Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Situated in the heart of London, Kensington Palace has been home to members of the British Royal Family for centuries. A bolthole for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the early days of their romance, it was also home to Princess Diana throughout her marriage to King Charles and the final years of her life. It’s now the base for multiple family units of senior royals, including the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Let’s take a look behind the walls of the magnificent royal residence to reveal the grandest, multigenerational home in the whole country.

Kensington Palace: an overview

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One of London’s most historic addresses, Kensington Palace was purchased by William III as a country retreat in 1689. Once a suburban Jacobean villa known as Nottingham House, it was extended by Christopher Wren and was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Today it is a working royal residence.

Kensington Palace: an overview

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A kind of upmarket housing estate for the British Royal Family, the palace functions as an exclusive form of shared accommodation in which members of the royal family and palace staff live side by side.

It’s split into three residential units: a large quadrangle located behind the main palace, two smaller quadrangles directly to its right and a separate cluster of red-brick cottages at the far-right end of the palace grounds.

Kensington Palace: an overview

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Sounds grand and exclusive, but who’s paying for it all? Technically, the King owns Kensington Palace on behalf of the nation, though funds for its upkeep are provided by the Sovereign Grant. While some royals live at Kensington Palace for free in exchange for public royal duties, there are a few family members who are expected to pay rent on their super-exclusive properties.

Kensington Palace: an overview

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While the royal residential quarters are private and closed to the public, tourists are welcome to explore the King’s State Apartments and the Queen’s State Apartments, which are managed separately by Historic Royal Palaces.

This elaborately detailed staircase was designed by William Kent between 1725 and 1727 and was commissioned by the palace’s founders, William III and his wife, Queen Mary.

Kensington Palace: an overview

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Queen Victoria was baptised in the stunning Cupola Room in the King’s State Apartments, seen here, where restoration work was completed in March 2023 to bring back the authenticity and vibrancy to the rooms, which were once an integral part of British court life.

Kensington Palace: an overview

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The King’s Gallery was also designed by William Kent to house the finest paintings in the Royal Collection. The long room was used for exercise as well as displaying pictures and it is where King William III died from pneumonia after falling from his horse at Hampton Court Palace.

With its red damask walls and fine oak joinery, it looks much the same as it did when it was transformed for King George I in 1725.

Who lives in Kensington Palace?

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So who currently lives at Kensington Palace? It must be one of the most crowded royal compounds in the world, with five family units officially calling the residence home. Firstly, it is the official residence and offices of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince William and Kate, although they have lived in Windsor with their three children since 2022.

Then there is Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and the late Queen’s cousin, who lives there with his wife Katharine in Wren House. Another of the Queen’s cousins, the Duke of Gloucester and his wife also live there, plus King Charles’ niece, Princess Eugenie with her husband Jack Brooksbank and their son August spend part of their time at Ivy Cottage. What’s more, it’s home to the Duke of Kent’s brother and sister-in-law, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who live in Apartment 10.

Prince and Princess of Wales: Apartment 1A

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While the Prince and Princess of Wales and their family moved to Adelaide Cottage in Windsor in August 2022 to be close to their children’s school, Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace remains their London base. The couple took up residence here in 2013 following the birth of Prince George. Prior to this, they had resided in Nottingham Cottage, which was also home to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Prince and Princess of Wales: Apartment 1A

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Before moving into the 20-room apartment, they reportedly undertook a £4.5 million ($5.7m) refurbishment, which was paid for out of the Sovereign Grant, given to the monarch from the treasury. The former home of the late Queen’s sister Princess Margaret, Apartment 1A is the largest property within the complex, located in the left wing of Clock Court, the large quadrangle directly behind the main palace building.

Prince and Princess of Wales: Apartment 1A

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This is as close as people will ever get to William and Kate’s front door, which is located at the centre of Clock Court. The four-storey red brick building features a classic Georgian townhouse stepped entrance and large glazed windows at the back that look out onto the Kensington Palace gardens.

Prince and Princess of Wales: Apartment 1A

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Though the couple are accustomed to life in the public eye, they’ve set up several security measures to ensure their family’s privacy and safety. For this reason, very few photographs of the interior of their home have been made public, though occasional glimpses into their private lives have been captured during official state visits, such as when the Obamas paid a visit in 2016.

Prince and Princess of Wales: Apartment 1A

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William and Kate’s apartment is said to have a total of 22 rooms containing two nurseries, three kitchens, three principal bathrooms and a basement.

The interior design scheme is traditional, with Georgian-style furnishings, paintings and heavy curtains throughout, seen here during the Obamas’ aforementioned visit, when Prince George saddled up on the handmade rocking horse the Presidential couple had given him when he was born.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon: Apartment 1A

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William and Kate aren’t the first royals to live in Apartment 1A, which was previously home to Princess Margaret and her husband Lord Snowdon. The late Queen’s sister was gifted the property back in 1960 at the time of her marriage and is believed to have spent over £85,000 ($108k) on renovations, which is around £1.6 million (£2m) in today’s money.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon: Apartment 1A

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Seen here in the famous Clock Court at Kensington Palace, Princess Margaret’s interior style was quite different to Kate and William’s. Princess Margaret’s biographer, Christopher Warwick, likened it to an English country house, with 18th-century antiques and revealed there was a Pietro Annigoni portrait of the princess hanging on the wall in the entrance hall.

Princess Eugenie: Nottingham Cottage

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The daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank moved into Nottingham Cottage, the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, in 2022.

One of the smaller properties on the Kensington Palace estate, the 1,300 square-foot abode is their second home in the palace complex, having previously resided at Ivy Cottage following their marriage in 2018.

Princess Eugenie: Nottingham Cottage

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According to reports, Nottingham Cottage is now their London base, after Jack landed a job in Portugal on the exclusive Costa Terra Golf and Ocean Club development, where he is head of sales. Princess Eugenie gave birth to the couple’s first child August in February 2021 and the family currently live between Portugal and the UK.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Nottingham Cottage

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After a year-and-a-half of dating, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in November 2017. The couple had already been spending a lot of time together at the royal compound at Prince Harry’s two-bedroom property, Nottingham Cottage, before the couple moved in together officially.

Prince Harry’s former bachelor pad, it was also where he popped the question to Meghan while cooking a roast chicken.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Nottingham Cottage

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The couple provided a peek inside their love nest during the exclusive interview they gave to the BBC to announce their engagement. Sitting on a cream sofa in one of the property’s two living rooms, the couple clearly favoured a neutral colour scheme, with white panelled walls and a lavish gold lamp in the background. The couple lived in the cottage, which is located far away from the main palace, until their marriage in May 2018.

Duke and Duchess of Gloucester: the Old Stables

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The late Queen’s first cousin, the Duke of Gloucester and his wife Birgitte van Deurs moved into the Old Stables in 2019 following extensive renovations at the property, which according to The Daily Mail cost the taxpayer £1 million ($1.3m).

The Duke, who is also known as Prince Richard, and his Danish wife and family had previously lived at the nearby 21-room Apartment 1, which is adjacent to the home of the Prince and Princess of Wales, since 1972.

Duke and Duchess of Gloucester: the Old Stables

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The Duke, who has worked tirelessly for the monarch for more than 50 years, clearly enjoys a good read to judge by this image posted on Twitter, which shows some impressive bookshelves in his private office at the Old Stables.

The Duke unexpectedly had to take on royal duties when his elder brother Prince William of Gloucester died in a plane crash, making him heir to his father, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, one of George Vl’s brothers.

Duke and Duchess of Kent: Wren House

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Another first cousin of the late Queen, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and his wife Katherine Worsley have resided at Wren House on the palace estate since their marriage in 1961. Once used as accommodation for palace staff, the five-bedroom property is named after Sir Christopher Wren, who designed St Paul’s Cathedral and was head restorer at the palace in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Duke and Duchess of Kent: Wren House

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Despite being part of the royal estate, the two-storey Wren House looks surprisingly modest in this video, which was posted on Instagram on the 85th birthday of the Duke in 2020.

The simple cottage-style property with its white picket fence, may be larger than the average home, but it lacks the grandeur you’d expect from a royal residence. The Duchess retired from public life in 2002 due to ill health.

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent: Apartment 10

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Prince Michael and his wife Marie Christine von Reibnitz have lived in Apartment 10 for over 40 years. The couple hit the headlines in 2002 when it emerged that they had been paying just £69 ($88) per week for the five-bedroom apartment.

The Kents were slated for being subsidised by the taxpayer when they did not carry out official duties and were made to pay the commercial rate of £120,000 ($153k) per year from 2010.

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent: Apartment 10

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The Princess revealed a glimpse of her attic study at the property, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, in 2015 when she was promoting her book Quicksilver. The cosy workspace is strewn with files and other research connected to her career as an author of historical books.

Meanwhile, Prince Michael has longstanding links to Russia and in 2021 was accused of using his position to sell access to the Kremlin, the BBC reported.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana: Apartment 8 and 9

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Following their fairytale wedding in 1981, Prince Charles and Princess Diana took up residence in Apartments 8 and 9. Originally built by King George l for his mistress the Duchess of Kendal, the apartments were combined and are located within the quadrangle that sits between Clock Court and Ivy Cottage.

A family photograph taken in the living room suggests that the apartment was traditionally furnished, with brightly patterned wallpaper, paintings and floral bouquets.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana: Apartment 8 and 9

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Princess Diana’s desk, which sat in the living room of the apartment, was recreated for a special exhibition to mark the 20th anniversary of the princess’s death in 2017. What stands out are the many photographs of her two sons, who were central to her life.

Also on display were her personal keepsakes, an old-fashioned Roberts radio and her ‘D.Spencer’ tuck box from her days as a boarder at West Heath School in Kent.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana: Apartment 8 and 9

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Though Diana is famously known to have struggled with the pressures of public royal life, she grew extremely fond of Kensington Palace, which she nicknamed KP.

After her divorce in 1996, Diana chose to remain in Apartment 8 and 9, continuing to raise her sons there until her untimely death in 1997. Charles moved out as soon as they were separated and now resides in Clarence House with his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort.

Princess Diana: Apartment 8 and 9

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Princess Diana is said to have made a few changes after her divorce which, according to author Andrew Morton, included throwing out the mahogany double bed she had slept in during her marriage. She had the bedroom painted and new locks fitted.

She is seen here with designer Catherine Walker and her team in the apartment preparing for an auction of her dresses in April 1997, just a few months before her death.

Princess Diana: Apartment 8 and 9

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A sea of floral tributes were left outside Kensington Palace, reaching 30 feet from the gates, when the Princess passed away in 1997. Mourners travelled from all over the world to pay their respects to the People’s Princess, some returning on the 25th anniversary of her death in 2022. The apartments are now used for offices and entertaining.

Princess Diana: Apartment 8 and 9

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Diana loved flowers and was often photographed playing with William and Harry in the palace gardens. In 2017, major renovation works were carried out in one of her favourite spots, the Sunken Garden, transforming it into the White Gardens, a beautiful floral tribute to the late Princess.

Furthermore, in 2021, Princes William and Harry unveiled a statue of their mother here to convey her warmth, elegance and energy.

Non-royal residents at Kensington Palace

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In total, there are approximately 50 residents who currently live at Kensington Palace. Other than royal residents, this number is made up of employees, courtiers, ex-military members and wealthy citizens who can afford to rent within the palace walls. 

The future of Kensington Palace

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King Charles lll has made it clear he wants to reduce the financial dependence of some royals on The Crown, so there are unlikely to be many new royal residents at Kensington Palace for the time being.

However, there have been reports that he may offer Diana’s old apartments, or Prince Andrew’s old suite at Buckingham Palace, to Prince Harry and Meghan as a London base. Then the chickens will indeed have come home to roost!

By Admin