Kensington Palace, which sits in the verdant splendor of London’s Kensington Gardens, began life as a more modest two-story manor house, built by Sir George Coppin in 1605. It was purchased by the Earl of Nottingham in 1619 and came to be known as Nottingham House. The second earl, who was serving as the royal secretary of state, sold it to William and Mary in 1689. (For those of you who may be a little fuzzy on your British history, Protestant Mary II and William III came as joint rulers to the throne after the Glorious Revolution that had deposed Mary’s Catholic father, King James II.)
Mary engaged Sir Christopher Wren (who created St. Paul’s Cathedral) to enlarge and remodel the residence. In order to save money, he decided to use much of the original structure but added wings and exterior changes, which reflected his eye for grace and symmetry. For the next seventy years, British monarchs chose to live at Kensington Palace rather than St. James’s Palace, which remained the official heart of the monarchy. (For Regency aficionados, Rotten Row, where many of our Heyer heroes and heroines ride every day, got its name from being part of the Rue de Roi—the king’s road which led from St. James’s Palace to Kensington Palace.)
During the reign of George I and George II, the palace was a center of intellectual and artistic creativity, as the kings and their consorts played host to the leading writers, artists, and musicians. It was also known as a hotbed of political intrigue, as diplomats and courtiers jockeyed for power and influence. The interiors were remodeled at this time, with additions including such architectural splendors as the famous Cupola Room and the ornate murals and painted ceilings that one sees today.
When George III came to the throne, Kensington Palace fell out of favor and became a residence for lesser members of the royal family. One of George III’s younger sons, Prince Augustus Frederick, the Duke of Sussex, was given a set of rooms in 1805, known as Apartment 1. Augustus was very interested in science and the arts and created a massive library of more than fifty thousand books; it filled ten rooms! He also collected clocks and had a large number of pet birds, which were allowed to fly around loose. A member of the Royal Society, Britain’s leading scientific society, Augustus often hosted scientific soirees at Kensington Palace—a fact I use in my book.
The palace was also home to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, another son of George III. His daughter, Alexandrina Victoria—later Queen Victoria—was born there in 1819. When she acceded to the throne, she moved to Buckingham Palace—no doubt because of unpleasant memories of her childhood at Kensington Palace under the strict rule of her manipulative mother and her mother’s favorite advisor, John Conroy.
Since then, Kensington Palace continued to play host to a procession of royal family members. (I particularly like the story of the Victorian Princess Louise, who had the windows bricked up in her apartment when she discovered her husband was climbing out to meet for late night trysts with his lover.) The early 1900s saw such an assortment of minor royals taking up residence that Edward VIII called it “the aunt heap.”
In modern times, it was home to Princess Margaret, who spent a fortune renovating a section now referred to as Apartment 1A. The current residents of 1A are Prince William and Kate (it’s their official London residence). Prince Harry and Meghan Markle also have accommodations there.
In doing research, I came across a website that listed some of the secrets of Kensington Palace, and here are a few of the interesting tidbits. The King’s Art Gallery—a fabulous space—was also used for exercising (I think fencing was the sport of choice). And the main fireplace has a special dial built in that connects to the weathervane so that the king could gauge the wind direction—very important for a country that depended on its navy. Another insider bit of trivia is that Queen Victoria first met Albert at the palace.
Wrexford and Sloane must unravel secrets within secrets—including a few that entangle their own hearts—when they reunite to solve a string of shocking murders that have horrified Regency London …
Though Charlotte Sloane’s secret identity as the controversial satirical cartoonist A. J. Quill is safe with the Earl of Wrexford, she’s ill-prepared for the rippling effects sharing the truth about her background has cast over their relationship. She thought a bit of space might improve the situation. But when her cousin is murdered and his twin brother is accused of the gruesome crime, Charlotte immediately turns to Wrexford for help in proving the young man’s innocence. Though she finds the brooding scientist just as enigmatic and intense as ever, their partnership is now marked by an unfamiliar tension that seems to complicate every encounter.
Despite this newfound complexity, Wrexford and Charlotte are determined to track down the real killer. Their investigation leads them on a dangerous chase through Mayfair’s glittering ballrooms and opulent drawing rooms, where gossip and rumors swirl to confuse the facts. Was her cousin murdered over a romantic rivalry … or staggering gambling debts? Or could the motive be far darker and involve the clandestine scientific society that claimed both brothers as members? The more Charlotte and Wrexford try to unknot the truth, the more tangled it becomes. But they must solve the case soon, before the killer’s madness seizes another victim.
About the Author
Andrea Penrose is the best-selling author of Regency-era historical fiction, including the acclaimed Wrexford & Sloane mystery series, as well as Regency romances written under the names Cara Elliott and Andrea Pickens. Published internationally in ten languages, she is a three-time RITA Award finalist and the recipient of numerous writing awards, including two Daphne Du Maurier Awards for Historical Mystery and two Gold Leaf Awards. A graduate of Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in art and an master’s of fine art in graphic design, Andrea fell in love with Regency England after reading Pride and Prejudice and has maintained a fascination with the era’s swirling silks and radical new ideas throughout her writing career. She lives in Connecticut and blogs with a community of historical fiction authors at WordWenches.com. She also can be found at AndreaPenrose.com and on the social media platforms below.