The Queen reopens Kensington Palace after £12m revamp

The Queen at Kensington Palace
Image caption The Queen toured the new-look palace which was once home to Diana, Princess of Wales

Kensington Palace has been reopened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh after a £12m revamp.

The palace was bought by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1689 and has been home to Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.

The two-year refurbishment was financed through grants and donations.

The gardens of the palace have been landscaped and the statue of Queen Victoria, which was damaged by shrapnel during World War II, has been restored.

The statue was erected in 1893 for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, but took some years to complete. The nose of the statue was damaged in 1945 and was first replaced in the early 1950s.

It has been replaced again during the current revamp.

The royal couple looked at the new Victoria Revealed exhibition, where they watched footage of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and viewed displays of outfits worn by the former monarch, including her wedding dress.

The Queen later met people involved with the charity Age UK and pupils from St Mary Abbots School, in Kensington, as they produced bunting in the palace's new education centre for the Queen's own forthcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

'Sleeping beauty'

Charles Mackay, chairman of the Historic Royal Palaces board, said: "We have set out to awake the sleeping beauty of Kensington Palace.

"Our objective was to open up the palace to make everyone feel welcome.

"It has been the most ambitious and complex project we have ever undertaken."

A grand entrance has been created from the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens, a new lift has been installed to provide access to all floors of the palace and new education and community facilities have been created as part of the refurbishment.

The palace also houses the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection - 10,000 items worn by royalty and courtiers since the 17th Century.

Image caption Kensington Palace will be the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Children will receive free admission to the palace, which will host several exhibitions for the public from 26 March, including a display of some of Princess Diana's dresses.

An independent charity Historic Royal Palaces provided £5.2m and the Heritage Lottery Fund gave £999,000 towards the refurbishment project, with the rest coming from individual donors, trusts and foundations.

Last November the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose an apartment in the palace as their permanent London residence, but they will not be moving in until at least mid-2013.

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