Inside Kensington Palace: Harry and Meghan Markle’s London home
Duke and Duchess of Sussex to move to Windsor in time for new baby and amid reports of a royal rift
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are set to move out of their London home “within weeks”, ahead of the birth of their first child this spring.
Princes William and Harry, “who have long been the closest of brothers” and lived side by side on the Kensington Palace estate, are expected to part ways before the baby is born, reports The Sunday Times.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will move out of their two-bed cottage at the Palace and into the newly refurbished Frogmore Cottage, on the Windsor estate.
“It is thought courtiers hope a formal separation of their staff may help ease the reported tensions between the brothers and their wives,” says the Sunday Times.
Here’s everything you need to know about Kensington Palace and the couple’s soon-to-be former home:
The history of Kensington Palace
The building was completed in 1605 to the design of Sir George Coppin. Originally a two-storey Jacobean mansion, it became an official royal residence in 1689 after it was purchased by William III and Mary II of England.
In the 327 years since, it has been passed down through numerous monarchical reigns, and has been the residence of Queen Anne, George I, George II and Queen Victoria among many others.
Not all those who lived in the palace enjoyed good fortune there. “Female royals have had it hard at Kensington Palace,” says the London Evening Standard.
Queen Anne fell pregnant 17 times with her husband Prince George of Denmark while living at the palace but none survived to adulthood, and as a result, she fell into multiple depressive episodes throughout her reign.
Queen Caroline fared little better, dying after her eighth pregnancy when an umbilical hernia resulted in a botched surgery. More recently, it has been reported that numerous friends, aides and servants of the late Princess Margaret and Princess Diana said that both were unhappy while living at the royal residence.
By the late 19th century, the palace had fallen into disrepair. It was facing calls to be torn down until Queen Victoria came to its rescue, stating that “while she lived, the palace in which she was born should not be destroyed”. It has since been restored.
Yet despite its popularity among younger members of the royal family today, a reigning monarch has not lived there in more than 250 years.
The last sovereign who called the palace home was King George II, who died there in 1760.
What is Kensington Palace like inside?
Now considered a marvel of Jacobean architecture and a staple of British royal heritage, Kensington Palace underwent a £12m refurbishment in 2012. “We have set out to awake the sleeping beauty of Kensington Palace,” said Charles McKay, chair of the Historic Royal Palaces board.
The restoration removed traces of shrapnel (which had badly damaged the palace) and installed an exhibition on the lives of both Queen Victoria and the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
A 2016 exhibition also oversaw the renovation and display of dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived at the palace from 1981 until her death in 1997.
The previously lavish and grandiose interior of the palace now features a more minimalist, modernist approach to aesthetics. While the original living quarters have been left untouched due to their historical significance, other areas feature a wide array of art installations, including a collection of "light sculptures" and other works.
Kensington Palace grounds
The palace boasts some of the most well-kept gardens in London, with particular admiration held for the famed Sunken Garden, a lavish, symmetrical garden of tulips and other flowers centred on a rectangular pond with ornate water features. Though it is modelled on a style of garden mainly found in the 18th century, the Sunken Garden was not completed until 1908. It is a homage to classical landscaping of old.
Where do Prince Harry and Meghan Markle currently live?
Since their wedding last May, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been living in Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of the palace.
The two-bedroom property had been Harry’s bachelor pad since his brother Prince William and Kate Middleton moved out in 2013. It was also once home to Princess Diana's sister, Lady Jane Fellowes and her husband Sir Robert Fellowes, the Queen's former secretary.
The property is one of the smallest on the royal estate but that said, it does still boast reception rooms designed by Sir Christopher Wren and a small garden, where Harry slung up a hammock when he first moved into the property, according to the Daily Mirror.
With the couple expected to start a family soon after their wedding, it was always assumed that Nottingham Cottage was “something of a starter home” for them, says The Sun.
“There had been rumours that Harry had his eyes on grander accommodation for his new American bride, possibly eyeing up the 21-room apartment next door to his brother’s,” says the newspaper.
The Duke of Gloucester, who is the Queen’s cousin, currently lives in Apartment 1 with his wife Birgitte van Deurs.
Yet amid reports of a rift between Meghan and Kate, it appears the couple have decided to make a more dramatic separation of their royal households, and move to Windsor.
Where do Prince William and Kate Middleton live?
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, live at Apartment 1A. They have completed a £4.5m refurbishment of the lavish 19-room suite, which was formerly the home of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister.
On a more supernatural note, Apartment 1A is also said to be the most haunted in the palace. Rumour has it that just before his death, King George II was spotted in the King’s Galley moaning “Why won’t they come?” They were reportedly his last words.
Another legend from the time of King George concerns the story of Peter the Wild Boy. Peter, who was thought to have suffered from a rare genetic condition that causes developmental delay and severe facial abnormalities, was found wandering in a forest in Hanover and was brought to London by the king where he would roam the hallways of the palace. He died on 22 February 1785 and according to palace curators, each year on that date still haunts the King's staircase.
Who else lives at the palace?
Apart from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kensington Palace is home to a number of other royal relations.
Also resident at Kensington is the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent and his wife Marie Christine von Reibnitz.
Prince Michael is the Queen’s paternal cousin, but the couple were caught up in controversy after it was revealed the Queen had been covering their £120,000 a year rent since 2002. It was later announced they would have to pay the full rate themselves or face eviction.
However, living next to the royal family may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Not only do you have to deal with the sound of helicopters landing on the palace lawn ferrying senior royals to and from their other homes, you have very powerful neighbours who are apparently able to get around strict planning restrictions.
The Sun reports that work will soon begin on a new £24m basement at Kensington Palace, “approved despite apparently flouting rules banning two-storey basements”, says the paper.
The extension at the back of the historic building is expected to take two years and would provide more than 1,500 square metres of extra space over three floors. Two would be below ground with the one above built in buff brick with red brick detailing.
Kensington and Chelsea Council said the official residence of Harry and Meghan was of “economic benefit” to the nation.
But the site is just 180 metres from Britain’s most expensive street, Kensington Palace Gardens, where Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich has a mansion.
One local resident, Donald Cameron, said: “There will be 20 trucks a day coming and going. It’s ridiculous.”
Another told the Daily Express: “Is everyone cowed by the involvement of a royal palace? No one is above the law. Only if the planning department and local planning authority want to drive a coach and horses through their own regulations and guidelines should this application be allowed to go any further."It would be a traumatic development to a listed building and a blatant defiance of the two-storey rule to allow it.”
Will Kensington be Harry and Meghan’s only residence?
While Kensington is expected to remain the couple’s primary residence for the foreseeable future, the couple will also have the option of spending some private time at Adelaide Cottage in Home Park, Windsor.
Like his older brother who was given Anmer Hall, a ten-bedroom mansion on the Sandringham estate, by the Queen when he married Kate Middleton, Harry and Meghan have been gifted the Grade II listed country retreat as a wedding present, according to a Daily Mail source.
Adelaide Cottage, which was built in 1831 for Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, the wife of William IV, is based near St George’s Chapel where the couple tied the knot.
Historic England says the principle bedroom has a “coved ceiling with gilded dolphins and rope ornament reused from the Royal yacht ‘Royal George’”.
The Daily Express says Harry and Meghan are “believed to like the location for its nearby proximity to London and the opportunity to be away from the limelight”, something that could become even more important once their first child is born.
The tabloid reports that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex also favour spending most weekends in the Cotswolds so could be in the market for a permanent retreat there as well.
Can the public visit the palace?
Save for private estates such as Sandringham and Balmoral, most royal palaces are open to the public - and Kensington Palace is no exception.
While private quarters are obviously off-limits to the public, thousands visit the palace each year to marvel at the sumptuous interiors and wander the beautiful grounds.
Kensington Palace even offers the chance to hire rooms for private functions.
Kensington Palace Pavilion has experienced sky-high demand since it opened in April, catering for receptions, dinners, birthday parties and award ceremonies, according to Access All Areas.
Event sizes range from an intimate 100 guests to the maximum capacity of 800, with drinks receptions able to spill out into the cradle walk overlooking the Sunken Garden.
The proceeds from all events booked in the Kensington Palace Pavilion contribute to the Historic Royal Palaces charity, which reinvests in conservation, public access and educational activities.