UK - London: Kensington Gardens - Kensington Palace and Queen Victoria Memorial
Outside Kensington Palace stands a statue of Queen Victoria sculpted by her daughter, Princess Louise, to celebrate 50 years of her mother's reign. Victoria was born in the apartments of the Duke and Duchess of Kent (now the North Drawing room) and christened in the Cupola Room in 1819.
Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century. Today it is the official residence of Zara Phillips, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester; the Duke and Duchess of Kent; and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. It is often referred to as the Kensington House, rather than 'Palace.'
The original early 17th-century building was constructed in the village of Kensington as Nottingham House for the Earl of Nottingham. It was acquired from his heir, who was Secretary of State to William III in 1689 since the King wanted a residence near London but away from the smoky air of the capital because he was asthmatic. Kensington was at that time a village location outside London, but more accessible than Hampton Court. A private road was laid out from the Palace to Hyde Park Corner, broad enough for several carriages to travel abreast, part of which survives today as Rotten Row. The palace was extended by Sir Christopher Wren with pavilions attached to each corner. When Wren re-oriented the house to face west, he built north and south wings to flank the approach, made into a proper cour d'honneur, entered through an archway surmounted by a clock tower.
For seventy years Kensington Palace was the favored residence of British monarchs. Queen Mary died of smallpox in Kensington Palace in 1694. In 1702 William suffered a fall from a horse at Hampton Court and was brought to Kensington Palace, where he died shortly thereafter. After William III's death the palace became the residence of Queen Anne. Sir John Vanbrugh designed the Orangery for her in 1704 and a magnificent Baroque parterre 30 acre (121,000 m²) garden was laid out by Henry Wise. George I spent lavishly on new royal apartments from 1718. William Kent painted a staircase and some ceilings. In 1722 he designed the Cupola Room, the principal state room, with feigned coffering in its high coved ceiling. The last reigning monarch to use Kensington Palace was George II. For his consort, Charles Bridgeman swept away the outmoded parterres and redesigned Kensington Gardens in a form that is still recognizable today: his are The Sepentine, the Basin and the Grand Walk. After George II's death there in the palace in 1760, Kensington Palace was only used for more minor royalty, including the young daughter of the Duke of Kent who was living in the palace with her widowed mother when she was told of her accession to the throne as Queen Victoria. Queen Mary (grandmother of the Queen Elizbaeth) was born at Kensington Palace in 1867.
In 1981 apartments 8 and 9 were combined to create the London residence of the newly married Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, and it remained the official residence of Diana after her divorce and until her death in 1997. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, went to local nursery and pre-preparatory schools in Notting Hill, which is a short drive away.