Palm Glasshouse, Kew Gardens
Palm Glasshouse, Kew Gardens

The boys wanted a quiet Sunday in, so off I went to Kew Gardens by myself.  It was a beautiful sunny spring day – reminded me of Australia on those cool sunny days.  Walking to Kew took about 45 minutes but gave me a chance to check out new roads and shops that I hadn’t yet passed.

The place I really wanted to see was Kew Palace.  But to get into Kew Palace, you are obliged to pay 13 pounds to get into Kew Gardens.  Just something to note …

Kew Gardens is very pretty.  Similar to other English gardens, it is well maintained.  Once you step past the gates, you will see the large Palm Glasshouse. It’s one of the usual PR shots they take of Kew Gardens.  Fronting the glasshouse, is a lovely lake with a water fountain. Now there’s something about the sound of water running, birds chirping and the laughter of children, on a bright sunny day. It’s positively relaxing.

The Palm Glasshouse is quite exotic, and I don’t just mean the palms in it.  The Palm Glasshouse reminds me a bit of Indiana Tea House in Cottesloe, Perth – minus the heavy stone walls of course.  Maybe it’s the lines of the building, or maybe I’m a little bit homesick.  Inside the Palm Glasshouse, it is very hot.  Ok, I know it’s a hot house, but still, it did not occur to me that it would be quite so hot.   (It’s the difference between knowing at an intellectual level, and knowing at a physical level.)  I felt a bit heady from the heat, and the air was thick, making breathing “harder”.  Well,… a lot like being in Singapore or Malaysia.  Oh look!  I’m in the rainforest section of the glass house.   That explains it!

Japanese Minka House
Japanese Minka House

Other “Kew Gardens” sights include the Minka House, Tree Top Walk and the Pagoda.  The walks around the gardens are very pleasant with many benches to sit on, if you are averse to sitting on grass.  There were ducks in the ponds, chickens wandering freely, and peacocks showing off.

Kew Palace in Kew Gardens
Kew Palace in Kew Gardens

I spent most of my time in Kew Palace wandering about the rooms of the house where King George III, Queen Charlotte and their 15 children lived.  Fifteen children!  I was going to say George must’ve been quite a randy fellow, but then it takes 2 to tango, doesn’t it ….?  Ok, this is a G-rated blog.  Not sure where they put the whole family, because I didn’t see 17 bedrooms in the house.  They must’ve lived somewhere else for most of the time.  Anyway, I  like wandering around old houses and imagining what life might have been like.  I also try to stick my nose into Private/Staff only areas to spot the servants staircase or the back rooms.

An amazingly life like impression of George III by Madame Tussaud
An amazingly life like impression of George III by Madame Tussaud

King George III ruled for a long time. His reign covered the the American Revolutionary Wars, where England lost the colonies, and the war with Napoleon.  He was also the “mad” king.  He had a genetic metabolic condition called Porphyria, which I learned from the visit.  Even today, it is not curable and has to be managed.  In those days, the medical treatment would have been quite barbaric, from electric shocks, leeching, blood letting etc. I’m sure it wasn’t fun – for the doctor, I mean.  Anyway, am now off to rent the DVD “The Madness of King George“.  It’s all a little bit more interesting once you’ve been to the places.

Out of the 15 children they had, only 2 married and 1 produced the future heir Queen Victoria.  I got the impression that it was because of “poor society” that the princesses did not marry.  Their mother didn’t think anyone was good enough.

Original flower pressing from Captain James Cook.
Original flower pressing from Captain James Cook. Recognise it anyone?

One thing I’ve come to realise is that the royal family are more German than English. George III came from the House of Hanover, and was the first Hanovarian monarch born in England and spoke English as a first language.  During World War I, the royal family changed their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor as anything “German” then was quite unpopular. A cynic might call it a public relations exercise – like Prince …. or is it “The artist formally known as Prince”?

Queen Charlotte died in 1818.  During her funeral procession to Windor Castle (where King George III had been living since his final descent into madness in 1810), they put extra hay in the courtyard so that he would not be distressed by news of his wife’s death.  But he was so “out of it” that he did not even notice. Quite sad really. He died in 1820. Kew Palace remained empty until 1898 when Queen Victoria opened it to the public.

So! Was it worth 13 pounds to visit the gardens? In the old currency, it is about AUD$28.  To be honest, unless you love plants, or love to know the botanical names of species of plants, or you particularly want to see Kew Palace, then I’d give it a miss.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a pretty garden. But if you’re on a buget and short on time, there are alternatives …..   That’s my opinion anyway.