Diana's former home becomes the "enchanted palace"

Fri Apr 9, 2010 9:15am EDT
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By Kirsty Ross

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British fashion designers including Dame Vivienne Westwood and William Tempest have transformed Princess Diana's former home into an "Enchanted Palace."

The Kensington Palace exhibition, which will run for two years, explores the lives of seven princesses who lived at the estate -- combining storytelling through live theater, haunting whispers and lighting tricks.

In addition to Westwood and Tempest, designers Boudicca and Aminaka Wilmont, illustrator Echo Morgan and milliner Stephen Jones were commissioned to revamp more than a dozen rooms in the 405-year-old state apartments, while 12 million pounds ($18 million) of major works are carried out in other areas of the royal estate.

Curators asked the designers to conceive a new dress for each princess, including Mary, Anne, Caroline, Charlotte and Victoria, while another two original dresses belonging to Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales are displayed in a new light.

Westwood created a dress "for a rebellious princess," inspired by the King George IV's daughter Princess Charlotte, whose death in 1817 had such an impact on Londoners that supplies of black cloth in the city ran out.

Another highlight is Tempest's avant-garde piece in Queen Victoria's bedroom, involving 2,000 suspended origami birds. It was in that room that she awoke in 1836 to discover she would assume the role of Queen.

Each room has its own theme, including tragic stories of a young princess betrothed to a man much older; the horror of bearing a stillborn child and that of losing a friend forever which are brought to life by actors from Cornish-based theater company WildWorks.

"It's such rich material for art and theater -- to be exploring these stories in the rooms where they took place is thrilling," WildWorks producer Bill Mitchell said.   Continued...

<p>In this undated handout photo, actors from the WILDWORKS theatre company perform in the State Apartments at Kensington Palace as part of the Enchanted Palace visitor experience. REUTERS/Richard Lea-Hair/newsteam.co.uk/Handout</p>