The Royal Gardens

The Queen & Kew - A Royal Partnership

Kew Gardens was delighted it’s 250th anniversary in 2009 was a visit by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The 250th anniversary exhibition viewed by the Queen was devoted to Kew's ark: the millennium seed bank which hit the target of keeping samples of 10% of all the seed-bearing plants in the world – on track for 25% by 2020.

Kew palace winter
Kew Palace in winter

The Queen didn’t have time in 2009 to visit the works of any of her predecessors: the cedars of Lebanon planted by her Hanoverian ancestors before the gardens existed, the temples built by Prince Frederick, the little patches of woodland remaining from Capability Brown's work for George III, or the towering pagoda, the most spectacular of all the follies created by architect William Chambers for George's mother, Princess Augusta.

The royals still sometimes exercise their visiting rights over their former back garden. In 2006 Prince Charles organised a private 80th birthday party for the Queen before Kew Palace re-opened to the public after restoration work. The startlingly pink former merchant's mansion, the place George III lived in during his periods of mental illness, is now run as a separate visitor attraction within the grounds by Historic Royal Palaces. One of the first objects the Queen encountered was the high-backed chair in which Charlotte, her great-great-great grandmother, died.

Princess of Wales Conservatory
Princess of Wales Conservatory
Queen Charlotte Cottage
Queen Charlotte's Cottage

When Queen Victoria opened Queen Charlotte's cottage – a Hansel and Gretel folly, once surrounded by a menagerie, which remained a separate royal enclave within the grounds until the late 19th century – to the public, she specified that the royals could still come there for picnics. In the 1990s Princess Margaret exercised that right, and came with her friends for a birthday cocktail party. Evidently everyone had a splendid time.

The Blue Plaque
The Blue Plaque

Nigel Taylor, the 24th successor to William Aiton as curator, was summoned from his home on the opposite side of the gardens to lay on an impromptu guided tour. Margaret was delighted, and Taylor witnessed incredulous tourists, cameras in hand, wondering if they were really recording the Queen's sister hugging some equally startled gardeners.

David Nash, Black Dome 2010, Charred Oak
David Nash, Black Dome 2010, Charred Oak
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