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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Senior Sales Executive - SaaS/ Cyber Security - £60,000

    £32000 - £34000 per annum + Uncapped OTE £65,000 : h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Software-as-a-Service/ SaaS - £42,000

    £28000 - £31000 per annum + Bonus + Progression: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you looki...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - SaaS/ Financial Software - £90,000

    £60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Rapidly expandin...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

    £31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game