How to celebrate what would have been Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday with a regal visit to London

AS I take an early morning walk through a serene Hyde Park, it dawns on me just how much of London I have yet to explore.

Being a northern girl, I’ve spent plenty of fun-filled weekends in the capital, but, believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve walked through Hyde Park, and I am about to embark on my first visit to Kensington Palace. A couple of hours earlier I’d woken up from a wonderful night’s sleep in my luxuriously appointed junior suite at Kensington’s Baglioni Hotel, perfectly situated on the edge of Hyde Park with a beautiful view of Kensington Palace and beyond.

Not only is this hotel in the ideal location for exploring many of London’s main tourist attractions, it is also large enough to offer every guest amenity you could possibly wish for (including an idyllic spa), but is still small enough to feel like a home from home. The service is second to none, with smiling faces greeting you at every turn.

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I felt comfortable the second I checked in and as I left the following day, it was like bidding goodbye to new friends.

In a stroke of luck, my arrival at the Baglioni the night before coincided with the launch of their new range of aperitivo cocktails, created in conjunction with Cocchi.

The Brunello Bar at the Baglioni offers a superb range of naturally low ABV offerings, featuring botanicals and rich floral notes.

My rhubarb cocktail was full of flavour yet light, refreshing and exquisitely presented.

The feast for the senses continued in the hotel restaurant where I enjoyed three courses of the finest Italian food, washed down with matching wines.

Pumpkin flan, turbot with potatoes, olives and basil sauce, followed by tiramisu, transported me from a cold winter’s night in London to a warm summer’s evening on the Amalfi coast.

The purpose of my visit is to preview the two new exhibits set to open on May 24 – the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth.

With Kensington Palace being Victoria’s place of birth, it seems an apt location to house these two new exhibits that consider not only her public persona, but also her private life – as a woman, daughter, wife, widow and mother.

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Victoria: A Royal Childhood is a new permanent exhibition dedicated to the years Victoria spent at Kensington.

In a re-presentation of the rooms occupied by a young Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, the exhibition follows her life from the day she was born through to the day she discovered she was Queen, and subsequently moved to Buckingham Palace.

Featuring many original items from this era, the collection includes a scrapbook created by the princess’ governess, Baroness Lehzen.

On public display for the first time, this is a truly special item providing a fascinating insight into their special bond.

It contains articles including locks of hair, childhood drawings and personal letters.

Interactive displays, original artworks and furniture help to bring to life the rooms that a young princess called home, and where she was moulded into the future monarch.

Victoria: Woman and Crown is a temporary exhibition located in the palace’s Pigott Gallery (currently housing Diana: Her Fashion Story).

This collection examines the monarch’s later years, taking a detailed look at the woman behind the crown, her role as a mother and her years spent mourning her beloved husband, Albert.

To help illustrate the story, items from the Queen’s wardrobe are set to go on display, many for the first time.

Alongside her well-known black mourning garments, the curators at Historic Royal Palaces, with support from the Art Fund, have managed to acquire and painstakingly restore a number of original pieces, including a cotton petticoat, a pair of silver boots and a silk and lace cape.

Much of the restoration has been undertaken by an expert team based at Hampton Court Palace, and the results really are a sight to behold.

As well as items from Victoria’s wardrobe, there are also nods to her close relationship with India (she became Empress of India in 1876), and particularly with the Maharaja Duleep Singh, including one of his diaries and a pair of intricately embroidered slippers.

These two exhibitions are set to be a fitting tribute to one of the UK’s most fascinating and influential monarchs. They are also a great addition to the capital’s main tourist attractions and, when coupled with a stay at the Baglioni, make for a wonderful short break full of culture, history, relaxation and luxury.

HOW TO GET THERE

Baglioni Hotel London (baglionihotels.com; 020 37 587 465) has rooms available from £349 per night based on two adults sharing on a B&B basis.

For further details on Kensington Palace, visit hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace