Kensington Palace in London has undergone a £12-million transformation and now has a permanent exhibition that sounds like it is worth exploring and is about the life and reign of Queen Victoria through her own words.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Howley) and the Lord Chamberlain (the Marquis of Conyhgham) left Windsor for Kensington Palace, where Princess Victoria had been residing, to inform her of the king’s death. It was two hours after mid. night when they started, and they did not reach Kensington till five o’clock in the morning. They knocked, they rang, they thumped for a considerable time before they could rouse the porter at the gate; they were again kept waiting in the courtyard; then turned into one of the lower rooms, where they seemed to be forgotten by everybody. They rang the bell, and desired that the attendant of the Princess Victoria might be sent to inform her Royal Highness that they requested an audience on business of importance. After another delay, and another ringing to inquire the cause, the attendant was summoned, who stated that the Princess was in such a sweet sleep that she could not venture to disturb her. Then they said, ‘We are come on business of State to the Queen, even her sleep must give way to that.’ It did, and to prove that she did not keep them waiting, in a few moments she came into the room in a loose, white nightgown and shawl; her nightcap thrown off, and her hair falling upon her shoulders, her feet in slippers, tears in her eyes, but perfectly collected and dignified.”
At eleven o’clock that morning the Queen met her first Council at Kensington Palace.
“Never was anything like the first impression she produced, or the chorus of praise and admiration which is raised about her manner and behaviour,” says Mr. Greville in his diary.
“Her extreme youth and inexperience, and the ignorance of the world concerning her, naturally excited intense curiosity to see how she would act on this trying occasion, and there was a considerable assemblage at the Palace, notwithstanding the short notice that was given. The first thing to be done was to teach her her lesson, which for this purpose Melbourne had himself to learn. I gave him the Council papers, and explained all that was to be done, and he went and explained all this to her. He asked her if she would enter the room accompanied by the great officers of State, but she said she would come in alone. When the Lords were assembled, the Lord President (Lord Lansdown) informed them of the king’s death, and suggested, as they were so numerous, that a few should repair to the presence of the Queen and inform her of the event, and that their lordships were assembled in consequence; and accordingly the two royal Dukes” (Cumberland, now King of Hanover, and Sussex) “and the two Archbishops were deputed; the Chancellor and Melbourne went with them. The Queen received them in an adjoining room alone.”
“Then the doors were thrown open, and the Queen entered, accompanied by her two uncles. She bowed to the lords, and took her seat, and then read her speech in a clear, distinct, and audible voice, without any appearance of fear or embarrassment.”
“She was quite plainly dressed,” adds Mr. Greville, “and in mourning. After she had read her speech and signed the oath for the security of the Church of Scotland, administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Privy Counsellors were sworn; the two royal dukes first by themselves; and as these old men, her uncles, knelt before her, swearing allegiance and kissing her hand, I saw her blush up to the eyes, as if she felt the contrast between their civil and their natural relations; and this v as the only sign of emotion that she evinced. Her manner to them both was very graceful and engaging; she kissed them both, and rose from her chair and moved towards the Duke of Sussex, who was furthest from her, and too infirm to reach her. She seemed rather bewildered at the multitude of men who were sworn, and who came one after the other to kiss her hand; but she did not speak to anybody, nor did she make the slightest difference in her manner, or show any in her countenance to any individual of any rank, station, or party.”
Thus ended the first Council of Queen Victoria in the old Palace of Kensington. Diary of a Lady of Quality by Frances Williams Wynn
The exhibition will tell us about Queen Victoria’s first day as Queen at Kensington Palace (see above) and her romance with Prince Albert, their family life and Prince Albert’s involvement in the 1851 Great Exhibition.
The childhood rooms where Princess Victoria lived will include paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Sir Edwin Landseer and the gifts that Queen Victoria exchanged with Prince Albert during their engagement in 1839.
The grand wedding dress, jewellery and other personal objects will also be on display.
If you have children like myself there is a dressing-up clothes, interactive displays for young visitors and replica Victorian toys on display.
On top of this there is a temporary exhibition which focuses on Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The exhibition simply called ‘Jubilee’ will focus on the procession though London on 22 June 1897 when the Queen, members of the royal family and soldiers from around the world paraded to a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.