Princess Diana's former home becomes the Enchanted Palace

Designers including Vivienne Westwood bring out magic in new exhibition at Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace, the home of Princess Diana, has been transformed into an "enchanted palace" by designers including Vivienne Westwood and William Tempest.

The palace is undergoing a £12m redevelopment, undertaken by Historic Royal Palaces and expected to be completed by 2012, but in the meantime it will host exhibitions and live performances.

Along with Westwood and Tempest, Stephen Jones, Boudicca, Aminaka Wilmont and Echo Morgan have been charged with creating installations using the "incredible and dramatic stories of the people who lived in the palace as the springboard".

Highlights include Queen Victoria's bedroom, the chamber in which she awoke to learn she was queen, which features an avant-garde interpretation by Tempest of a period dress including 2,000 origami birds.

The Room of Royal Sorrows is a dramatisation of the travails of Queen Mary II as she tried in vain a produce an heir. It is set in her bedchamber, giving the display an unsettling authenticity.

"The first time you walk into the room, it has an aura of sadness, but also incredible beauty," said Wilmont. "She tried really hard, but she had many miscarriages. She was a very loved queen, and we wanted to try to capture her spirit."

The sombre tone is set by dozens of antique glass bottles known as "tear catchers". In times of mourning, tears were put in the bottles "to catch the sorrow" even though they would soon evaporate, Wilmont said.

Visitors are given a chance to leave a handwritten note stating the last time they cried.

In the Council Chamber are dresses that belonged to Diana and Princess Margaret – who also lived in the palace.

Westwood's creation is a "dress for a rebellious princess" inspired by King George IV's daughter Princess Charlotte, which is on show in the King's Grand Staircase.

Visitors will also be bombarded by live performances, with actors from the theatre company WildWorks providing interactive theatre.

Those entering the palace will be assigned an "enchanted map" with which to embark on a tour in search of "seven princesses" who once lived there.

"Their search will take them to all the hidden corners of the state apartments and lead them to a glittering finale where they will at last meet the princesses face to face," reads the Enchanted Palace website.

"We really wanted to try something completely different that gave us a way to take a fresh look at the palace's history and the lives of the people who lived here," said Alexandra Kim, one of the curators of the two-year show. "We want people to connect with the emotions."


Adam Gabbatt

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Enchanted Palace makes art of fashion

Amy Stone: The Enchanted Palace takeover of Kensington's Royal residence helps fashion finally hold its own with art

Amy Stone

02, Apr, 2010 @10:52 AM

Article image
Princess Diana's fashion legacy to be celebrated at Kensington Palace
Twenty years after her death, Diana: Her Fashion Story charts evolution of her image from teenage ingenue to international icon

Jess Cartner-Morley

17, Feb, 2017 @3:00 PM

Article image
Princess Diana's music collection to feature in summer exhibition
Buckingham Palace will host tribute to Diana on 20th anniversary of her death alongside exhibition of gifts to the Queen

Caroline Davies

20, Jul, 2017 @11:01 PM

Article image
Enchanted Palace | Theatre review

Kensington Palace, London
In Enchanted Palace you will discover nests of clocks in fireplaces, twisted trees straining through floorboards and ivy creeping out of brickwork. It's like falling into a fairytale, albeit a sometimes sinister one, writes Lyn Gardner

Lyn Gardner

13, Apr, 2010 @9:05 PM

Article image
Charles II exhibition reveals how he tackled 'the king's evil'
The Restoration monarch is known for his love of pleasure, but less so for his record-breaking efforts to dispel scrofula

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

07, Dec, 2017 @2:36 PM

Article image
London to host self-curated Azzedine Alaïa exhibition next spring
Design Museum to launch retrospective on late Tunisian couturier ‘who expressed timeless beauty of the female form’

Morwenna Ferrier

14, Dec, 2017 @4:31 PM

Article image
Princess Diana's dresses to be exhibited at Kensington Palace
Several frocks not seen in public since Diana, Princess of Wales wore them in the 1980s to go on show in March

Stephen Bates

21, Dec, 2011 @6:28 PM

Article image
Crown jewels go on show for major new exhibition

World's most famous bling displayed with new music, lighting and restored film footage of the Queen's coronation

Maev Kennedy and Katy Roberts

28, Mar, 2012 @8:43 AM

Article image
Designs of the Year nominees: Mars boots and a plastic-free shop
Works featuring in this year’s Design Museum show tackle some of today’s biggest issues

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

11, Sep, 2018 @3:28 PM

Article image
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain review: V&A explores exquisite torture of footwear
From tiny Chinese slippers for women’s bound feet to modern-day fetishwear, exhibition looks at how shoes can signify status and transform the wearer

Jess Cartner-Morley

09, Jun, 2015 @5:40 PM