Kensington Palace after the refurbishment (Central London): just a stage set waiting for the main act?

After my 2011 trip to visit the weird world of mid-refurbishment Kensington Palace I went back to see it finished.

The finishes are good and the place visitor-friendly but the interiors strangely lacking any notable art or artefacts.  The whole place has no more depth than a one-sided laminated sheet giving a sketchy outline of the history of UK monarch from the end of the 17th century to the ascension of Queen Victoria.

I had to delve into the minds of the ‘explainers’ (room stewards to you and me) to get some real information.  They know a lot, so if you go, explore their minds.

The gardens remain a delight.  I sat here for about 90 minutes.

Lucy Worsley is written all over the place.

The finish is impressive.

The interiors are puzzling.  A cupboard with small drawers and birds painted in blue and white china patterns to represent Queen Mary II’s tea and porcelain fetish.

I was there on a very hot day – see how full the park is.

This is a really important bed (perhaps) where Queen Mary’s son (the old pretender?) was born but its room still has a hangover from last years ‘enchanted palace’.

Obviously the King’s Staircase is VERY impressive and remains glorious.

The long gallery.

Bling bling bling.

The house is divided into sections – William & Mary in the state rooms, Victoria as you enter and a Diana exhibition.

The exhibitions explore the various occupants of the house – the ‘Glorious Revolution’, the Great Exhibition, the love of Victoria and Albert etc.

I like this screen but other than it and a couple of outfits, this being the first room I entered I was a little confused about what to expect.  It was certainly a house visiting experience like none other I had ever had.

I was impressed that I was allowed to take photographs inside.

Maybe Royal Palaces are readily admitting everything could come falling down like a stack of cards?  I think they’re taking a gamble, going in a different direction.  However, for me I want to see art, furniture and architecture in a new and exceptional way and I want the possessions, the collections to tell the history of the house and the stories of their owner’s lives, rather than the odd table being a player in the story of the occupant.  I want to live the journey of the collector, the commissioner of the house, the travels of the Grand Tourist.   I’m afraid for me that on this journey the expectation fell far short and I much prefer the garden, which is exceptional.  Go sit there; find a spot of shade, enjoy London at its best.  It’s free!

When visited: July 2012

House * out of 5: ***

Garden * out of 5: *****

Website: http://www.hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace/

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