Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?
I’ll leave you to work that one out. Suffice to say that we stopped by Westfield Shopping Centre on the way, to get a couple of things as we were passing through.
It was all rather more spiffy than we thought, but then we discovered that this is the new extension - the original part isn’t quite so bright and airy.
The new John Lewis store got a thumbs up from us both and I particularly admired this wonderful figure in the furnishing fabric department. Is this one of the partners do you think?
I might have felt more cross with the woman who stepped in front of me to take her picture, were it not for the fact that she wore an anorak to match the wall coverings.
Whilst my hero did a quick resume of British history for Wendy, I looked more closely at the map above the mantelpiece, musing on the days when we would have thought ourselves to be standing at the centre of the world.
And though I ought to have been paying attention to the history lesson as well (as you might know, I was away when they did history!) I was too busy giggling at the spelling of Scilly Isles…
When visiting places like this, however, I am always as enamoured by the storytelling as I am with the story itself, and here, I admired the presentation very much indeed.
Moving on into the Presence Chamber - or was it the Privy Chamber? - a few tables were set aside with games laid on them. I was intrigued by these cards: Are they playing cards or song sheets? Or both?
This is where courtiers would have been received and a fine set of clothes were on display, both for men and women.
The women were anxious to show off the beauty of the silk fabric, so used it in a way that as much of it was visible as possible.
Well, they could always go through a door sideways, couldn’t they? (Sorry about the dreadful photograph!)
More clothes were on display in the Cupola Room, but these were all made of paper. Very clever construction with so much detail and rather reminiscent of the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave
I looked closely to find out more details of them, but no joy.
So I simply admired the details, took a few notes and watched the ghostly dancers
…projected shadows on the walls. Very effective but ever so slightly spooky.
From here, we moved into the Queen’s Apartments, decorated in the style of William and Mary. Here, their story was well told, including some interesting details such as the one above. These smaller rooms were darker and a little too crowded to linger.
We continued into the Victoria exhibition, for Kensington Palace had been her childhood home. We were fortunate to encounter Claire in the Privy Council Chamber, where the Queen had held her very first meeting with the great and the good, just hours after she succeeded her Uncle to the throne. Claire was one of those Palace staff with a wealth of knowledge at her fingertips and the enthusiasm to share it. We listened as she painted a picture of that morning, enjoyed identifying each of the main characters in the painting of the event with her help and then taking particular note of the exhibit in the glass case opposite.
An eighteen year old of slight build, the new Queen found the regalia rather large and heavy to wear, so one of her first decisions was to have a new set made in proportion to her stature. Here it was.
Her engagement and marriage to Prince Albert was described in the next room, illustrated with some rather sentimental items including the Queen’s own watercolour painting of her intended bridesmaid’s dress design.
“The Prince” was there in the form of a mannequin, dressed in uniform. Was this authentic or an artwork, we wondered?
The answer was to be found on his cuff…
We enjoyed looking through these rooms, coming across Claire once again, who told us there will be a different exhibition staged here next year to celebrate 200 years since Victoria’s birth. Her Kensington childhood will be the theme - time for another visit, perhaps.
This story was to end in tears of course and the next room was filled with gloom.
In stark contrast to the story so far, of a young woman leading such a charmed life with her beloved Albert, the final rooms were sombre and somewhat bleak.
We completed this exhibit by watching films of the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees, finding the second, later one particularly poignant as we watched her struggle to get up and out of her carriage when it reached St Pauls. In fact, she didn’t make it into the Cathedral at all and the service was held outside.
I think she would have appreciated the stairlift installed in the Palace now, don’t you?
Just one more exhibit to see.
The exhibition of Diana’s clothes seemed to attract a different audience from the rest of the Palace. The dresses were well displayed, though the glass cases made photographs difficult.
I liked the design illustrations as much as the clothes themselves, enjoying the differing styles of the designers, each of whom has a personal “signature” illustration.
Most interesting were the gowns where there was a photograph alongside. Some were memorable, such as the dark blue velvet gown from the evening the Princess danced with John Travolta.
There was a recognisable shift in style after her separation from the Prince of Wales too and these later gowns such as the studded and spangled one by Versace in the final display were in marked contrast to the more demure styles worn as a member of the Royal family.
Leaving the Palace through the gift shop (of course) we resisted the siren call of the teapot in the café there and crossed the road to our own little haven of peace, quiet and cup of Earl Grey. The Palace may well be a grand place to hang out but it’s such a shame we had to share it with so many people!