THE following pages, compiled under the sanction of the Lord Chamberlain of Her Majesty’s Household and the First Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Works and Buildings, are intended to meet the requirements of visitors to the State Rooms of Kensington Palace, now open by command of the Queen to the inspection of the public during Her Majesty’s pleasure. This little book, therefore, is to be understood as aiming only at a descriptive and historical account of the particular parts of the building on view—not, in any ...
THE following pages, compiled under the sanction of the Lord Chamberlain of Her Majesty’s Household and the First Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Works and Buildings, are intended to meet the requirements of visitors to the State Rooms of Kensington Palace, now open by command of the Queen to the inspection of the public during Her Majesty’s pleasure. This little book, therefore, is to be understood as aiming only at a descriptive and historical account of the particular parts of the building on view—not, in any sense, as attempting a general history of the Palace. Nevertheless, the author may, perhaps, be permitted to say that, as far as his object extends, he has endeavoured to render the information here given as accurate and complete as possible, by devoting the same amount of time and labour to research and verification, as though he had been writing a book of a critical nature for a restricted circle of readers, instead of a mere handbook for ordinary sightseers.
In this way, the writer conceives, can he best promote the object which, it may be assumed, the Queen and Her Majesty’s Government have had in view in restoring and opening these State Rooms to the public—namely, that they should serve as an object-lesson in history and art, and a refining influence of popular culture and education.
In pursuance of this design the author has had recourse not only to such well-known standard authorities on his subject as Pyne’s “History of Royal Residences,” 1819; Faulkner’s “History of Kensington,” 1820; Leigh Hunt’s “Old Court Suburb,” 1853; and Mr. Loftie’s “Kensington—Picturesque and Historical,” 1887; but also to a large number of earlier and less known historical and topographical works, which have served to illustrate many things connected with the history of this interesting old building.
His main sources of information, however, have been the old manuscripts, parchment rolls, and state papers, preserved in the British Museum and Record Office—especially the “Declared Accounts” and “Treasury Papers,” containing the original estimates, accounts and reports of Sir Christopher Wren and his successors, relating to the works and buildings at Kensington. None of these have ever before been examined or published; and they throw much light on the art and decoration of this palace, while also, for the first time, setting at rest many hitherto debatable points.
The author must here once again—as in works of a similar nature elsewhere—express his obligations for the kind assistance he has received from all those who have charge of the Queen’s palaces—the Hon. Sir Spencer Ponsonby Fane, G.C.B., Comptroller of Her Majesty’s Household; the Hon. Reginald Brett, C.B., Secretary of Her Majesty’s Board of Works and Buildings; Sir John Taylor, K.C.B., Consulting Architect and Surveyor to the Board; and Mr. Philip, Clerk of the Works at Kensington Palace.
At the same time he wishes to make it clear that for the information contained herein, and for the opinions and views expressed, he himself is alone responsible.
Here also the author must make his acknowledgments to the editor of “The Gentlewoman,” who has kindly lent him the blocks for the portraits of the Queen.
It may be as well to take this opportunity of emphasizing what is more fully insisted on in subsequent pages, that Kensington Palace, as a public resort, is not to be considered in the light of an Art Gallery, but as a Palace with historical pictures in it. The clear understanding of this may prevent misapprehension as to the scheme followed in restoring the state rooms to their original state, where the pictures—and their frames—are arranged on the walls as a part only of their furniture and decoration.
Finally, it may be observed that though the outline of the history of the Palace, prefixed to the description of the State Rooms, has necessarily been brief, the Queen’s early life, and the interesting events that took place here in June 1837, seemed to require a fuller treatment. These, therefore, have been described in detail, mainly in the words of eye-witnesses, which, though they have often been printed before, may, being repeated here, acquire—the compiler has thought—a new vividness and interest, when read on the very spot where they were enacted; and thus insure for these famous scenes an even wider popularity than before.