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Hidden in the grassy hills of Hyde Park stands the hard-to-miss brick estate that is Kensington Palace.
The palace has a rich and interesting history that dates back to the 17th century, but it really came into the spotlight after Prince Charles and Princess Diana moved in after their wedding.
Where is Kensington Palace?
Sitting just behind Hyde Park, the palace is – as you may have suspected – situated slap-bang in the middle of Kensington.
A brief history of Kensington Palace
In 1689, King William and Queen Mary purchased a £20,000 (about £4 million today) modest Jacobean mansion, then called Nottingham House, in the village of Kensington – then, considered to be their country retreat! Their official residence, the riverside Whitehall Palace, was too hard on William’s asthma. They hired renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren to expand the house into a proper palace, and the royal court moved there before Christmas in 1689.
And since then, succeeding generations of royals have continued to use the palace. Queen Anne expanded its gardens and constructed The Orangery, which was originally used as a greenhouse – and is now a public restaurant. Queen Victoria was born and Christened in the palace in 1819, and she saved the dilapidated property from being destroyed years after she moved out.
In 1899, the state apartments were first opened to the public as a museum. In the following century, the palace went through a series of closures but was reopened permanently in 1949, after being repaired for bomb damage from World War II.
Princess Margaret and her husband, the Earl of Snowdon moved into the palace in the 1960s, and Prince Charles moved in with Princess Diana after they were married. Diana continued to live in the palace until her death in 1997.
Today, the palace still serves two purposes. It’s open to the public as a museum, but is also the official residence for a number of select royals, who live in apartments in the palace and houses within the grounds.
Who lives in Kensington Palace?
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – Apartment 1A
The most senior royals living in Kensington Palace today are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who first moved there in 2013.
At first, the two lived in the cosy Nottingham Cottage (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s former home, too), but eventually set up in the spacious Apartment 1A, which used to belong to Princess Margaret. Catherine and William spent £4.5 million renovating the apartment, as well as hundreds of thousands more of their personal money on additions like a second family kitchen.
They moved out of the Kensington abode in 2013 shortly after the birth of Prince George, moving to Anmer Hall in Norfolk in order to raise their children in more of a private location.
But recently, the family have officially moved back to their Kensington Palace apartment full-time, in order to dedicate themselves to their royal duties. Their two oldest children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, also now go to school in London, so they’ll be in the city for some time yet.
Official pictures released of the royals show how Kate and William have decorated some parts of their home. When former President Barack Obama visited in 2016, photos show the elegant cream and gold decor the couple have chosen, along with candles and impressive paintings.
The Prince and Princess of Kent – Apartment 10
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent were caught up in controversy when it was discovered the Queen was covering the majority of their rent since they moved into the palace in 2002. In 2010, it was announced they would have to begin paying the full rate of £120,000 if they wanted to remain as residents.
The Duke and Duchess of Kent – Wren House
Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent lives in Kensington Palace’s Wren House with his wife, Katharine. The Duke is Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin and also serves as the president of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank – Ivy Cottage
Princess Eugenie, cousin to William and Harry, moved in to the palace’s Ivy Cottage with husband Jack Brooksbank just before their October wedding last year – and out of the four bedroom apartment in St. James’s Palace she used to share with her sister, Beatrice.
It marked the first time the pair had lived together throughout their seven-year relationship.
39 other individuals
There are 50 residents of the palace in total. The rest are military members, courtiers and staff, along with a sprinkling of regular citizens who pay market rent for their royal dwelling.
Who owns Kensington Palace?
Kensington Palace falls under the ownership of the Crown Estate, meaning it is made available to the reigning monarch and her descendants to use as they wish – mostly, of course, as living quarters.
What is it like inside Kensington Palace?
Given that most of the palace is a private royal residence, there’s not been much chance to have a sneak peek inside. But a few pictures taken during former President Obama’s visit to the home, alongside his wife Michelle, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, have shared an insight into how the palace is decorated.
The room appears plush and lavish but cosy too, with plenty of warm lamps and candles, and comfortable beige sofas and carpets.
Older photographs of Princess Diana and her two sons also shared a glimpse into the private apartments at Kensington Palace.
What are Kensington Palace grounds/gardens like?
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement photocall back in November 2017 gave the world a rare glimpse into the stunning private gardens of Kensington Palace – specifically, the Sunken Garden.
The images show an impressive pond, and manicured lawns and plenty of gorgeous plants and flowers!
Is Kensington Palace open to the public?
Yes, year round from Monday to Sunday you can visit the publicly open parts of the royal home.
Included within your ticket price (£15.30 for adults and £7.60 for children), are various exhibitions, including one of Princess Diana’s wardrobe, and various activities for kids. You can also explore the King’s State Apartments, and the King’s Gallery, as well as parts of the gardens.
You can purchase tickets here.
Members of the Historic Royal Palaces go free.