Taking a stroll through the gardens of Kensington Palace, soon to become the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their new little royal family, it’s easy to get caught up in the grandeur and transported via daydream to a regal upbringing.
Peering through the golden gates, most famously known for housing thousands of bunches of flowers and tributes to Diana Princess of Wales, who stayed resident at the palace following her divorce from Prince Charles, conjures up images of young Princes Harry and William playing in the palace gardens as children.
You can imagine the grand guests who graced the palace entering through those gates during the residence of Princess Margaret in the 1960s when she and husband Lord Snowdon hosted glamorous parties in the South front facing apartment visible from the Palace’s main entrance.
That is, until, the roaring of drills and thwacking of hammers bring you back to reality, or a truck nearly takes you out while walking up one of the drives to the Palace grounds.
Many young couples starting a family and moving into a new home will tell you everything doesn’t always go according to plan, and even royalty aren’t exempt when it comes to finishing off renovations in time for a new baby’s arrival.
Apartment 1A, the lavish 20-room residence where Kate and William are due to move in and raise their child, has been undergoing a major refurbishment since last year to bring it into “a habitable state”, a spokesperson from Kensington Palace told The Weekly.
Covered in scaffolding and surrounded by portaloos the section of the palace where they will live more resembles an industrial construction site than the home of royalty.
The view from the five-star Royal Garden Hotel, where enthusiastic royal stickybeaks are spread among the crowds of businessmen and holidaymakers in the hotel’s top floor restaurant overlooking the palace, is littered with cranes, trucks, and renovation debris.
Staff at the palace — a tourist attraction as well as the home of royalty — are also keen for the renovations to be complete. One palace guide told The Weekly she couldn’t remember a day working that wasn’t interrupted by loud noises from the nearby construction workers, but it wasn’t “too much of a bother”.
Party Princess Margaret, who last inhabited 1A along with her husband and their two children, decorated her section of the palace in her and fashionable photographer Lord Snowdon’s own bohemian style.
They broke from tradition to develop a modern home, with much of the details designed by Lord Snowdon himself.
But since that refurbishment almost fifty years ago the apartment has fallen into disrepair, desperate for an extreme makeover to make way for the Duke, Duchess, and baby Cambridge.
“The apartment is Princess Margaret’s old apartment,” a royal spokesperson said.
“There’s a lot of structural work to be done, that’s the bulk of it.
“There was a lot of asbestos so a lot of asbestos has had to be removed. The hot water and electrical wiring had to be replaced throughout.”
The renovations, being undertaken by private contractors by appointment of the palace, are due to be complete and ready for the young royals to move in “by the close of 2013”.
The million dollar make over will provide a modern and welcoming home for the royal baby, and plenty of places for the family dog Lupo to play on the palace grounds and gardens.
The palace’s current royal residents include the Duke and duchess of Gloucester and Prince and princess Michael of Kent.
A cottage close by to William and Kate’s South facing apartment, very near to the palace’s main entrance, has been made available for Prince Harry to move in and be close to his first niece or nephew.
Prince Harry and his brother William are said to be excited to return to the palace where they grew up as children in one of the private apartments on the other side of the palace which underwent a similar restoration prior to the birth of Prince William seeing the apartment restored to resemble its 18th-century glory after being bombed during the Second World War.
As boys, the young princes often took walks throughout the palace gardens with their mother, Princess Diana. They were also within walking distance of their nearby prep school, where baby Cambridge is expected to attend as well.
The palace is centrally located in the middle of expansive parklands between Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens, and close to many trendy kid-friendly cafes should Kate need to take a break from palace living.
Until the young royals move their family into the newly refurbished apartment there is accommodation available to them elsewhere in the palace as well as their Anglesey home in Wales.
The couple are also said to spare a fair amount of time at Kate’s parents’ country manor in Bucklebury, Berkshire, where the royal baby is reported to spend its first few weeks.
Hopefully their lavish palace accommodation at Kensington is complete by the time Duke, Duchess, and the little prince or princess are ready to settle in.