen, they decided to look for a house away from Westminster due to William’s asthma. Their search led them to Nottingham House, which they bought later that year and hired Surveyor of the King's Works Sir Christopher Wren to immediately expand it.
Sir Wren added three-storey branches on all 4 corners of the existing structure, turning a mansion into the massive palace to fit the monarchs and all their staff. Gardens and lawns were also added along with flower beds and paths. The monarchs moved into the house before Christmas 1689 and stayed there until their deaths. The most important part of their reign was the signing of the Bill of Rights - giving parliament the power to create a democracy.
Queen Anne resided at the palace following William III’s death and ordered Wren to complete the extension of the Queen’s Apartments. She also commissioned the formal gardens surrounding the palace. Queen Anne had her memorable friendship-ending argument with Duchess Sarah Churchill in the Queen’s Closet in 1710. She died at Kensington in 1714.
King George I then splurged to have William Kent, a then-unknown architect, designer and artist, enhance the existing areas of the King’s Apartments and add more rooms. The King’s Grand Staircase was also George I’s commission and features himself and members of his staff.
King George II was the last monarch to stay at Kensington and his wife Queen Caroline transformed the gardens into its modern form. After George II’s demise, minor royals stayed at the Palace - the most notable of which is Prince Edward, his daughter Princess Alexandrina Victoria (before her ascension to the throne), the Duke and Duchess of Kent and more. It is currently the official royal residence of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - William and Catherine.
Kensington Palace Facts You Didn't Know
- A reigning monarch has not resided at Kensington Palace for over 250 years, since the death of King George II in 1760
- Queen Victoria is the reason the Palace avoided demolition in the 1890s, as she got the Parliament to approve a 2-year renovation instead
- When beloved Princess Diana died in 1997, over a million flower bouquets were laid at the gates of Kensington Palace - her official royal residence
- In fact, no one has resided in her apartment since her passing
- Queen Victoria was proclaimed as Queen at Kensington and she also met her husband Prince Albert at the Palace. You can still the love letters and memorabilia that the two exchanged at the Palace’s exhibition today
- Many believed the Palace is haunted as its female residents have had unfortunate life instances - the most famous of which is Queen Anne, who had 17 pregnancies but none of her children lived until adulthood
- Those that are privileged enough can host private large-scale events at the Palace, including weddings, auctions, galas and more