Sometimes it’s amazing to think how one morning can change the course of history. Kensington has had so many historic moments that it boggles the mind – so many influential people have stayed in the Regency – one of the more prominent Kensington hotels in London – that I wonder if I’ve witnessed one myself! In the case of the Kensington Palace, its walls have seen more of Great Britain’s history than most places in the world.
One of my favourite quintessential Kensington Palace moments is June 20th, 1837. An eighteen year old Princess Victoria wakes up in her bed to find that her Uncle William had died in the night, and that she would ascend to the throne.
I find Queen Victoria a highly fascinating character. Educated in Kensington Palace most of her life, the young Queen apparently had a sad, isolated childhood in this beautiful building. She was educated under what she referred to as “The Kensington System”, a strict and elaborate set of rules devised by her mother, the Duchess of Kent.
The young princess was kept isolated from other children, in the hopes that making her a weak and dependent child would make her a malleable ruler. This perhaps led Victoria to her engagement and hasty marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 – to escape the control of her mother, and the increasingly foreboding Kensington Palace.
This escape all began on that morning in 1837, which the young Queen spoke of later in her private diary.
“‘I went into my sitting room (only in my dressing gown) and alone and saw them. Lord Conyingham then acquainted me that my poor uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning and consequently that I was Queen’.”
Victoria’s governess was reportedly on hand with the smelling salts (when did that tradition disappear, by the way? I’ve never seen anyone carrying smelling salts, and it wasn’t that long ago that everybody had them…) but apparently the Queen stayed graceful throughout the day, accepting her new responsibilities with the utmost composure.
Next time you’re staying in one of our Kensington hotels in London, I recommend paying the Kensington Palace a visit. It makes a great day out – even if Queen Victoria didn’t fancy it much!