Kew Gardens is, by far, my favorite place in London. After my first visit, I became a member so I could go as many times as I wanted for a lower cost and have full intentions of renewing next year. But in all my visits, I had yet to go see Kew Palace. So, on a lazy Saturday, Jeff and I decided to head that way to spend the day.
The gardens were gorgeous, as always, with different flowers in bloom each time we arrive. Plenty of families were also there soaking in the sunshine as we sauntered through the grass. We even witnessed some three legged raced between daughters and fathers. It was a picturesque day, which doesn’t happen too often in London. The famous grey skies are more the feature of late with threats of rain.
Kew Palace is in the far north west corner of the park and is not nearly as massive as the other “palaces” we have seen. This could be better described as a mansion house or something of the like. Thankfully, there is not an additional cost to getting into the palace with the cost of the park which is £15.
The first Kew Palace was built years before what exists today, but the dates are not published. The second structure was built in 1631 used as a home that was leased out to various inhabitants including Frederick, Price of Wales, and his favorite poet James Thomson. It then transitioned into King George III’s name in 1781. He did not intend to stay at the palace long, but his family was ever-growing needing the space to spread out which Kew Gardens provided the perfect place.
Then as King George III went mad from porphyria, it was a place to sequester him. His wife, Queen Charlotte had her own cottage on the Kew Garden greens a fair walk from the palace, but it was within Kew Palace she died sitting in a chair that is still on display.
The exhibition within the three stories is all about the Glorious Georges or life during the Georgian rule. It starts with his childhood, which he did spend some time, but it does mostly contain artifacts and information from later in his life. The displays were not as kitschy as Kensington Palace or even Hampton Court Palace, but I don’t feel as if I got as much information from it as the other places gave.
Many of the areas were left to show the ruin the palace has gone through showing the original structure and walls, which was interesting to see. It just felt more like a tour of a construction site than a palace. Only one full bedroom was kept and a couple of other receiving rooms. I know it sounds blase to say only a couple rooms in this palace were available to the public, but it was strange to be able to see room after room in other structures, but this one really felt as if they were trying to hide King George III away to live out the rest of his life alone. It felt lonely.
Once outside the palace, you’re of course surrounded by the gardens, but more specifically, the medicinal gardens that Queen Charlotte had commissioned. Jeff loved playing “guess the flower” as we toured around learning what each plant did for the human body and what vegetables were being grown. Everything just smelled of lavender, mint and rosemary with giant bumble bees buzzing around.
From there, we were able to tour the Kew Palace kitchens, which weren’t that exciting. It was more of a memorial to what was than a display of what it could have been unlike the display at Hampton Court Palace. But it was fun to see all the onions, pumpkins and chard being grown and harvested.
We didn’t make it over to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage that day, and as I made plans to go see it again, I saw they have strange hours. It is only open on the weekends from 11a-4p and they close the cottage officially on September 28th until April. I was unable to make it back out there to see the cottage interior. But I did enjoy staring at the thatch roof for a while. The cottage is situated far back in the gardens through a maze of greenery and trails. It was not a quick journey from Kew Palace, so I can see why Queen Charlotte liked her getaway.
The next big plan for Kew is to see what it looks like for Christmas, but I do plan on going back very soon.