A Visit to Kensington Palace: The Diana Exhibit

My recent trip to Kensington Palace, or KP as Diana called it, was a lot of fun. I took this picture by those famous gates that were covered in flowers in the days after Princess Diana’s death:

That still seems to be top of mind to people walking by; I overheard a couple of ladies talking about those mountains of flowers and how this spot became a place for people to congregate.

As you may know, there were some extensive renovations done recently and the palace re-opened to the public last March. The entryway for visitors of the tourist variety is a glass gazebo-like structure that commemorates Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee:

Once inside, there are currently three temporary exhibits on and this post will focus on the first one I visited. It is called Diana: Glimpses of a Modern Princess. I started out here, since this exhibit is on the main floor and remarkably, is actually part of Apartment 1A, Princess Margaret’s old apartment which will be the home of William and Kate. Click here for our post on that.

The outside of the exhibit has this great portrait taken by Mario Testino which shows  Diana wearing one of the five dresses included in the exhibit:

And there’s this delightful “D” painted on the wall:

Here’s a closer look. Note the Spencer tiara, ballet slippers, Jimmy Chu shoes, English rose, and cause ribbon:

Next you walk down this hallway into the exhibit which has wallpaper depicting Diana during some iconic moments of her life. There’s a Daily Mail article that goes through which pictures the wallpaper depicts. Check it out here. The drawings were done by fashion illustrator Julie Verhoeven:

Note the high ceilings and window for natural light:

Here’s a close up of the wallpaper:

When I was walking by, I noticed the little lamb near the depiction of Diana in her wedding dress. There it is jumping over a clothes hanger above. Could that be a reference to Diana’s comment to her private secretary Patrick Jephson that she felt she was  “a lamb to the slaughter” while walking up the aisle in St. Paul’s? Click here for an article on that. Rather bold, and yet in all the articles I read about the exhibit  and this wallpaper I saw no mention of it. Hmm…

Anyhow, here’s the entry way into the room with all the dresses:

You will be greeted with this explanation:

And onto the dresses! The room is set up like this. That’s a sleepy guard standing in the background:

There are two dresses in that centre case. The first one is the one that Diana wore on her first engagement with Prince Charles.

Princess Grace was there that night as well:

The second dress is this beautiful one by Catherine Walker which is a favourite of mine:

Here’s the back view, which I hadn’t seen before:

This silk chiffon gown is by Catherine Walker as well, and was first worn on a visit to Thailand in 1988.

Here is the accompanying description:


and a photo from the Thailand trip. This dress is one of the ones depicted on that wallpaper:

This dress was designed by Bellville Sassoon:

Gotta love this sassy illustration:

There are also pictures and and an additional sketch displayed in this cabinet:

The fifth dress is this black Versace number which shows how Diana’s style became especially sophisticated in the final years of her life:

Here is a photograph of Diana in the dress:

The other display of note in the exhibition room is this mantlepiece, which features some well known pictures of Diana out and about. This mantlepiece really makes me wonder what this room originally was. A den, perhaps??

This exhibit just runs until November 4, 2012 if you have a chance to go.

Also, I thought it was interesting that the gift shop has all sorts of Princess paraphanalia on sale…including a book entitled The Dumpy Princess. Seems a bit too Disneylandish to me, but I guess you gotta keep sales up somehow.

Some more books for sale…including the Tina Brown biography on Diana…which again seems a bit much:

To end, here’s a lovely photo of the garden in the afternoon:

Any thoughts or favourites of these dresses?


Categories: British Royal Family, Diana, Princess of Wales, Royal Designers, Royal Homes


8 replies

  1. I was never a fan of Diana in black, or navy blue, or dark colors in general. She was always so lovely in whites and creams, pastels, and vibrant jewel tones. That white Catherine Walker gown with the sash that drapes all the way round the back is beautiful. She did so many beautiful dresses and suits for Diana — including the one she was buried in, or so I read. Thanks for letting us see the back as well as the front — so beautifully detailed.

  2. So many thoughts running through my head – where to begin?
    First off, thank you! These posts are a true joy for myself and I’m sure many, many others.
    I had read an article on the wallpaper and do not remember reading about the lamb. I wonder if the creator put it in hoping no one would notice until it was too late? (wallpaper up and exhibit has opened to the public) Very interesting as I have previously read about that comment from Diana.
    Oh how I wish it was possible to ‘jet over’ for the weekend and view this exhibit in person! I’m sure walking into and in KP must be a similar feeling to visiting Buck House during the Summer Opening… So unbelieveable – like a dream… I was fortunate enough to make this trip last fall and I still can’t believe I was actually there.
    Don’t know why that I became facinated with her as an impressionable young teen but glad that I had someone of this caliber to look up to and emulate. To me she was always so classy and beautiful yet down to earth. The younger royals owe her much for breaking the old ‘molds’ that existed during her marriage and time as a royal.
    Okay, time to step off the soap box. Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble…

  3. I just “discovered” your blog. Oh. My. Gosh. Where had I been all along? What you have here is AMAZING. Thank you for all your GREAT work! I SOOO look forward to poring over these layers and layers of beautiful and really informative posts (so much great sleuth work here)! The blog itself is beautifully presented and organized!! All the best to you, Silvia

  4. I was there a few months ago and I LOVED the wallpaper. I was hoping there would be some items with the pattern to buy in the gift shop, but no luck! Wouldn’t that be nice wrapping paper, or a cover for a notebook? Thank you for your wonderfully detailed posts!


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