The Sunken Garden was created in 1908 at the instigation of King Edward VII, in an area of the gardens previously occupied by potting sheds and greenhouses. This new layout was modelled on the Pond Garden at Hampton Court Palace and celebrated a formal Edwardian style of gardening incorporating natural materials, herbaceous planting on terraces and water features. Over time the planting and other soft landscape features has gradually evolved and changed.
The garden is terraced with areas of lawn, paving and ornamental flower beds, surrounding a central ornamental pond, and features four pairs of ironwork gates with delicate Art Nouveau touches.
During her time at Kensington Palace Diana, Princess of Wales was particularly fond of the Sunken Garden, so to mark the 20th anniversary of her death in 2017 the palace’s gardeners transformed the space into The White Garden in her memory. Using flowers in white and soft pastel colours, the display took inspiration from items from the Princess’s wardrobe then on display in the palace.
Unveiled on what would have been her 60th birthday, a statue of the Princess commissioned by her sons in 2017 to memorialise their mother now stands within the garden. Prince William and Prince Harry wanted the statue to recognise her positive impact in the UK and around the world, and help future generations understand the significance of her place in history.
The statue aims to reflect the warmth, elegance and energy of Diana, Princess of Wales, in addition to her work and the impact she had on so many people. The figure of Diana, Princess of Wales is surrounded by three children who represent the universality and generational impact of the Princess’s work. The portrait and style of dress was based on the final period of her life as she gained confidence in her role as an ambassador for humanitarian causes, and aims to convey her character and compassion.
Beneath the statue is a plinth engraved with The Princess’ name and the date of the unveiling. In front of the statue is a paving stone engraved with an extract after the poem, 'The Measure of A Man' which was included in the programme for the 2007 memorial service for the Princess:
“These are the units to measure the worth
Of this woman as a woman regardless of birth.
Not what was her station,
But had she a heart?
How did she play her God-given part?”
The bronze statue was sculpted by Ian Rank-Broadley and is 1.25x life size. It was cast by Castle Fine Arts Foundry in the traditional 'lost-wax' process with a patina of a bluish green over black.
Work on preparing the garden for the statue’s installation began in October 2019, and since then five gardeners have spent a total of 1000 hours working on planting. Over 4000 individual flowers have been planted, including:
Designed to be viewed from the surrounding covered ‘Cradle Walk’, the garden is a popular feature amongst visitors to the palace, who, like the Princess once did, still enjoy the elegant floral displays.