Kensington Palace review (Feb 2014)
This is out-of-date! I have been here again since I wrote this review
I made the soggy wet trek over to Kensington Palace today, trudging through the park in the muddy flooded fields. I almost sank a few feet up to my knees in the sludgy stuff, it was that wet. But I made it (I'm very brave). You don't have to worry -- I am still alive. Although I did walk some muddy footprints all over the palace's shiny floors. Nobody chucked me out though. I think everyone was as wet as me.
The palace is broadly split into three different bits which cover their own king or queen. You can do them in any order you like, but I plumped for the one upstairs first. That is the one that follows Queen Victoria and Albert. I got the impression that the palace was emptied of furniture at some point, and is slowly recovering its stuff, because a lot of the rooms were quite sparsely decorated. There's still plenty of historical items to look at though, so it's not meant as a criticism. But there's nowhere near as much stuff inside as at Buckingham Palace, for example. It doesn't seem very "lived in". You get told that this room housed so-and-so, but where's their chairs? where's their bed? It's just bits and pieces dotted around.
The actual objects on display consist of Queen Vic's jewellery and dresses, books and bible. They've got a big dolls house too, and Albert's shaving kit. They've even got a little toy box for their six billion kids, filled with choo-choo trains and tin drums with tassels. The dresses are quite enlightening because Queen Vic seems to be a midget. Her head only comes up to my shoulders, and my shoulders probably only come up to your knees (I'm pretty short too). That is how short she was. Albert wasn't exactly a strapping German bodybuilder either, judging by his military uniform.
The next part of the palace is the King's State Apartments, which covers the Georgians and a bit of William and Mary. The King's Gallery is the stand-out room -- a bit like the Waterloo Gallery at Apsley House, if you've ever been there, or a poor man's version of the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace. The room is nice enough, with a few marble busts and deep velvet reds and woods, but the pictures aren't quite up to scratch. They've got the famous one of Charles I on horseback for example, striding through an arch, but the bloke on sentry duty explained that it was just a copy of the one at Buckingham Palace.
Next up is the Queen's Apartments, overlooking the Sunken Garden out the front. They had a big exhibition on today of royal dresses from the Queen's own wardrobe, and other stuff from Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. It was quite well done I suppose but I'm a bloke, and dresses + bloke = boredom. They are all set up in dazzling display cases of glass, with bright white spotlights beaming down from the ceiling. There are loads and loads of copies of Vogue and Harpers on the wall, with little videos playing against the whitewashed walls, of Diana dancing with John Travolta and meeting Michael Jackson. I don't think she dated very well... she looks very 80s with her bouffant bob and shoulder pads.
This is how I would sum up Princess Diana... nice hairdo, but a bit of a fruit loop. It's not often a pretty young bird gets ousted by a chain-smoking old granny, but that is what happened to poor Princess Di. So we can only imagine what she was must have been like behind closed doors -- she must have driven Prince Charles nuts for him to boot out a beauty like that.
The best bit about the dresses exhibition was hearing two old biddies walking around moaning about the clothes. They were going "Oooh I wouldn't wear that, and I wouldn't wear that. What does she look like!"
The rest of the Queen's Apartments focus on William and Mary. Whereas all the Georgian bits are gold, the William bit is all dark and moody browns, with autumnal colors and birdsong playing out the speakers. It looks like they've tried to turn it into a magical enchanted palace, with paper toys spinning in the stairwell and model birds flying down the corridors. You can hear whispered conversations drifting out of the record player (the "gossip of court"), and in one room they've gone Narnia-nuts. It's done up like a wood with twisting branches on a bed of fallen orange leaves. Strings of holly and roses wind around the barrier, and wooden boxes of paper kings and queens sit precariously in the boughs, their faces peeping out of lamplit windows. Very special looking, but I'm not sure what it's got to do with William and Mary. If you could walk around it at night then you'd probably think you were dreaming.
Oh and by the way, there's absolutely nothing on display about William, Kate and baby George.
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