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Five things you might not know about Kensington Palace

Set in one of south west London’s most desirable districts, this former residence of the young Princess Victoria, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana has always had a spark of serious style about it. But it also holds hidden delights…

By Time Out editors |
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Kensington Palace

Set at the point farthest west in Kensington Gardens, close to where the vast mansions given over to foreign embassies sit, and just five minutes chauffeur-driven limo from Kensington High Street and Knightsbridge, Kensington Palace is one of the most fashionable addresses in town. In fact, the exhibitions here are always worth checking out if you’re more interested in royal design (clothes, art, architecture) than royal history. That said, the place still has plenty of interesting stories to tell from centuries past, too.

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Five interesting facts about Kensington Palace

1

It’s still a working royal residence. Kensington Palace is the London home of William and Kate, who live in a private apartment that once belonged to the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret. It’s round the back, though, so even if you get here early, you won’t catch sight of Prince George in his PJs coming down for breakfast.

2

It’s a palace of broken hearts. George II and Queen Caroline spent a lot of time at Kensington Palace, entertaining fashionable and intellectual sets during their reign, but when Caroline died aged 54, her desolate husband refused to remarry. Their story and that of later royals whose lives ‘haunt’ the Palace are told on evocative night-time tours.

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3

Kensington Palace became a royal residence in the 1600s when William III (who suffered from asthma) was looking to escape the damp and city grime of Whitehall. He found a Jacobean mansion in the ‘village’ setting of Kensington. These days it’s not quite so countrified, but you can hire a bike and go for a gentle ride among the trees of pretty Kensington Gardens while you’re there.

4

It’s a place for learning. There are regular brunch-time talks exploring various themes from Victorian life. Tickets include a glass of bucks fizz. In this setting, we can’t think of a nicer way to get a history lesson.

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5

When Diana, Princess of Wales died in 1997, Kensington Palace became the focus for floral tributes and public mourning. The palace stayed open for 24 hours to cope with visitors who wanted to sign the books of condolence. The books remain in the palace archives and regularly changing exhibitions here explore her life – as a fashion icon, a famous royal and a campaigning humanitarian.

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