We miss you…

Bella and I visited Kensington Gardens for a different reason today. We wanted to drop in at the park and lay flowers for Princess Diana because today was the day when the princess died in Paris 20 years ago.

We alighted a bus at the bottom of Kensington Church Street and bought a bouquet of flowers from an open-air florist by the church.

Gilded gate outside the palace was turned into a makeshift shrine for the princess and crowds were gathering around it…

On the same day 20 years ago, I was in Japan, spending my summer holiday with my parents. I still remember clearly what we were doing when the news of her death came in. It was an ordinary sunny Sunday morning and we were watching some news review show on TV. Out of the blue, a guy who was panelling the programme started to listen into his earpiece intently and then announced, ‘Princess Diana seems to be hurt in a traffic accident in Paris.’ My late dad, mum and I looked at each other and uttered ‘Oh my god!’ simultaneously. Then, we saw the same presenter’s expression turned very grave as he received more updates about the princess’s condition. ‘I am afraid to inform you but the princess has died.’ We all lost for words. ‘No, no, NO!’ Princess Diana was very popular in Japan. She was loved because of her beauty and her charity works. We were devastated by the news.

People were reading notes attached to the shrine and laying flowers…

I wanted to come here 20 years ago and mark my respect. Now, I can finally do it, I felt very emotional as I placed my bouquet along the fence.

I never saw her in person but I adored her beauty, especially her warm gaze…

It was difficult to believe that 20 years had passed since she was gone…

She was the best loved British royalty for sure and I miss her very much…

Britain did become a less interesting place since her death. Despite her sons has grown up to be two fine men, they can never match their mother’s star quality and charm. Diana really was one of a kind. She was a treasure.

Lots of media were there to cover how the public were marking their tribute…

BBC, Sky News, CNN, etc, all camping out between the statue of Queen Victoria and Round Pond…

I miss you, Princess Diana. Please rest in peace.

I will never forget you.

Kensington Palace

After enjoying a nostalgic lunch at Stick & Bowl, I walked towards Kensington Gardens. 
During the first few months of my life in London, I used to visit the garden almost every other day with a bag of peanuts. The peanuts were for a colony of squirrels which lived in and around the Flower Walk. Most of the squirrels were incredibly tame and very eager for the peanuts. They perched on the top of the fence which divided the walkway and the flowerbeds and stretched out their tiny (& muddy) hands towards me. Some of them were so bold that they stood there and kept on stuffing their cheek pouches with the nuts until the pouches were nearly bursting. Even though I knew that they were after a free snack, I was comforted by the way they welcomed me.

The most famous fixture of Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace, is situated in the west side of the park…

In 1689, a simple two story mansion was bought by King William III and Queen Mary II, who jointly reigned United Kingdom during the 17th century. The couple commissioned Sir Christphor Wren for re-designing the house to be suitable in size and style for a reigning monarch. And the transformation resulted in a Baroque-style palace which has become a residence for a various royal family members, from William & Mary to William & Kate.

Another famous resident was Queen Victoria…

She was born in the North Drawing Room on 24 May 1819 and continued to reside at the palace until she moved her household to Buckingham Palace in 1838 after her accession.

The King’s Staircase leading to the King’s Apartment…

The trompe l’œil which adorned this masculine staircase was painted by William Kent for the first Hanovarian monarch, George I.

Another trompe l’œil by the same artist was found in the Cupola Room…

The Privy Chamber of George I was an orgy of tromp l’œil. The walls and woodworks were painted over in order to make them imitate other than timber and plaster…

The presence of the actors in costume definitely helped me imagine how the Georgian royal life had been in their time…



Court dresses of the time were on display and the dress looked fairly ridiculous…

It resembled a piece of furniture rather than clothing. 

I was familiar with the design of the dress through period paintings such as by Gainsborough…

However, it looked very odd in reality.

After the King’s Apartment, I moved on to the Queen’s Apartment…

The Queen’s Apartment was more private and intimate than a grand setting of the King’s. The ceilings were lower and the rooms were smaller. The windows, which overlooked a quiet part of the royal park, introduced a plenty of light into the cozy family rooms.

A coat with a black sash adorned by a white corsage in the middle of the room cut a lonely figure. This mourning coat was worn by George II after whose queen, Caroline of Anspach, died from post-operation infection. It was a rarity in royal marriage but the King was devoted to the queen and her death devastated him. The way the coat was displayed depicted the sorrow of the king exquisitely.

A large part of the exhibits at the palace belonged to Queen Victoria and her brood.

Queen Victoria and her grandchildren…

Toys belonged to the Queen herself and her children…

I was struck by the similarity between Prince Albert Edward, later Edward VII and the present Queen’s late sister, Princrss Margaret…

Their eyes were exactly the same.

I was also surprised to see how petite the Queen Victoria was…

She was married in this dress on the 10th February 1840. The height difference between the petite queen and her German prince is pretty impressive, isn’t it? It is as great as mine and Hubbie’s – me, 5’2″ and him 6’4″!

We all know that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s marriage was one of the most loving and successful royal marriages in the history and the exhibits reflected how they were doted on each other.

Jewellery gifted to Victoria from Albert…

A plaster cast of one of their offspring and a few miniatures…

Kensington Palace became world-famous when Princess Diana took up residence in here. As a result, a number of her dresses were on display…

I wanted to have tea at the Orangery but alas, it was closed for a private function. Being desperate for a refreshment, I ended up using the cafeteria next to a gift shop and found they weren’t that great. The cakes were dry and too few seatings for too many people. Oh well, I would better plan a picnic in the park next time, I sighed. Weather permitted, of course…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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