To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth at Kensington Palace, Historic Royal Palaces unveiled two new exhibitions at the palace on her birthday.
Victoria: A Royal Childhood examines Victoria’s early years spent at Kensington; with the suite of rooms she and her mother occupied being reimagined in an evocative and family-friendly exploration of royal childhood.
Victoria: Woman and Crown considers the private woman behind the public monarch and examines her later life and legacy.
A visit to Kensington Palace and gardens is always a great pleasure. With the opportunity to visit the new Victoria exhibition was a great incentive to return again.
As it did for me, the exhibition will immerse you into the story of Princess Victoria, the young girl destined to be the queen who was born and raised in Kensington Palace. You visit the actual bedroom of her parents Duke and Duchess of Kent where she was born, the rooms she played as a young child, her toys and dolls house on display for your viewing and even the ballroom where she loved to dance and many social events took place whilst looking for the princesses suiter.
Beautiful family portraits are on display throughout the exhibition as well as remarkable objects relating to Victoria’s early years – including a poignant scrapbook of mementoes created by her German governess, Baroness Lehzen, which goes on public display for the first time.
Victoria’s father died in January 1820 from pneumonia when Victoria was less than a year old. Her mother was extremely protective, and Victoria was raised largely isolated from other children by her mother and her advisor Sir John Conroy, the pair imposed a stifling code of discipline on the young Victoria, which came to be known as the ‘Kensington System’.
Victoria shared a bedroom with her mother every night, studied with private tutors to a regular timetable, and spent her play-hours with her dolls and her King Charles Spaniel, Dash.
Victoria learned that she was to become Queen when she was 18 years old, after her father’s three elder brothers had all died, leaving no surviving legitimate children. At this time she was still living at her childhood home of Kensington Palace.
She held her first council meeting in the palace’s Red Saloon just a few hours later; there is a large model display and portrait on the wall of the room representing this momentous event.
Rare survivals from the Queen’s private wardrobe – including a simple cotton petticoat and a pair of fashionable silver boots – provide a stark contrast to the black gowns she was so famous for wearing later in life when in mourning for her late husband Albert who died of typhoid at the young age of 42.
Victoria and Albert had nine children and her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than that of any of her predecessors and is known as the Victorian era.
The Victoria Woman & Crown event was extremely informative, there is a café downstairs for refreshments before you take some time out to visit the beautiful sunken garden.
The garden is terraced with paving and ornamental flower beds, surrounding an ornamental pond with fountains formed from reused 18th-century water cisterns retrieved from the palace, this summer the garden will dazzle with a rich Victorian colour palette, inspired by the vibrant colours found in Victorian carpets and interior decor.