Duchess's grand designs
Edward, Duke of Kent's rennovations
Edward, Duke of Kent was allocated two floors of rooms in the south-east corner of the palace in 1798, below the State Apartments. These rooms had formerly been the king's private apartments and seem to have been uninhabited after the death of George II in 1760. They were, therefore, in a fairly dilapidated state.
The Duke’s persistence resulted in a complete conversion of the lower floors of the palace, the substance of which still survives. James Wyatt, Surveyor-General to the Board of Works, was the architect of the conversion. A new porch was constructed on the eastern side of the Great Court, with an entrance hall that opened into a fine double staircase. This led to a saloon (the Red Saloon), with the dining room and others beyond.
A future queen
The Duke of Kent, who had moved to Brussels to escape his debts, altered his plans following the unexpected 1817 death of Princess Charlotte, the only young heir to the throne. Though George III had 12 living descendants, not one had a legitimate child.
In 1818 the Duke married Victoria, Dowager Princess of Leiningen, the sister of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg - the late Princess Charlotte's husband. He returned to England when his wife was expecting their first child and on 24 May 1819 Princess Victoria was born at Kensington Palace.
The young Princess was christened the following month in a private ceremony in the Cupola Room. Unfortunately, the Duke lived only nine months after the birth of his daughter. The Duchess of Kent and her daughter continued to live at Kensington until the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.
The Duchess’s changes at Kensington
In the early 1830s, while William IV (1830-7) was on the throne, the Duchess of Kent extended her apartments at Kensington. Noting how unused the State Apartments were, she took the opportunity to extend her living quarters on to the second floor.
In 1832, Sir Jeffry Wyatville prepared a plan for the Duchess to partition the King's Gallery into three rooms. These were for the use of Victoria, the young heir to the throne. The rooms adjoining the gallery to the south east were also converted into a bedroom, dressing room and maid's room.
When King William IV visited the palace in 1836, he discovered that the Duchess and her daughter had taken over a suite of 17 rooms for their own use. Unimpressed, he complained publicly that this had been done 'not only without his consent, but contrary to his commands'.
It was in these newly acquired apartments, a year later, however, that Princess Victoria was awakened early in the morning of 20 June 1837 with news of her accession to the throne.
The young Queen at once moved into Buckingham Palace, accompanied by her mother.