phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Advertisement

Feature: The Glorious Georges, Kensington Palace

26 April 2014 Charlie Kenber

A peek behind the curtain to our Hanoverian past...

To mark the tri-centenary of the Hanoverian succession to the British throne, Historic Royal Palaces have transformed several of their properties in a reimagining of this Georgian past.

1714 marked the start of the dynasty that continues today with Elizabeth II, but the Hanoverians came somewhat controversially to power: George I was only distantly connected to the throne at the time of his accession. Opposition to his rule came in the form of the Jacobites, who supported the Stuart (and importantly Roman Catholic) claim to the throne. It wasn’t until the Battle of Culloden in 1746 that George II was finally able to quiet this voice of dissent, although it would continue throughout the remainder of the eighteenth century.

The King’s State Apartments at Kensington Palace have been refurbished and decorated in homage to the time that George II and Queen Caroline spent there together from 1727-37. As the transformation displays, this was not a palace of courtly business, but one largely of revelry, in which the King and Queen hosted parties, dances and social occasions.

The historical precision of the renovation is impressive: few stones have been left unturned in the researchers’ attention to detail. The Privy and Presence Chambers have particularly effectively been returned to their former glory: William Kent’s designs during George I’s reign are recreated with silk wall hangings and bright panelling. Even the oak floorboards in these two rooms have been laid in a Georgian manner, decreasing in width as they approach the side of the rooms.

Although many of the changes are subtle, they have a striking effect. The Privy Chamber’s ceiling painting has been newly cleaned, with around one tonne of dust having been removed from the space above it! A ‘smell map’ further contributes to the effect, allowing you to more vividly imagine what the palace was like in the 1730s.

The era that the renovation illuminates is most effectively brought to life in the two rooms mainly used for social gatherings: the Cupola room and the King’s Drawing Room. These two spaces bring to life the music, dancing and games at the centre of court life, and you can even try your hand at some Georgian gambling.

This whole approach reflects a growing trend by which historical monuments are actively ‘historicised’ and brought to life. Rather than being left as a dusty relic, the palace becomes – for many – a much more effective representation, and thus more clearly engages with our cultural past.

In many ways the exhibition is more about Queen Caroline than George II, and this is reflected in the sombre note on which it ends. When she passed away in 1737 George was devastated, shutting up half the palace in grief and introducing black clothing for the entire staff. He insisted that nothing was changed at the palace; even that the wood in her fireplace remained untouched. Music in the King’s Gallery and a representation of George touches upon this grief which descended upon the building.

So head over to Kensington Palace to get a taste – or more accurately a sniff – of this important part of British history.

The apartments are included with regular admission to the palace, which costs £16.50 full price, £13.75 concessions and free for Under 16s. Tickets available here.
The new display is part of a wider ‘Glorious Georges’ season across Historic Royal Palaces. Find out more here.

{ad-placement-MPU1}

Most popular

What to See at The Cinema

What to See at The Cinema

Your go-to guide to what's on the silver screen
Advertisement
Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

Top 5 Bars and Restaurants for Shisha-Lovers

The five finest spots in London to shoot the breeze and pass the pipe
Advertisement
The Best Riverside Walks In London

The Best Riverside Walks In London

Oh we do like to be beside the canalside...
Advertisement
A Guide to the Best Lidos in London

A Guide to the Best Lidos in London

Looking to beat the heat or enjoy some fun in the sun? Here are our top 5 London lidos to enjoy this summer.
Advertisement
Top Theatre of the Week

Top Theatre of the Week

Where to get the best of new theatre openings in London
Top Exhibitions of the Week

Top Exhibitions of the Week

The place to come for all the best current exhibitions in London...
London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

London’s Must-See Flower Shows in 2019

With the balmy weather here to stay, why not take in the sumptuous beauty that these London flower shows have to offer
Top Gigs of the Week

Top Gigs of the Week

From underground indie to rap stars to house legends, we've got you covered...
Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Where to Eat: Desserts in East London

Even if the Easter bunny doesn’t visit your garden this month, there are plenty of ways to get your sweet fix this springtime

Your inbox deserves a little culture!!

Advertisement