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Beautiful Rooms - The Cupola Room, Kensington Palace

Thursday, July 2, 2020 - 08:45

Arguably the most splendidly decorated room in Kensington Palace, the Cupola Room marks a great new beginning in the history of design. The Cupola Room was the first royal commission of William Kent, the artist who went on to decorate the rest of the State Apartments at Kensington Palace. Here, he re-created a baroque Roman palace, with the Star of the Order of the Garter at the centre of the trompe l'oeil ceiling.

Image copyright: Hayley Bray

William Kent was a surprising choice. Everyone thought that George I would choose the established painter, Sir James Thornhill, but Thornhill was expensive, and Kent undercut him on the cost. Consequently, Thornhill’s friends tried to get Kent dismissed by complaining about the quality of his work. The gilded statues, they said, made a ‘terrible glaring show’!

The unusual object in the centre of the room is a musical clock, the 'Temple of the Four Great Monarchies of the World'. Clockmaker Charles Clay worked on this magnificent clock for 20 years and spent over £2,000 on it. It was unfinished when he died, and in his will he instructed it to be 'beat to pieces' to save any more time or money spent on it. His wife did not comply, and the clock was acquired by Princess Augusta in around 1743 and placed in this room soon after.

Image copyright: David Jensen

George II and Queen Caroline hosted lavish parties in this room. Later in 1819, a much celebrated gathering occurred in the Cupola Room for the baptism of Princess Victoria.

Image copyright: Hayley Bray

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