In Review

Inside Kensington Palace, where Kate Middleton is isolating

The double-jabbed Duchess of Cambridge has come into contact with someone who later tested positive for Covid

The Duchess of Cambridge is self-isolating at her Kensington Palace home after coming into contact with someone who has now tested positive for coronavirus.

A statement released by the palace said that Kate Middleton, who has received both vaccinations, is not experiencing any Covid symptoms but is “following all relevant government guidelines”. 

According to the BBC, her most recent public event was a visit to Wimbledon on Friday where she “toured the venue and met staff in its museum and Centre Court kitchen”. She also joined Tim Henman to watch a men’s doubles match and later sat with the Duke and Duchess of Kent and fitness instructor Joe Wicks in the Royal Box on Centre Court, where she was reportedly alerted about the Covid contact.

“As a patron of the club and keen tennis fan, Kate attends the tournament every year,” says The Independent.

The royal couple have been settled at Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace since mid-2017 following William’s decision to leave his role with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, so that Prince George could attend school in the capital and to enable the couple to increase their royal duties.

Kate Middleton walking in the grounds of Kensington Palace

The Duchess of Cambridge walks through the grounds of Kensington Palace on 18 June, 2021

Tolga Akmen-WPA Pool/Getty Images

The building is steeped in history and underwent a major redevelopment in 2011. But what else is known about the private royal residence in west London?

The building

Kensington Palace, formerly known as Nottingham House, is a Jacobean-era mansion built in 1605. It was purchased by King William III and Queen Mary II, who ruled jointly from 1689. They commissioned Christopher Wren to expand and update it.

After its heyday under William and Mary, the palace fell out of favour with the monarchs who came after them. The building was eventually split up into accommodation for minor royals (Edward VIII once referred to it as an “aunt heap”, notes the Daily Telegraph. Each partition became a numbered apartment.

After years of neglect and a lack of maintenance, Apartment 1A of Kensington Palace was offered to another young royal couple in 1960: Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. The couple decided that 1A should not go to waste, and put the palace through an £85,000 renovation after moving in – around £1.5m in today's money.

The apartment would have been well-known to Prince William in the past. After their marriage in 1981, Prince Charles and Princess Diana moved into the nearby Apartment 8, on the other side of Kensington Palace, and a short walk from Charles's aunt in 1A.

The palace was refurbished in 2011 at a cost of £12m. "We have set out to awake the sleeping beauty of Kensington Palace," said Charles McKay, chair of the Historic Royal Palaces board.

The massive redevelopment involved more than 100 workers, and included the removal of bomb damage that the palace sustained during the Second World War.

There is also a darker side to Apartment 1A, which is said to be the most haunted residence in the palace.

While there have been many reports of ghost sightings over the centuries throughout the palace, including by King George II and Queen Mary II, most of the stories concerning Apartment 1A date from the late 1970s, when Princess Margaret was in residence.

According to her official biographer, Christopher Warwick, one incident concerned her housekeeper, "Mrs Mac", who saw the figure of a woman in Regency dress standing in the hallway of the Drawing Room.

On another occasion, when the rooms on the top floor of the house were used as staff accommodation, Mrs Mac and "John", the butler, were both awoken by a terrible scream in the middle of the night, but were the only people in the building at the time.

Inside the apartment
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge speaks with US President Barack Obama as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks with First Lady of the United States Michelle Oba

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2016 Getty Images

The term “apartment” is misleading, as it's “effectively a spacious four-storey house, which forms half of the Clock Tower wing”, says the Daily Mail.

The 2011 redevelopment of the apartment seemed to operate under the philosophy of "less is more". It involved knocking through a number of walls and bringing the room count down from 30 to 20.

Now more spacious and just as luxurious as ever, the apartment has two Peter Rabbit themed nurseries, three kitchens and a host of rooms dedicated to charities set up by Princess Diana.

In the entrance hall are two 19th-century Corinthian lamps and, on loan from the royal treasure chest, a Persian rug worth about $50,000 (£40,000), according to Curbed.

In April 2016, the then-US president, Barack Obama, and first lady, Michelle Obama, paid a visit to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Apartment 1A. Official photographs of the meeting allowed a rare glimpse into the interior of the renovated residence.

The photos show one of the apartment's drawing rooms, which was redecorated for the couple using £4.5m worth of taxpayers' money, “although the couple footed the bill for fixtures and furnishing themselves”, says the Daily Mail. “Its design was more reminiscent of a comfortable country home than a grand, palatial lounge – with floral cushions adorning comfortable looking cream sofas,” says the newspaper.

What is life like in the royal residence?

An exclusive behind-the-scenes account of life in the royal residence was published by the Daily Mail in April 2018. It showed how William and Kate try to make life as normal as possible for their three children.

Kate was described as sticking to a strict breakfast routine, playing Capital Radio in the kitchen before anonymously joining the rush-hour traffic at the wheel of a Range Rover, to drive Prince George the two and a half miles from Kensington Palace to his day school in Battersea. Princess Charlotte now attends the same school as her older brother, while Prince Louis is at a nursery closer to his home.

The Mail said that while domestic staff work in the palace, it is “nothing like the number employed by Charles and Diana when William was a child”. They had at least a dozen full-time staff in London, including a dresser for the Princess, housekeeper, butler and a valet for the Prince.

This all adds to a household atmosphere that “is relatively informal by royal standards”, said the Mail, with William tending to call staff by their first name, rather than their surname as his parents mainly did.

Kensington Palace “is the home of a modern couple [with] lots of photographs of the children and the bits of artwork they bring home from school”, says a friend, but one where privacy is still strictly guarded and the number of outsiders let into the family circle kept to a minimum.

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