Kensington palace is architecturally one of the more modest royal residences, but historically it is full of interest. It began life as a private residence of the Finch family and was purchased by William III in 1689 since it provided fresh air but was near to London. Wren, surveyor of the works, was employed to rebuild extensively, but the scale was moderate, partly because speed was essential, partly because there was lavish building at Hampton Court. The delightful orangery by Vanbrugh was added during Anne's reign. Much of the later internal decoration, including the king's staircase, was by William Kent, and the gardens were laid out and redeveloped by George London, Henry Wise, and Charles Bridgeman. The Round Pond and the Serpentine were finished during the reign of George I. The palace was popular with the royal family until George III began developing Buckingham House. William and Mary died at Kensington; Anne had her celebrated quarrel with the duchess of Marlborough in a small ante-room, and later died in the palace. George II and Caroline were fond of the place and there are two admirable terracotta busts by Michael Rysbrack. George III made over apartments to his royal brothers, and the young Victoria, daughter of the duke of Kent, was brought up there. At Kensington she held her first Privy Council on the day of her accession in 1837. It is still used as a royal residence. The palace is open to the public and includes a permanent exhibition of court dress.
J. A. Cannon
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