Welcome to our Kensington Palace history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.
Like Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace was originally a private mansion, known as Nottingham House.
In 1689 Nottingham House was purchased by William III (the king was asthmatic and found the riverside palace of Whitehall an uncongenial dwelling place in winter), for whom Wren built the pleasing red brick South Wing of the present palace. Additions were subsequently made by Kent and other architects.
The palace is a curious jumble of buildings, and, with the exception of the South Wing, homely rather than dignified in aspect. The grounds (Kensington Gardens) were enlarged and greatly improved by Queen Caroline, wife of George II.
Kensington Palace was a residence of the sovereigns until the death of George II. (William and Mary, Anne, and George II died here), since when it has been tenanted by members of the Royal family.
It was whilst the Duke of Kent (son of George III) was residing here that his daughter, the Princess Victoria, was born in 1819, and it was here that she received the announcement of her accession in 1837. Kensington Palace was also the birthplace also of Queen Mary.
The main entrance to the palace is from the picturesque Palace Green, on which the Clock Court abuts.
The interior contains a range of State Apartments, some by Wren (with carving by Grinling Gibbons and ironwork by Jean Tijou), and others by Kent, among them being Queen Mary's Gallery, Queen Caroline's Drawing Room, the Cupola Room, which was used for balls and receptions, the King's Drawing Room, the King's Gallery (the finest of all the apartments), and the Princess Victoria's Bedroom. The apartments are hung with pictures, which include a large number of portraits.
Flanking the Sunk Garden and the Parterre that separate the palace from the Broad Walk is the Banqueting House or Concert Room (generally called the Orangery), a graceful redbrick structure by Wren and the most admired of his minor works. It is open to the public.
At the Western end are two beautiful redbrick gate piers, also by Wren, which merit attention. The marble statue of Queen Victoria that faces the Grand Vista of the Gardens is by the Queen's daughter, the Princess Louise; whilst the bronze statue of William III, before the South Front, is by H. Baucke, a German sculptor, and was presented by the Kaiser William II.
The nearest Underground stations are Kensington High Street and Queen's Road; numerous services of omnibuses pass the Broad Walk.