Kensington Palace was the epicenter for global mourning in the wake of Princess Diana’s untimely and tragic death in 1997 and is now open as a temporary exhibit, while the original museum is getting a much needed revamp, called the Enchanted Palace. The idea was apparently to take a big helping of a Burtonesque Alice in Wonderland, mix with some big names in fashion, add a twist of theatrical drama, a pinch of historical accuracy and turn the whole thing into an abstract, slightly eerie but in part fascinating scavenger hunt. The fashion element comes as no surprise as Kensington Palace museum has dedicated a large part of it’s exhibit to fashion, predominantly that of Diana Princess of Wales.
I was able to visit the exhibit on a very cold, very wet and very grey December day. A day befitting of the mournful atmosphere of the exhibit itself. The exhibit is dedicated to the seven princesses who have lived in the Palace at one point or another and who were connected over the centuries by a life removed from reality and burdened by social expectations, illness and of course the odd unrequited or forbidden love. The room above is the ‘Royal Room of Sorrows’ and depicts the life and sufferings of Princess Mary II’s who died of smallpox at the age of 32.
And Paul Costelloe’s interpretation of Queen Victoria’s imaginary friends so important in helping her survive her restrictive childhood at Kensington Palace and a celebration of her ability to escape these constraints and go on and become Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
A ghostly installation by Zandra Rhodes
And likely a crowd favourite, the “Room of Flight” with a gown by Vivienne Westwood bringing to life the very animated, vibrant and rebellious Princess Charlotte who would have been the one sauntering down these very same steps into the arms of her love, the handsome Leopold. In a small poem describing her life we can read “she spent her life chasing love but really ran towards death instead”. Charlotte died at the age of 21 in childbirth.
So, while not an uplifting experience, the melancholic exhibit is worth a visit for it’s artful presentation and a chance to take in these stately rooms that otherwise remain closed to the public.