Step inside a world of enchantment
Date Posted: 26/08/2010
Groups planning a visit to Kensington Palace can now discover the splendour, the secrets and the stories of its royal princesses in an enchanting exhibition.
Groups can now visit the Royal State Apartments of Kensington Palace, currently hosting The Enchanted Palace exhibition. Transforming the London residence into a mysterious wonderland inspired by its imperial occupants, groups can unveil the many stories of splendour and sadness which haunt the royal corridors.
The Enchanted Palace, running until June 2012, leads curious groups through the winding maze of Kensington’s rich state apartments, each room representative of a royal princess who formerly resided there. The opulent surroundings are courted by a series of specially commissioned installations by a mix of leading and up-and-coming designers, in association with acclaimed UK theatre company WILDWORKS; each one inspired by the intriguing tales of the palace’s history.
With the rest of the site temporarily closed as a major £12 million project to transform the visitor experience at Kensington Palace gets underway, this new exhibition promises an engaging and educational excursion for visiting groups.
A royal trail
Guided by a handy map which lays down a specific route for visitors to follow, groups enter the apartments via the private backstairs, emerging into the Room of Beginnings. Greeted by an enormous tree, its branches indicating the next stage of the journey, visitors are immediately immersed in the magical and dream-like feel of the exhibition. Following a carefully planned trail, groups can then make their own way through each of the splendid rooms. Revealing a series of intriguing clues, prompted by the fascinating installations, interactive theatre, storytelling soundscapes, and haunting film projections, participants are invited to explore the tales of love and hate, surprise and sadness, secrets and jealousy, hidden throughout this historic royal residence.
Key rooms include Queen Mary II’s bedchamber, or the subsequently named Room of Royal Sorrows, designed to reflect on royal marriage, birth, and the importance of producing a dynastic heir. Despite its opulence and grander, the darkened room betrays a melancholy atmosphere, indicative of the sadness of Queen Mary who had no children, and her sister Queen Anne, who had 14 pregnancies but none of the babies survived. The haunting installation created by Aminaka Wilmont, displays a ‘dress of tears’, inspired by the ancient tradition of collecting tears during times of mourning.
Queen Victoria’s bedroom, transformed into the Room of a Sleeping Princess, is notorious as the chamber where the young princess awoke to the news that her uncle King William IV had died at Windsor Castle, and she was to become the new Queen of England. William Tempest’s enchanting installation portrays an avant-garde interpretation of a period dress, designed to represent Victoria’s life-changing overnight transformation from princess to Queen.
Additional highlights include the Gallery of War and Play, where group members can indulge in child’s-play with hundreds of toy soldiers and boats, echoing the war games played by William III and his nephew; The King’s Drawing Room, where Echo Morgan’s ‘cabinet of curiosities’ acknowledges avid royal collectors Queen Mary III and Caroline of Ansbach; and the Council Chamber, displaying beautiful dresses belonging to Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret.
History brought to life
While the installations and visual clues lead visitors on a fascinating trail, The Enchanted Palace is really brought to life by interactive performances produced by international theatre company, WILDWORKS. Costumed actors posing as Palace Guardians drafted in to protect the secrets of the palace; these theatrical installations provide a little light relief and entertainment at intermittent intervals, contributing to the fairy-tale world of the exhibition. Don’t rely on them for an educational viewpoint however; any questions are likely to be rebuffed by a cryptic comeback!
The Gallery of Dancing Shadows accommodates a spellbinding finale for groups who stay on the trail of The Enchanted Palace, finally revealing the identities of Kensington’s seven royal princesses.
Planning your group visit
The enigmatic themes and hidden clues which attempt to reveal the stories contained within The Enchanted Palace, will be a lot more relevant to group members well-versed in the history of the British monarchy. While the exhibition certainly has no trouble capturing the imagination of its visitors, the experience becomes especially interesting once you are able to gain some perspective of the lives of the seven princesses represented by the themed rooms and installations. To this end, the Historic Royal Palaces website contains an invaluable amount of information and engaging resources which can be used to prep your group beforehand, or provide some perspective having seen the exhibition.
Groups planning a visit to Kensington Palace to see The Enchanted Palace exhibition can take advantage of a variety of group benefits, including discounted entry rates for parties of 15 or more people. Coach drivers and Blue Badge guides are entitled to free entry.
The on-site Orangery restaurant offers group bookings and menus, providing subsistence for your party before or after a visit to The Enchanted Palace. All group visits must be arranged in advance.