London's Kensington Palace is getting ready for its close-up this week, when Prince William, Duchess Kate and Prince George become the newest royal residents of the palace once dismissed by a king as an "aunt heap," and then transformed into a memorial in a sea of flowers after Princess Diana's death.
British media are reporting today that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with their 11-week-old baby, are expected to move in this week into Apartment 1A, which isn't an apartment in the American sense — it has four storeys and 20 rooms — and has undergone more than $2 million in renovations to be ready for the future king and queen and their heir.
When is moving day? Palace officials aren't saying, but, like anyone else waiting on a major home-improvement project, the couple's move-in date depends on when the builders finish.
One thing is certain: They will not be expected to do their own unpacking. Still, British reporters say the former Kate Middleton, possessor of a degree in art history, has put her personal taste stamp on the interior decoration, deciding on the color scheme of cream and eau de nil, picking out furnishings and fabrics, and selecting choice artworks and antiques to borrow from the Royal Collection with permission from Queen Elizabeth II.
The Daily Mail's Rebecca English described the new digs as "elegant" and in the "Style Anglaise of a classic English country house with a modern twist." It's a major step up from the more modest farmhouse the couple rented for the past three years while based in Wales near William's RAF base. In Anglesey, Kate would shop for knickknacks at the local home-improvement store; for their new digs, she's been seen shopping at upscale design centers in London.
"It's a big task but Kate is confident in her own taste and style and knows what she wants," an unnamed friend told The Express.
The new place is also a big improvement over Nottingham Cottage, the cozy-cramped apartment on the grounds of the palace where they have lived whenever they were in London since they married in 2011. The cottage was where they spent the first night after leaving the hospital following George's birth on July 22.
For the past few weeks, they've been staying at Balmoral, the queen's vacation estate in Scotland, where they introduced George to his great-grandfather, Prince Philip.
Moving in to KP is a return to the past for William, who lived there as a child (in a different apartment) with his mother, Princess Diana, after she and his father, Prince Charles, split up. After she was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997, mourners deposited flowers by the millions outside the palace gates. William was among members of the royal family who went to see the floral tribute, producing an iconic image sent round the world and seared into the British public memory.
Now the young royals — both are 31 — are getting ready to make new memories, brushing off the dusty melancholy of an old palace that once housed elderly female descendants of Queen Victoria — the "aunt heap" of Edward VIII's derision — and started out as a mere mansion in 1605.
Apartment 1A needed quite a bit of work, having not been touched since the last occupant, Princess Margaret, sister of the queen, died in 2002; the last major refurbishment was in 1963 when she moved in. Apart from everything else required to spruce it up, such as a new kitchen, modern heating and plumbing, and night and day nurseries, there was asbestos that had to be removed at some cost and delay.
The cost of the renovation will be divided: The structural work, such as asbestos removal, is being paid for by British taxpayers; the Cambridges, who are millionaires, are paying for the interior decoration and soft furnishings.
No media types have actually seen the inside yet, but some facts about the new residence are known: The Cambridges are getting a spacious, multi-level home taking up half the Clock Tower wing designed by Sir Christopher Wren for King William and Queen Mary in the 17th century. It has its own large walled garden and generous living space, including five reception rooms, three main bedrooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms, nurseries, staff quarters (housekeeper, nanny, personal assistants), and guest rooms for visitors such as her parents and siblings.