Kensington Palace: `des res' dumping ground

Kensington Palace is getting rather crowded, with outlying members of the Royal Family seeking a roof over their heads in London. It is full of problem families down on their luck: there is a single mother struggling to bring up her two sons; a divorcee; the Gloucesters, who have fallen upon hard times; and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, among the least popular members of the royal court.

At the end of the last century, King Edward VII dubbed it the "Aunt Heap" - and the nickname stuck. Others call it the Dowagers' Dumping Ground. Some say the Prince of Wales calls it that and worse today.

Ever since the demise of George II, the last reigning monarch to reside there, Kensington Palace has become the haunt of increasing numbers of royal dowagers, cousins and heirs-in-waiting during their stays in London. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester's plan to forsake their country estate and reside permanently at "KP", as it is fondly known by its residents, has merely sealed its reputation as the dumping ground for "B" list royals.

Only one section - the ground floor of the north-east wing containing the State Rooms and Mary II's court dress collection, which are open to the public (£3.95 a visit) - retains anything of its former palatial grandeur. (Although that grandeur is nothing compared to Britain's other palaces. When it was purchased by William III in 1689, it was mundane enough to be referred to as Kensington House until it got a reworking by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor at the end of the century.)

In the second half of the 19th century, it fell into such disrepair that it was only Queen Victoria's fondness for her childhood memories there that saved it. "The private rooms are not at all grand by royal standards," says Philip Ziegler, the historian. "They look just like a very upmarket private house."

The landlord at Kensington Palace has divided it up into apartments. It is a multi-occupancy residence. At the last count it had 28 flats and eight houses, although the "flats" are not average size. The Princess of Wales's rooms, which face towards Bayswater, consist of four reception rooms, a dining-room, a master bedroom suite, two guest bedrooms and a nursery.

Princess Margaret has three bedrooms and four reception rooms. The Gloucesters occupy four bedrooms and seven reception rooms. Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have five bedrooms and five reception rooms. They are all looked after by 58 servants.

That compares with St James's where Prince Charles moved after his split with Diana, which has 220 rooms.

With all those members of the same family living is such close proximity, one might have expected there would be a lively family atmosphere, shared child care and games of cricket in the grounds. In fact, the atmosphere is rather subdued. Insiders say the various inhabitants seldom meet. "Most evenings the place is remarkably dead. The residents are normally out and about at their separate functions," says one who is there often as a private guest. "Occasionally, there are parties in the reception rooms, but they tend to be official rather than private. It would be unusual for one resident to invite one of the others to supper... it just doesn't work like that. Often the only sight the residents get of each other is as they whizz in and out in their cars. You have to bear in mind that they all have staff so if they need to post a letter they get someone else to do it for them."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Semi Senior Accountant - Music

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

    English teachers required in Lowestoft

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

    Business Development Director - Interior Design

    £80000 - £100000 per annum + competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment...

    Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

    £60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits