Kensington Palace

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Acquired by William and Mary in 1689, Kensington Palace was radically altered first by Sir Christopher Wren and again in the reign of George I, when William Kent added the intricate trompe l'oeil ceilings and staircases. The Palace reopened after a £12m refurbishment in 2012, with a fine new garden providing improved access from Kensington Gardens. Visitors follow a whimsical trail focused on four ‘stories’ of former residents, unearthing facts about them and their times through handily placed ‘newspapers’. The first story is that of Princess Diana: stylised ‘Diana’ wallpaper lines a narrow corridor leading to a room containing five of her dresses. The modest, liveable rooms of the Queen’s State Apartments feature the story of William and Mary, and Mary’s sister, Queen Anne. Having deposed James II in 1688, William and Mary died childless. They were succeeded by Anne, who had only one child, the sickly Prince William. But he took ill at his tenth birthday party, where it is said he overheated while dancing, and later died. The place settings for that doomed party are re-created here, along with dreamlike installations. By contrast, the grandeur of the semi-public King’s State Apartments, created for George I and George II, is palpable: the Presence Chamber, with its throne; the Privy Chamber for more intimate meetings; and the Gallery, with paintings by the likes of Tintoretto, used for chats with confidantes (you can still hear them today if you stand by the windows). Finally, ‘Victoria Revealed’ traces the life of Queen Victoria through objects and extracts from her writings. Among the artefacts is her (tiny) wedding dress, jewellery and other gifts from Prince Albert, and photographs of her children and dolls. The 'Fashion Rules' exhibition is a feast for fashionistas, featuring dresses from the collection of the Queen, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Venue name: Kensington Palace
Address: The Broadwalk
Kensington Gardens
W8 4PX
Opening hours: Mar-Oct daily 10am-6pm; Nov-Feb daily 10am-5pm
Transport: Tube: High St Kensington or Notting Hill Gate
Price: £17.50, £14.10 concs, under-16s free
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  • Walks and tours Tuesday December 8 2015 - Tuesday December 15 2015
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  • Walks and tours Saturday December 12 2015 - Friday January 29 2016
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