Ok so I’m rather embarrassed to admit this… but I have never visited Kew Palace before! Even though I work for Historic Royal Palaces and Kew Palace is practically on my doorstep, I have never had a good look around until now.
Kew Palace is often associated with its impressive Georgian heritage. Britain’s infamous ‘Mad’ King George III, tended to spent time here alongside his rather large family, in order to ‘recover’ from his mysterious illness.
Poor George III (1760-1820) appears to have suffered from porphyria, which is a hereditary disease that affected George’s mental stability. Whilst enduring these bouts of illness, George was unable to even eat with his own knife and fork, because it was deemed dangerous to his safety!
When you visit Kew Palace, there is little wonder as to why it was chosen as a royal retreat. The Palace is like something out of a fairytale. It is situated within the picturesque grounds at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens , and visitors almost stumble upon it whilst exploring this floral paradise. It is therefore easy to imagine life 300 years ago, when Kew Palace became the ideal place to hide a King from the public’s prying eyes.
Kew Palace is unlike any other palace that I have ever visited before. When I had a good ol’ nosy around Queen Charlotte’s apartments and peered into the Princesses’ bedchambers, I felt like I was wandering inside the Jane-Austenesque family home rather than a majestic royal residence. It came as know surprise when I discovered that Kew Palace was Britain’s smallest palace! There is something quite moving about this Georgian abode, because instead of confronting a ‘Mad’ King overwhelmed by illness, you gain a private and personal insight into a family who feared for the welfare of a loved one.
By viewing the Royal Family’s personal belongings – such as their letters, toys, furniture and clothes – their hobbies, tastes, fears, frustrations and daily routines all come vividly to life. George III’s bath tub was something which I found particularly amusing! The chair in which Queen Charlotte supposedly passed away in, was also incredibly harrowing to see…
There is another lovely surprise ready to be unearthed at Kew Palace, which is literally hidden within the walls! Kew Palace is unique, because some panels lining the walls have been removed to reveal the original 17th century structure. When colleagues told me that the majority of Kew Palace is made out of wood, I couldn’t fully comprehend it until I had seen it with my own eyes. It was fascinating to look at how this Palace was constructed; seeing methods and materials which were crafted nearly 400 years ago. Fingerprints are faintly visible in some of the plasterwork – so keep your eyes pealed !
An added bonus to my visit was a walk around the attic! It is here that you glimpse another side to the history of Kew Palace. Up in the rafters, the decor and atmosphere of the Palace is completely different. Graffiti survives from the Second World War and the 1960s – (most of it is quite comical I have to say)! Doors have survived from the 17th and 18th centuries, and there is a maze of small, claustrophobic rooms which lead off each other. It is slightly creepy up there – but it is immensely interesting too!
Don’t forget to look at the Royal Kitchens! I really got a sense of life below stairs, when I walked through the rooms dedicated to cooking, storing and preparing. The opportunity to flick through copies of the accounts, and to scan through contemporary Georgian recipes, is an absolutely brilliant idea! It just fitted into Kew Palace’s intimate story, and helps to bridge that 300-year gap between the 21st century and the 18th.
I will definitely be arranging another visit to Kew Palace, (mainly because I’m desperate to see Queen Charlotte’s Cottage)! Even though it’s quite a small palace when compared to other royal residences, it reveals a completely different side to ‘Mad’ King George. Visitors are fully immersed into that part of George III’s life, which was distressing and bizarre for both his family and subjects. It makes this complex Royal Family more relatable to modern society, and revives the stories of both the royals and their servants.
Feel free to share your thoughts on Kew Palace! Whether you enjoyed learning about those ‘Gorgeous Georgians’, plan to make a visit, or simply appreciated the Room Guides’ Georgian attire – I would love to hear from you!
DO YOU WANT TO VISIT KEW PALACE TOO?:
Kew Palace’s Website: https://www.hrp.org.uk/kew-palace/
Visited: September 2017