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The King's Staircase

This grand entrance to the King's State Apartments is a must-see

This grand entrance to the King's State Apartments is a must-see

The walls of the King's Staircase were painted by William Kent as a vivid recreation of George I's court. The artwork depicts those who lived and worked at the lively 18th-century court.

In the Georgian period, visitors to court could only enter if their clothes and jewels were deemed suitable by the guards.

Some of the guards in their red uniforms stand among the figures of the arcade painted on the walls, many of them identifiable as members of the royal court.

Kent completed the staircase paintings in 1725-7 and replaced rather more plain wooden panelling, which had been installed by Sir Christopher Wren.

Kent included a picture of himself in the painting. Look out for him on the ceiling with his partner, the actress Elizabeth Butler, at his shoulder. Kent is wearing a brown turban and holding an artist's palette.


Open Wednesday - Sunday

In line with palace opening hours

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Discover the forgotten stories of those who worked at the royal palaces

Along with the Yeomen of the Guard, Kent's painting includes the King's Polish page Ulric and Ludwig Maximillian Mehemet von Könsigstreu, the Keeper of the Privy Purse for King George I.

Mehmet and his wife Marie Hedwig are believed to be one of the first interracial married couples at the Hanoverian Court. As a trusted servant of King George I, with intimate access to the monarch, Mehmet was an influential, and sometimes, controversial figure. Now, for the first time, his fascinating story will be brought to the fore in Untold Lives: A Palace at Work, alongside his fellow Turkish valet, Ernst August Mustapha von Misitri, (more commonly known as Mustapha) in a portrait by Godfrey Kneller – on loan from the Ömer Koç Collection - never exhibited before in the UK.

Also depicted on the staircase is a young boy called Peter, who was found living alone in German woods and brought to Kensington Palace. Peter became famous as the subject of intense scientific and public interest, before being sent away.

Peter’s image survives, but many other people were forgotten and overlooked, with only brief details of their lives preserved in the royal accounts. The exhibition team for Untold Lives: A Palace at Work have chosen to find other ways to explore their contributions, working with contemporary artists such as Peter Brathwaite and Matt Smith to bring some of these forgotten stories into the spotlight and ensure that their legacy at the palaces lives on.

Learn more about Untold Lives: A Palace at Work
Photograph of The King's Staircase, featuring members of George I's court.


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The story of Kensington Palace

An elegant retreat for Britain's royal family

William Kent

Royal artist, architect and designer to Georgian kings

William III and Mary II

England's only joint sovereigns, who transformed Kensington Palace into a royal residence

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