Kensington Palace - History and Facts | History Hit

Kensington Palace

London, England, United Kingdom

Kensington Palace was the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the home of Diana, Princess of Wales, until her death.

Lily Johnson

03 May 2023
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace in London has been the home of Britain’s young royals for over 300 years, including Queen Victoria who was born and raised there. Today it provides a personal look into the lives of many of its past occupants including Victoria, Princess Diana, George I and II, William and Mary, and many others.

Kensington Palace history

Originally built for the Earl of Nottingham, Kensington Palace was acquired by King William III in 1689 after he and his wife, Mary II, had taken the throne from her father, James II, during the Glorious Revolution. They employed Christopher Wren to rebuild and improve it, and in the coming years a number of monarchs would too enjoy the splendour of Kensington.

These included Queen Anne and her husband Prince George of Denmark, as well as her successor to the British throne, George I. While on the throne he had new state rooms built and his daughter-in-law Queen Caroline, wife of George II, later had the magnificent gardens laid out.

In the time of George III, Kensington Palace ceased to be the monarch’s residence, and instead housed a host of more minor royals. It was here that the Duke and Duchess of Kent (son and daughter-in-law of George III) made their home, and in 1819 their daughter Victoria was born there.

Victoria spent a somewhat miserable childhood at Kensington under an elaborate set of rules and protocols known as the ‘Kensington System’, devised by her mother and Sir John Conroy to isolate the young girl and ensure her dependency on them.

It was at Kensington Palace however that she was informed of the death of her uncle William IV, and that subsequently she was Queen of the United Kingdom at the tender age of 18. Following this she was able to break away from Kensington and became the first monarch to occupy Buckingham Palace.

In later years Kensington Palace continued to be used as a residence for minor royals during their stays in London. Prince Albert (later Edward VII) famously dubbed it ‘the aunt heap’ and, somewhat more cruelly, it was also called the ‘Dowagers’ Dumping Ground’.

Most recently, Kensington Palace has been the home of the late Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince and Princess of Kent, and the late Princess Diana, who used it as her chief residence following her divorce from Prince Charles.

Kensington Palace today

Today, Kensington Palace remains the royal residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, alongside a number of other members of the royal family. It is also open to visitors under the remit of Historic Royal Palaces however, with 4 different routes available to explore its many intriguing rooms.

Exhibits detail the Palace’s many notable past residents, with collections of their gowns, antique furniture, and other memorabilia on display. From the courts of George I and II to the dazzling wardrobes of Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana, a trip to Kensington Palace truly breathes life into some of British history’s most famous figures.

Visitors to Kensington Palace can also see a number of rooms associated with Queen Victoria, including the bedroom where she was first informed of her ascension to the throne.

Getting to Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is located in Kensington Gardens in London and has good public transport links. The nearest Underground stations are High Street Kensington and Queensway, both a 10-minute walk away, while the nearest train station is Paddington, a 20-minute walk away.

Bus routes 70, 94 and 148 stop along Bayswater Road, while routes 9, 49, 52, 70 and 452 stop along Kensington High Street.

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