Kensington Palace: Behind Closed Doors

Thursday 1 July, 7pm, Channel 5

Thursday 1 July, 7pm, Channel 5

Kensington Palace: Behind Closed Doors, a new two-part series concluded in the UK on Thursday 1 July at 7pm on Channel 5, taking an intimate look at the palace that has been a private home to the Royal Family for more than three hundred years, and the work undertaken by Historic Royal Palaces to care for its spectacular interiors and collections. It’s where Queen Victoria spent her childhood, where Diana, Princess of Wales brought up her two sons, and where The Duke of Cambridge and his family still live today. With the help of our team of curators and conservators, we'll explore everything from Queen Victoria’s teenage years at the palace to Diana, Princess of Wales’s amazing wardrobe, including the iconic dress that she wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House.

We also go behind the scenes to follow the biggest conservation project Kensington has seen in years, as gilded chandeliers are reinstalled in the King’s Drawing Room for the first time in over a century, and carpenters restore the precious woodwork in the State Apartments.

Series 1, Episode 1

20:00, Thursday 24 June on Channel 5

A curator laying out a red two piece suit on a table

In this episode, we meet Explainer Rob Brand as he prepares for the first visitors of the day to arrive, and we find out about Kensington's most famous resident; Diana, Princess of Wales who moved to the palace following her marriage in 1981. The Princess's dresses still draw huge crowds today - we follow conservator Libby Thompson and her team as they carefully install a red wool suit from Diana’s wardrobe in a glass case, ready to be shown to the public for the very first time.

Outside, Gardens and Estates manager Graham Dillamore and his team are restoring one of the Princess's favourite places, the Sunken Garden. Graham has been working at the palace for decades.  He recalls his memories of the Princess at Kensington, and how The Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose the garden as the place to announce their engagement. Meanwhile, the race is on to complete the palace interiors in the biggest conservation project Kensington has seen in years with master craftsmen Chris Britain and Ray Dudman having just two weeks to gild the rooms in 23 carat gold leaf, and install four vast hand carved chandeliers in the King’s Drawing Room – the first time chandeliers have been hung there for over a century.

Graham Dillamore, Head Gardener, standing in palace gardens
A curator standing in Queen Victoria's childhood bedroom in front of a fireplace and mirror.

As the rooms are restored, curator Claudia Acott Williams researches Queen Victoria’s childhood at the palace. Victoria’s upbringing was so tightly controlled by her mother’s personal secretary, Sir John Conroy, that a restrictive timetable, known as the Kensington System, was created for her. We discover the isolated princess found an ally in her governess, who kept an intimate personal scrapbook which still survives at the palace today. Claudia reveals how Victoria became Queen after the death of her uncle William IV, and how she was able to escape Conroy’s controlling clutches once she took the throne.

Series 1, Episode 2

19:00, Thursday 1 July on Channel 5

In episode two, Gardens and Estates Manager Graham Dillamore is leading a six-month project to conserve the Sunken Garden, a favourite spot of Diana, Princess of Wales. He remembers how, in 2017, the gardens team at Kensington marked the twentieth anniversary of the Princess’s death by planting the Sunken Garden with a scheme of white and pale pastel flowers which became known as ‘The White Garden’.

Meanwhile, inside the palace, conservator Libby Thompson and her team carefully prepare the midnight blue velvet dress Diana, Princess of Wales wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House in 1985 for display, as it goes on show for the first time since being acquired by Historic Royal Palaces.

Kensington has long had a reputation as a party palace, and this tradition stretches right back to the Georgians. Palace Explainer Roz Thomas gives us an insight into eighteenth-century court life at Kensington Palace, where courtiers would spend as much as the cost of a house on clothes, stood in hot crowded conditions for hours, and also needed to find novel ways of going to the loo without leaving the room. Historic Royal Palaces Joint Chief Curator Tracy Borman unpicks the secrets of the elaborate murals that surround the extraordinary King’s Grand Staircase, and reveals the relationship between palace residents King George II, his wife Queen Caroline, and his mistress, Henrietta Howard. 

A midnight blue silk velvet evening dress designed by Victor Edelstein in a display case

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