Kew Palace: The smallest royal residence in London

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Marija Georgievska
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The smallest and the most intimate royal palace in England is the Kew Palace. It is situated within the famous Kew Gardens near the banks of the River Thames. At first, the red-brick building was a small house built by Samuel Fortrey in 1631. Many members of the Fortrey family lived in the mansion, which at that time was called the Dutch House. After it was leased by Geroge II and his wife Caroline for their eldest daughters in 1727, it became a palace.

After a year, one of their sons Frederick who became the Prince of Wales rented a house nearby which was then known as Old Capel House. In eight years he rebuilt the old house, replacing it with a big white house which unfortunately it doesn’t exist anymore because it was demolished after the Prince’s death.

It was Frederick who started to remodel the estate and created the botanic gardens, which over time were expanded to the famous Kew Gardens that can be seen today. He added many fountains on the site and planted various flowers and trees. In the backyard of the mansion can be found a geometrically shaped garden which is the most beautiful in the area. The Prince also added the Royal Kitchens in a separate block from the palace. From 2012, the kitchens were restored in their original looks and are open to the public. Visitors can see how food was prepared in that period and how the kitchens were managed.

The red-brick Dutch House. Author: xlibber-Kew Palace. CC BY 2.0

After the last of his three sisters had moved from the house, Frederick used it as a school for his sons. After Frederick’s death, the mansion became the home of his son, Prince George who later became George III. George III had big plans for a new palace which would be more magnificent and grandiose. It was just partially completed before he died, at which point the structure was demolished.

The drawing room. Author: Derek Winterburn. CC BY-ND 2.0

The palace then passed into the ownership of  George IV, who never actually lived there. His brother, William, at one point offered the mansion to the future Queen Victoria, but she didn’t want to live there because she thought it a rusty old place which is not suitable for a princess.

The dining room. Author: Derek Winterburn. CC BY-ND 2.0

Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage are the two construction which stayed original until today. The cottage was built in the middle of the 18th century, and the family used it for resting and drinking tea until Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, started suffering from edema. The most fantastic item inside is the Queen’s chair in which Queen Charlotte died in 1818. Because of the edema, she caught pneumonia and had a hard time sleeping in her bed, so she was always sitting in the chair. After her death, the body was kept in the palace for few days before it was transported to the burial place at Windsor Castle.

Queen Charlotte’s cottage. Author: Prl42. CC BY-SA 3.0

Inside Kew Palace, the rooms are restored in the 19th-century Georgian style from the time when George III lived there with his family. Visitors can see the princesses bedrooms, the drawing room, the magnificent dining room and much more. There is a People’s Library in the palace equipped with touch screens and literature about the building’s history. George loved his wife and his 15 children very much, and because he was a big-hearted man, he always tried to make the home atmosphere pleasant.

The Royal Kitchens in the area. Author: Robert Smith. CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, the mansion is managed by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces which also looks after many other famous buildings in England such as Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Hillsborough Castle, and the Tower of London. Although the smallest royal palace in England, this magnificent red-brick building has a history that goes back more than 400 years.