A palace, a garden and Chihuly

Richmond, England. What do you get when you combine all three now? Kew Gardens, of course. We spent the day in this lovely setting, a botanical garden that houses the largest and most diverse botanical collection in the world. Founded in 1840, it includes more than 30,000 different kinds of plants. And, currently, the glasswork of Dale Chihuly is sprinkled dramatically around the gardens.

The Kew site, which has been dated as formally starting in 1759, is a nice combination of curated gardens and wide open spaces with intriguing vistas. It’s ideal for the crowds who stream in to catch sight of spring. The Victorian Palm House is immense and filled with tropical plants. The Chinese pagoda has been popular since 1762 and little follies provide nice surprises around the park.

And then there was the palace.

Kew Palace is the oldest building within the Gardens, serving as the summer home of King George III in the 18th century. The striking façade of the palace reflects its origins. Constructed in 1631 for a wealthy Flemish merchant, Samuel Fortrey, it was originally known as the Dutch House. A century later, George III received his education at Kew Palace. As king, he preferred his country estates to court life, spending many happy summers there with his wife Queen Charlotte and their 15 children. (Yes, 15.)

However, these periods of relaxation were shadowed by King George’s struggles with mental illness – suffering repeated bouts from his first episode in 1789 until a regency was declared in 1811. After Queen Charlotte died in 1818 in the bedroom and chair shown, Kew Palace was closed off.

It seems like a simple royal residence, but it might have been a comfortable one – at least for the Queen. Some of her daughters terribly resented being closed up in “the nunnery,” with none of the social activities the formal court in London would have offered.

We quite enjoyed the day. What a pretty place, which will be even better when the roses bloom in a week or so. And it isn’t far from London…

Come Down to Kew in Lilac Time (Alfred Noyes)

Come down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;

Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!)

And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer’s wonderland;

Come down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!)

4 thoughts on “A palace, a garden and Chihuly

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