New exhibits unveiled at the Enchanted Palace

New exhibits unveiled at the Enchanted Palace

Cabinet of Curiosities - OCI

Kensington Palace as you have never seen it before...

In association with WILDWORKS, featuring Paul Costelloe, Vivienne Westwood, Bruce Oldfield and Zandra Rhodes

Press Release

Spectacular new exhibits unveiled for temporary visitor experience at Kensington Palace

Independent charity Historic Royal Palaces is undertaking a £12 million major renovation project at Kensington Palace, to be completed in March 2012, in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. Whilst improvement works are underway, the immersive exhibition Enchanted Palace has cast a spell over Kensington’s magnificent State Apartments, creating a mysterious and atmospheric world for visitors to explore. Contemporary fashion installations inspired by the stories of the seven princesses who once lived at the palace - Mary, Anne, Caroline, Charlotte, Victoria, Margaret and Diana – are enhanced by live performance, storytelling, soundscapes and film projections, to reveal Kensington Palace in a magical new light.

As part of this evolving exhibition, a series of stunning new displays of courtly costume will be unveiled, created by leading British designers Paul Costelloe, Vivienne Westwood, Bruce Oldfield, and Zandra Rhodes. These vivid creations have been imaginatively presented in association with artists from Cornish theatre company WILDWORKS.

Irish designer Paul Costelloe has created a striking installation for Queen Victoria’s bedroom, featuring giant puppets standing up to 12ft tall, clad in his own designs. Coming from a large family, and with seven children of his own, the designer was intrigued by Queen Victoria’s isolated childhood at Kensington Palace, and collaborated with WILDWORKS designer Myriddin Wannell to create four enormous puppets to serve as imaginary friends for a lonely young princess. Paul and Myriddin have also worked their creative magic over the bedroom itself to present ‘The Room of a Sleeping Princess’, complete with a bed piled high with mountains of mattresses and cushions in silk brocade by Manuel Canovas at Colefax and Fowler. Many small dolls dating from the 18th to the 20th century, loaned from the Museum of Childhood’s handling collection, are delicately scattered around the bed.

From Kensington Palace’s extensive fashion archives, unique outfits by Vivienne Westwood, Bruce Oldfield and Zandra Rhodes, originally created for the palace’s 1992’s ‘Court Couture’ exhibition, have been given a new fairytale twist. Vivienne Westwood’s fabulous corseted creation, renamed a ‘Dress for Flying into the Arms of Love and Death’, is suspended mid-air as if fleeing down the King’s Grand Staircase. WILDWORKS artistic director Bill Mitchell has transformed Bruce Oldfield’s classic white gown into a ‘Dress for Reflection’ in the sumptuous Queen’s Bedchamber. Bill has also created a darkly dramatic installation for Zandra Rhodes’s ‘Dress for the Queen of the Night’ in the Privy Chamber, surrounded by historic tapestries and busts of great scientists and philosophers. Boudicca’s glistening metallic sculptures, unveiled during the first phase of Enchanted Palace in March, continue to adorn the golden chandeliers of the magnificent Cupola Room.

For the King’s Drawing Room, WILDWORKS’ Mercedes Kemp has curated a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ inspired by Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737), queen consort of George II, and a prolific collector of precious and intriguing objects from around the globe. The theme for the Cabinet is the journeys undertaken by women from all over the world, their mothers and grandmothers, to reach London. Many women of all ages, with diverse heritages, have contributed to the cabinet, providing iconic objects that remind them of home.  Textile artist Maria-Theresa Fernandes, has created ‘A Dress of Sorrows’ for the cabinet, inspired by her work with Asian community groups in East London. Other elements for the cabinet have been specially created by Kensington’s community partners.  Community arts organisation Stitches in Time worked with three community groups to produce beautiful embroideries mapping out their journeys, artist Frances Kiernan worked with the Princes Drawing School to create a series of journey journals, celebrating journeys made by the children, both geographical and emotional.  Finally, artist Laura Prideaux worked with girls from Kensington organisation Into University to make intricate dresses fashioned from maps drawn and created by the girls.  

All of these extraordinary contemporary installations are exhibited alongside historic items from the Royal Collection and Kensington Palace's Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, together with two beautiful dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret.

From May 2011 until January 2012, the Enchanted Palace will undergo one final transformation (further details to be announced).  Kensington Palace’s £12 million major renovation project will be completed and unveiled in March 2012.

For more information, factsheets, images or interviews, please contact Ruth Howlett at the Historic Royal Palaces press office: +44 (0)20 3166 6338/6166 or email

Notes to Editors

Enchanted Palace is open at Kensington Palace 7 days a week, 10am – 5pm. Please see for further information, including admission prices.

Welcome to Kensington - a palace for everyone is a £12 million major project to transform Kensington Palace by improving accessibility, introducing new education and community facilities, reconnecting the palace with the surrounding park through new public gardens, and enabling us to present exciting exhibitions inspired by the palaces rich past and unique collections. Major works began in June 2010 and are scheduled for completion in March 2012 in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics.

A short history of Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace has been home to some of the country’s most charismatic and best-known royals, including George II, Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales. Originally built in 1605 as a private country house, it was purchased in 1689 by King William III and Queen Mary II, eager to escape Whitehall. They immediately ordered major improvements to the Jacobean mansion to make it fit for royal residence. The palace includes contributions from some of the most renowned architects of the past three centuries, including Sir Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor, Sir John Vanbrugh, John Nash, Colin Campbell and William Kent.

The palace is also home to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection – 12,000 items worn by royalty and courtiers from the seventeenth century to the present day, including clothing worn by George III, Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret, The Queen, and Diana, Princess of Wales. In September 2009, it was announced that the collection has been Designated as a pre-eminent collection of national and international importance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The project ‘Welcome to Kensington – a palace for everyone’ will enable Historic Royal Palaces to make this important collection far more widely accessible than currently possible to visitors by 2012.

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.

We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.

These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

We believe in four principles.  Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world.  Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work. Registered charity number 1068852

WILDWORKS is an international theatre company, based in Cornwall.

WILDWORKS produces unique landscape theatre in challenging places and with extraordinary communities. Our productions have been sited in old quarries, derelict mines, working fishing quays, abandoned department stores, dockyards, a Napoleonic citadel, the Green Line in Nicosia… We have worked with gospel choirs, drama groups, local artists, surfers, tea dance regulars, North African migrants, cake-makers, ex-miners, a young hip-hop group, abseilers and a Hell’s Angels chapter.

Drawing its power from community, WILDWORKS integrates music, dance and theatre. We use everything: food, stunning imagery, action, film, music and text to tell our story. Narrative is at the centre of our work. We bring the seeds of a story to a site and weave in the strands that tie people and place together.

Downloadable Resources

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    Factsheet - A history of Kensington Palace
    (Adobe PDF, 42KB)

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