Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that cares for five magnificent palaces in London, is planning a series of very special exhibitions and activities for 2012. As well as hosting many unique events in this landmark year, a number of major projects will come to fruition - Kensington Palace will unveil exciting new exhibitions, gardens and visitor facilities following a major £12 million renovation project, the Crown Jewels will be stunningly re-displayed at the Tower of London and the Georgian Royal Kitchens at Kew Palace will be opened to the public for the very first time.
On 26 March 2012, Kensington Palace will re-open* following a major £12 million transformation to improve the visitor experience of this iconic royal residence. The changes will introduce impressive new facilities including exciting exhibitions, public gardens, gift shop, café, and a £1 million Clore Learning Centre.
Victoria Revealed, a new permanent exhibition (from 26 March 2012) will explore Queen Victoria's life and reign through her own words. Visitors will learn about Victoria's first day as Queen at Kensington Palace, the romance of her early relationship with Prince Albert, their family life, as well as aspects of Prince Albert's involvement in the 1851 Great Exhibition. Set within the rooms Victoria lived as a child, exhibits will include paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Sir Edwin Landseer, gifts that Queen Victoria exchanged with Prince Albert during their engagement in 1839 and her wedding dress. Glamorous jewellery, poignant mourning clothes and other personal objects will sit alongside replica Victorian children's toys, try-on clothing and fun interactive displays for all visitors.
Kensington Palace’s temporary summer exhibition, Jubilee: a view from the crowd (24 May – 31 October 2012) will tell the story of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 from the perspective of millions who joined in the festivities, from duchesses to street sellers. It will emphasise the great enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the celebrations - ‘Jubilee mania’ as one paper described it - focussing in particular on the spectacular procession through London on 22 June 1897 when the Queen, members of the royal family and soldiers from across the globe made their way to a special service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. The exhibition will showcase historic items associated with these exuberant Jubilee celebrations, such as uniforms worn in the parade and the lace flounce worn by the Queen in the official Jubilee portrait. Alongside film, sound and interactive displays, these objects will immerse the visitor in the celebrations of 1897 and bring to life Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
*Kensington Palace will be closed from 4 January – 25 March 2012 to enable the finishing touches to be put to the renovations.
The Tower of London has been the historic home of the Crown Jewels for centuries. Made up of 23,578 gems, they include some of the world’s most famous diamonds including the enormous Cullinan I and the Koh-i-Noor. The glistening Imperial State Crown contains 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies alone.
This astonishing collection of priceless Coronation Regalia and Crown Jewels has been an unmissable highlight of any visit to the Tower of London since the 17th century. To mark the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Jewel House - the high security home to the Crown Jewels - will be re-displayed for visitors in a new presentation from 29 March 2012. The exhibition will explore the importance of the Crown Jewels to the British monarchy, the role of the Tower in protecting these treasures and the long and fascinating tradition of coronations in England. The Crown Jewels are the most powerful symbols of the British Monarchy and hold deep religious and cultural significance in our nation’s history. The mystique and beauty of the diamonds and precious jewels in the collection have always held an unparalleled allure to visitors from across the globe. This exciting re-presentation will give the Crown Jewels a home fit for the 21st century, with new displays showing the jewels like never before.
Throughout 2012, Hampton Court Palace will invite visitors to step back 500 years into a living Tudor world, with opportunities to meet King Henry VIII and members of his court every day at the magnificent royal residence. The palace will come alive with a series of costumed live interpretation events giving visitors an insight into the intrigue and ambition of the Tudor court.
Fittingly for the historic home of a renowned royal sportsman (Henry VIII was a keen participant in many sports including jousting, hunting, archery, bowls and tennis), Hampton Court Palace has been chosen as an official Olympic Games venue and will host the Cycling Time Trials event on 1 August 2012. The Olympics Road Race route will also pass the palace as cyclists make their way into and out of Surrey from London. We hope to welcome many spectators from around the world to Hampton Court next summer.
Hampton Court Palace is known as a palace of two halves – Henry VIII’s imposing Tudor palace, juxtaposed with the elegant Baroque residence designed by Christopher Wren for King William III and Queen Mary II. The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned is a new major exhibition (5 April to 30 September 2012), that will shine a light on the decadence of the Baroque palace at Hampton Court. Exploring the hedonistic world of the royal court during the reigns of Charles II, James II, William III & Mary II and Anne (1660-1714), the exhibition will introduce visitors to the monarchs, courtiers and courtesans who illuminated Hampton Court in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. At the heart of the exhibition, portraits of Charles II’s mistresses, including Nell Gwyn and Barbara Villiers, will be reunited at the palace for the first time.
The palace will also host a slew of spectacular special events including live Tudor Cookery in the historic kitchens on selected weekends and bank holidays, eerie evening Ghost Tours (from 31 October 2012) and a 1950s themed Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Weekend celebration (2 – 5 June 2012)!
Kew Palace, King George III’s fascinating former home set within the grounds of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, opens for the summer season from 1 April to 30 September 2012. The rich yet cosy furnishings are augmented by personal items that belonged to the monarch and his family, and displays of caricatures of the king by noted cartoonist James Gillray.
In summer 2012 (exact opening date to be confirmed), the Royal Kitchens at Kew Palace will open to the public for the very first time following a £1m restoration by Historic Royal Palaces. Largely untouched for nearly 200 years, the kitchens are a unique survival and offer an extraordinary insight into the culinary life of the Georgian royal household. Built between 1730– 1731, the kitchens served both the White House (no longer surviving) and Kew Palace for many years, but were closed up after Queen Charlotte’s death in 1818; consequently, many parts of the kitchens have remained unaltered. Original features include early 18th century paint surfaces, boilers and ovens, a scullery dresser, and huge bakehouse tables. Sound effects and video projections will conjure up the bustle and atmosphere of the great kitchens, along with a fully reconstructed charcoal range, displays of pots, cooking utensils, and a specially recreated kitchen garden. Upstairs, visitors can explore the Clerk of the Kitchen’s rooms and offices, complete with a built in spice cupboard.
The Banqueting House in Whitehall, with its famous Rubens ceiling, will host a series of lunchtime and evening concerts in 2012 including performances from Tenor Jose Maria Guerrero (23 January), Counter-Tenor Owen Willets (13 February), fortepianist Susan Alexander-Max (5 March), the Chamber Ensemble of London (26 March) and The Blackhawk Choir (4 June). Each concert includes a buffet lunch or supper.