Diana & her garden – Kensington Palace

Photos: Courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces

If travelling would be easier nowadays, there is one place I would love to go. I have been in London several times, but there is still something new to discover. I visited Kensington Palace only two years ago, but the recent exhibition and the new statue would have been wonderful to visit. I fear however I won’t make it to London in time for the exhibition, but I would love to see the statue during my next London visit.

The statue of Diana, Princess of Wales

On 1 July 2021, on what would have been her 60th birthday, the sons of Princess Diana, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex unveiled a statue of their mother in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace. It was a private ceremony with just close relatives and a few people involved in the proces attending. For anyone who doesn’t know, the garden is just opposite the public entrance of the palace and the orangery. Already in 2017, upon Dianas 20th death anniversary, Prince William and Prince Harry commissioned the statue. They wanted the statue to recognise her positive impact in the UK and around the world, and help future generations understand the significance of her place in history.

The bronze statue was sculpted by Ian Rank-Broadley. It is 1,25x life size. According to a press message by the Kensington Palace: “The statue aims to reflect the warmth, elegance and energy of Diana, Princess of Wales, in addition to her work and the impact she had on so many people. The figure of Diana, Princess of Wales is surrounded by three children who represent the universality and generational impact of The Princess’ work. The portrait and style of dress was based on the final period of her life as she gained confidence in her role as an ambassador for humanitarian causes and aims to convey her character and compassion.”

Beneath the statue is a plinth engraved with the name of the late Princess and the date of the unveiling. In front of the statue is a paving stone engraved with an extract after the poem The Measure of A Man which featured in the programme for the 2007 memorial service for The Princess:

“These are the units to measure the worth
Of this woman as a woman regardless of birth.
Not what was her station?
But had she a heart?
How did she play her God-given part?”

The Sunken Garden

In 1908 the Sunken Garden was created at the instigation of King Edward VII, and the 17th century Dutch style Pond Garden at Hampton Court Palace was the inspiration for the layout.

The Sunken Garden was one of the favourite locations of the late Princess. Her sons hope that the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to reflect on their mother’s life and her legacy. When I visited the White Garden in May 2017 the garden temporarily remembered Princess Diana upon her 20th death anniversary, with lots of white flowers. Since a new garden has been designed by Pip Morrison, retaining the historic structures within a simplified layout of deeper flower borders and a more generous lawn around the central pond. In October 2019 the work on the garden began, and since five gardeners have spent a total of 1000 hours working on planting. Over 400m of fine, short cut turf has been laid, and 4000 individual flowers have been planted* , including a few of the favourite flowers of Princess Diana in a variety of pastel shades:

  • over 200 roses, of five varieties including Ballerina and Blush Noisette
  • 100 Forget-me-nots
  • 300 tulips, of three varieties including White Triumphator and China Pink
  • over 500 lavender plants
  • over 100 dahlias
  • 50 sweet peas

Although you can’t enter the garden itself and see the statue of Diana, Princess of Wales from nearby, it is arranged to be viewed from the Cradle Walk, an arched arbour of lime trees and will be free to view during the palace’s opening hours.

Exhibition of Diana’s wedding dress

The last time I passed the historic Orangery at Kensington Palace in March 2019 there had been a party I think, but I was soon distracted by seeing the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This summer the newly-conserved Orangery was opened with a new temporary exhibition: “Royal Style in the Making“, that just sounds wonderful. It explores the intimate relationship between fashion designer and royal client, revealing the process behind the creation of a number of the most important couture commissions in royal history. On display is a rare, surviving toile for the 1937 coronation gown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, made by Madame Handley-Seymour for the coronation of her husband King George VI. But the highlight is of course the 40-year-old wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales. It was last on display at the palace 25 years ago. The dress is on loan from her sons.

The exhibition opened on 3 June 2021, and will run until 2 January 2022.

* The full list of flowers planted in the Sunken Garden

  • Agapanthus ‘African Moon’
  • Alchemilla mollis
  • Ammi majus
  • Anemone hybrida ‘Konigin Charlotte’
  • Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’
  • Argyranthemum frutescens ‘Canariae’
  • Aster thomsonii
  • Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’
  • Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’
  • Clematis heracleifolia ‘Cassandra’
  • Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’
  • Cosmos ‘Sonata White and Pink’
  • Crinum powellii Album
  • Dahlia ‘Pearl of Heemstede’
  • Dahlia ‘White Ornesta’
  • Delphinium ‘Pandora’
  • Erigeron karvinskianus
  • Geranium ‘Rozanne’
  • Heliotropium arborescens
  • Hesperis matronalis ‘Alba’
  • Hosta sieboldii ‘Elegans’
  • Hydrangea aspera ‘Villosa Group’
  • Hydrangea paniculata ‘Magical Starlight’
  • Hydrangea serrata ‘Miranda’
  • Laurus nobilis
  • Lavender intermedia ‘Grosso’
  • Lunaria annua ‘Corfu Blue’
  • Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’
  • Myosotis sylvatica ‘Forget-me-not’
  • Narcissus ‘Silver Chimes’
  • Narcissus poeticus var. recurvis
  • Osmanthus burkwoodii
  • Paeonia ‘Duchess de Nemours’
  • Pelargonium ‘White Boar’
  • Petunia axillaris
  • Phlox ‘Duchess of York’
  • Phlox ‘Rembrandt’
  • Romneya coulteri
  • Rose ‘Ballerina’
  • Rose ‘Blush Noisette’
  • Rose ‘Frau Dagmar Hartopp’
  • Rose ‘Souvenir de St. Anne’s’
  • Selinum wallichianum
  • Sweet Peas
  • Tulip ‘China Pink’
  • Tulip ‘Maureen’
  • Tulip ‘White Triumphator’
  • Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’
  • Viola cornuta ‘Alba’
  • Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’

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