Royal residence Kensington Palace is transformed into the Enchanted Palace

By Ed Sexton | 26 March 2010
a photograph of a paper model of Kensington Palace

A member of the WILDWORKS theatre company puts the final touches to a model of Kensington Palace. © Lawrence Looi / HRP newsteam.co.uk

Museum: Enchanted Palace, Kensington Palace, London

A magical spell has been cast over Kensington Palace, changing the royal residence into a dark and mysterious world where visitors go on a quest to find seven princesses.

Kensington has been home to a whole host of royals - it was the birthplace of Queen Victoria and remained her home until she acceded to the throne in 1837. In more recent years Princess Margaret and Diana Princess of Wales have both called Kensington home.

Creeping up the back staircase at the palace, mysterious voices whisper around you, creating an unnerving atmosphere and the impression you have sauntered off in the wrong direction.

You start the quest in The Room of Beginnings, the central cross roads of the exhibition, where a large tree hung with numbers and arrows points you in the right direction.

The next room, The Room of Tears, was put together by designers Aminaka Wilmont to convey the sadness of the childless Queen Mary and her sister Queen Anne, who had 14 unsuccessful pregnancies.

A swathe of black cloth cuts across the bed, holding up a suspended figure, and the dressing table is littered with an assortment of bottles to symbolise the ancient tradition of collecting tears during times of mourning.

a photograph of a woman adjusting a dress on a large staircase

A Historic Royal Palaces conservator adjusts Vivienne Westwood's creation for the Enchanted Palace.© Richard Lea-Hair / newsteam.co.uk

Further highlights along the journey include the Privy chamber, transformed by legendary milliner Stephen Jones with a series of hats inspired by busts of great 18th century philosophers and scientists. The centrepiece is a bust of Newton with a red crystal studded apple and headband suspended above his head.

Vivienne Westwood's dress for a rebellious princess, inspired by Princess Charlotte, seems to be gliding down the King's Grand Staircase and seamlessly blends together historical royal fashion with the designer's own punk attitude.

New pieces have been merged with historical ones, including two stunning dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret on display in the Room of Dancing Princesses.

a photograph of a white dress surrounded by feathers

A dress belonging to Diana, Princess of Wales. © Richard Lea-Hair / HRP newsteam.co.uk

In the final room, shadows of the former residents dance across the ceiling to music and you can see if you have managed to find the seven princesses who were lucky enough to call Kensington their home during the past 400 years.

A team of roving inspectors march and sing around the exhibition hunting for feral children - a reference to Peter the Wild Boy, who was discovered living as a feral child in German woodland and brought back to Kensington by King George I.

This is not a show for traditionalists, but it offers a beautifully crafted alternative view of the royal residence, bringing to life some of the fascinating stories and characters to have inhabited Kensington Palace.

Theatre Company WILDWORKS has transformed the rooms of the palace into and interactive fantasy world, providing a glimpse of the Palace. It will be fully opened in 2012.

Open 10am-6pm (5pm November 1 - February 28). Late openings until 9pm on May 21, June 18, July 16 and August 20. Admission £5.50-£12.50 (free for under-5s, family ticket £34/£31). Book online.

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