Public museum and royal home

Public museum and royal home

Old East Front view

Kensington Palace is now both a palace open to the public while still home to members of the royal family.

Opening up to the public

Kensington’s State Apartments were given over in 1911-12 to the newly founded London Museum for the display of objects relating to the City of London and royal relics.

Queen Mary had taken a keen interest in the museum. And it was she who managed to persuade George V (1910-36) that it could 'be accommodated, at least temporarily, in the State Rooms at Kensington Palace'.

The Queen's Drawing Room as it appeared in 1912 shortly after the opening of the London Museum.

A royal tour

The King and Queen toured the new museum on 21 March 1912. They were accompanied by Princess Mary and Prince George (later Duke of Kent).

The State Apartments were filled with showcases, some containing hundreds of objects. The display included a large collection of costume, including 18th-century court dress, coronation robes and dresses worn by Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary.


The royal visit to the London Museum at Kensington Palace on 21 March 1912. George V, Queen Mary and two of their children are shown inspecting the exhibits in the Cupola Room.

Kensington in the 20th century

In 1914 the museum moved to Lancaster House, in the west end of London near St James’s Park. The State Apartments were closed, and during the First World War (1914-18) they were used as offices by various charitable organisations. The palace did not reopen again until 1923.

In 1932-3 the three rooms in the south-east corner of the palace associated with Queen Victoria were restored and rearranged under the direction of Queen Mary.

Bomb damage during the Second World War (1939-45) left the State Apartments badly affected, particularly the Queen's Apartments.

After a five-year closure the palace was reopened in June 1949. The following year the London Museum returned to Kensington for a quarter of a century (until its amalgamation with the Guildhall Museum and its reopening in the Barbican as the Museum of London in 1976).

Up to the present day

Today, Kensington continues its long history as a residence for members of the Royal Family. Princesses still live around Princesses’ Court.

The best known resident in recent years was Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-97) who occupied apartments in the north-west part of the palace from 1981 to 1997.

Since 2013 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have made Kensington Palace their home.

For more information about Kensington Palace there are some good books available, fact and fiction.


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