A new Home
William III and Mary II were crowned as joint monarchs in 1689, after they were invited by Parliament to take the throne in the place of Catholic King James II, Mary’s father.
They bought Kensington Palace to become their new home, away from the bustle of Whitehall Palace, and transformed the building into a royal home. The Queen’s apartments were where Mary, and later royal consorts, lived. This is where they had their bedroom, took their meals, entertained their friends and distinguished guests, and relaxed.
The Queen’s rooms
The Queen's Staircase, little changed since its construction in 1690, is deliberately plainer than the King's. Mary would have glided down its steps to reach her beloved gardens, created in the Dutch style, through the door at its foot.
At the top of the staircase is the Queen's Gallery. Built in 1693, it was once filled with sumptuous artefacts including Turkish carpets, embroidered silk hangings and oriental porcelain. It was designed as a light and airy space for Mary to enjoy simple pastimes such as walking, reading and needlework.
The next door leads to the Queen's Closet. It was in this room that Queen Anne, Mary’s younger sister, and her childhood friend and confidante, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, had a terrible argument in 1711. Sarah and her husband were stripped of their high-rank positions and dismissed from court, which caused a shift of power between parliamentary factions.
The next room along is the Queen's Dining Room which has beautiful panelling from the 17th century. It was a space where Mary and William could dine together, out of the public eye. They enjoyed dining modestly, on fish and beer.
Queen Mary was passionate about porcelain and filled the next room, her Drawing Room, with pieces from China and Japan. Visitors can also see William and Mary’s intertwined monogram in the beautifully carved cornice.
A royal birth
The last room in the Queen's State Apartments is the Queen's Bedroom. As Mary extended her apartments and created a new bedroom, this room became a cosy sociable space in which she entertained friends.
The bed that is displayed in this room also tells its own fascinating story. It is thought to be the bed in which James Edward Stuart, son of King James II was born, at St James’ Palace, in 1688. As Mary and Anne’s Catholic half-brother, his birth was such a threat to the Protestant establishment that rumours were spread that the baby was an impostor, smuggled into the bed in a ‘warming pan’ to replace a stillborn infant.
Explore Queen Victoria's long and extraordinary life in her own words at Victoria Revealed, the Queen Victoria exhibition.
Opens end of June
Kensington Gardens are well renowned for their beauty - find out more about the especially intriguing Sunken Garden that was planted in 1908.