This grand entrance to the King's State Apartments is a must-see
Updated 30 July. Following government guidance, Kensington Palace is now open Wednesday-Sunday. Read our visit information
The walls of the King's Staircase were painted by William Kent as a vivid recreation of George I's court. The artwork depicts a lively 18th-century court full of intriguing and unexpected characters.
In Georgian times, visitors to court could only enter if their clothes and jewels passed muster with the guards.
Some of the guards in their red uniforms stand among the figures of the arcade painted on the walls, many of them identifiable as members of the royal court.
Kent completed the staircase paintings in 1724 and replaced rather more plain wooden panelling, which had been installed by Sir Christopher Wren.
Kent included a picture of himself in the painting. Look out for him on the ceiling with his mistress at his shoulder, wearing a brown turban and holding an artist's palette.
Along with the Yeomen of the Guard, Kent's painting includes the King's Polish page Ulric and the King's Turkish servants Mahomet and Mustapha. Peter 'the wild boy', a feral child found in the woods in Germany, also makes an appearance.
The imaginary architecture of the staircase painting was inspired by work that Kent had seen in the palaces of Rome where he trained.
The painted figure of Diana on the top landing is a copy of a real antique statue; the original is at Holkham Hall in Norfolk.
Originally the childhood home of Queen Victoria, later home to Princess Margaret and Princess Diana and now the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kensington Palace is one of the more fashionable and stylish of our palaces.