Radical transformation of Kensington Palace's State Apartments
Kensington Palace has been transformed following a £12 million major renovation project by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces. As part of this exciting change, Historic Royal Palaces has worked with theatre-makers Coney to radically transform the State Apartments revealing the secret lives of some of England’s most interesting monarchs from the Houses of Stuart and Hanover. From 26 March, visitors will be invited to explore and take part in captivating tales of the monarchy and court life in the magnificent State Apartments, as one of several new visitor offers.
The King’s and Queen’s State Apartments were at the epicentre of royal and political life, and played host to the courts of William and Mary, Anne, George I and George II in the 17th and 18th centuries. Their stories will be brought to life through new multi-medium installations, live interactive theatre, and splendid never before seen costume from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection.
In the Queen’s Apartments we lift the curtain on the private lives of Mary II and Anne and explore how their shared heartbreak became the tragedy of the nation. William and Mary desperately needed a strong heir and Anne’s witty, clever young son became the only hope for the Stuart dynasty. In these intimate wood-panelled apartments, visitors will see the rise and fall of the Stuarts through the eyes of Little William, the future King who danced himself to death on his 11th birthday.
Each room has been transformed with a beautiful installation that explores each stage of the dynasty, from the Glorious Revolution to the end of the Protestant line of the Stuarts. Coney and Historic Royal Palaces have worked with the award winning set designer Joanna Scotcher to use elements of the historic collection alongside specially created interactive pieces, original soundscapes, animation and beautiful lighting. Magic mirrors, whisper machines and a magnificent family tree rooted in the Queen’s bedroom will immerse visitors in the dream world of Little William, whilst a window into the lives of everyday residents of the court will be given by the poignant, personal items on show. For the curious, walls may whisper and secrets could be hidden anywhere.
Contrasting with the intimacy of the Queen’s Apartments is the grand, imposing architecture of the King’s Apartments. Upon entering, visitors will be greeted by the lavishly decorated staircase that the King’s visitors would have ascended when Kensington Palace was the seat of power. To graduate from room to room would be the work of a lifetime and only a handful would set foot in the King’s private quarters. The court was the most glamorous place to be in London, a heady mixture of celebrity, politics and fashion, and to get ahead required wit, intelligence and charisma. The importance of a flawless appearance in the 18th century is illustrated by the rare examples of court dress on display for the very first time.
Today visitors are invited to hold a hand of cards like no other, where the playful can collect hints and tips in order to succeed at the treacherous game of court. From room to room, hidden cards can be discovered and mysterious performers will divulge clues to the curious to help them collect a winning hand. The space of the King’s Apartments will become a social arena once again, where visitors are encouraged to trade cards, seek conversation and encounter the unexpected.
Joanna Marschner, Historic Royal Palaces curator said: “Theatre-makers Coney have introduced a fresh and original way of interpreting our great palace stories. They have drawn into our midst young artists, sound designers, film-makers and light artists. All have been inspired by our spaces, collections and have worked with our palace team and community partners. The results are tremendous and I know will intrigue and delight out visitors.”
This radical presentation of the State Apartments is part of Historic Royal Palaces’ £12 million major renovation project to transform the visitor experience of Kensington Palace in time for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The re-opening of the palace on 26 March 2012 will also include a major permanent exhibition dedicated to Queen Victoria in her own words and a new temporary display of dresses worn by Princess Diana of Wales. Improved visitor facilities include a new entrance, café, shop, Clore Learning Centre and beautiful landscaped public gardens reconnecting the Palace to Kensington Gardens.
Notes to editors
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 raise all our own funds and 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. www.hrp.org.uk Registered charity number 1068852
Coney makes adventures and all kinds of things for people to play, following a set of principles including loveliness, adventure and curiosity. They mix live and digital art forms to create immersive stories and play for diverse audiences. These can happen anywhere, at anytime: in buildings, online, or out in the world. The adventure starts when you first hear about it and ends when you stop thinking about it. Coney’s work is light, playful and responsive to the actions of its audience, offering them the opportunity to co-author their experience.
Coney has made work for and with the National Theatre, Tate Britain, Channel 4 Education, Battersea Arts Centre, National Theatre of Wales, Latitude Festival and many more. The company has recently been awarded National Portfolio status by Arts Council England.
For more information visit www.youhavefoundconey.net or @agencyofconey