Oh, palaces. They're funny things. On one hand, I could quite easily waltz among the pristine gardens, saunter down gilded staircases and gossip by large sash windows. On the other, I often find myself thinking 'all this?! For one person?! Jeeeeeeez.'
Palaces are excessive, verging on gaudy. I mean, if anyone loved a bit of gold, it was eighteenth century socialites - you can never have enough so it seems. Kensington Palace is no exception. Located amongst the global embassy's of London, Kensington Palace is big, grand and stamped with a royal seal of approval. Last week I ventured along on the last day of their discounted winter entry. Regardless of the juicy deal I got, I believe the ticket price is reasonable for a day out. An adult price is £16.50, which may seem a lot, but it took us around two hours to explore the house and if it hadn't been horribly English drizzle outside, a picnic in the gardens would have topped the day off lovely.
First off, prepare your neck exercises my friends because you will get neck ache. I wasn't lying when I said the Georgian royals were extravagant. The ceilings are beautifully detailed and are most definitely deserving of a long look. The marble isn't actually real, just the painstaking work of master craftsman. Apparently there isn't a call for faux-marble experts nowadays. More's the pity.
Check out the chin on this bloke! How male beauty standards have shifted. Most people know that a shapely calf was enough to make the meekest of ladies flutter back in the day (some would say the same still applies now). However, this double-chinned chap would arguably be a contender for 'Hottest Male' in the mid 1700's, as his chin is a sign of the rich, expensive and plentiful food he consumed on a regular basis. Chin = lots of £££, so in other words this man is a CATCH. Well, he must have thought so himself if he decided to immortalise that lovely chin of his for eternity.
In May of 1819, Queen Victoria was born here in the palace and was kept under watchful eye during her childhood. So watchful, in fact, that she was very rarely allowed to leave. Great, some would think, I'd eat my breakfast from the comfort of a throne! Well yes, I would too, but I'm sure even a Palace feels claustrophobic at times.
How I love dressing up! I'm not going to lie, the pictures I saw on Amanda's post over on Rhyme and Ribbons were enough for me to grab my bag and head over to Kensington that very second. Amanda, I elegantly bow my head at you! Kensington Palace has adult dress up. Need I say more? I didn't want to get out of this dress. There were children tugging at my silken sleeve. I wafted them away. It's my turn, ok?!
Kensington Palace has some really great maps. I'm hearing you all think 'loser...' in your heads, but trust me, they're amazing! The upper floors have been beautifully fitted out with original furniture, relics, costumes, all sorts, but if you ask the red-coated guard very nicely he'll give you a Scratch 'n' Sniff map. Yup, you heard correctly. Wonder what the Duchess of Kent's cosmetics smelt like? Scratch 'n' Sniff! I loved wandering around the museum like a child, reading all the notices and sniffing my map like a mad woman. It was wonderful.
Did you know that badminton was invented in a room just like this? If the weather was too bad for 'taking a turn around the garden', ladies just sat in doors with nothing to do. Except stitch. Stitching is great I'm sure, but provides little in the way of exercise. The shuttlecock, being soft and light, wouldn't damage books, paintings, or the faces of your friends, so was the perfect activity for those in High Society! Above you can see my friend Alex, walking away from me as I likely recited this story and bored her to tears. It's the danger of visiting a museum with me, I'm afraid!
In addition to the gorgeous dresses on display. the ballroom and drawing room were equally as beautiful. What I loved about the display of the ballroom was the multi-sensory experience. Shadows (projected from where I don't know) of ladies with hips as wide as France and wigged gentleman twirled themselves around the walls. I snatched the sound of gossip when stood in certain areas of the room, and almost felt in the way of dancers due to the noise of clicking heels and scuffling feet whisking their way around the room. It brought the place to life.
The relics of childhood from the house's children were striking and beautifully preserved. We've all asked reluctant Aunts and Nannies to 'hold still' whilst we sketch them, tongue stuck out the side of our six-year-old mouth. It wasn't any different in Victorian times! The drawing above is a perfect example of a 'captured moment from history' that has a tangible, real-life reflection. I crave artefacts like this, so two thumbs up to Kensington for preserving it so beautifully.
The dress collection is stunning. I've seen a similar 'gowns through the ages' exhibition at the V&A museum, however it's often very packed and a little generic. These dresses sent off little bells in my head as I remembered seeing clips of Diana stepping out of a cab in the sequinned gown above, as well as the Queen herself looking beautifully demure in this 1950's halter-neck. What a figure she kept!
Oh drizzly rain, how sad you make me. I've been caught in Kensington Palace gardens in entirely opposite circumstances two years ago, baking in the hottest day of the year and desperately searching the place for water. Error number one - don't go into the Orangery expecting tap water when diners are enjoying afternoon tea to the muted tones of a live harpist. It's not the done thing.
What are your favourite historic locations in London? I'm always looking for more to add to my list (ones with adult dressing up will win extra points!)