Kew Palace reopens to public following ten-year restoration project

London's Kew Palace, King George III's retreat as he struggled with deteriorating mental health, will be reopened to the public Thursday following a 6.6 million pounds ($11.8 million, Ђ9.5 million) 10-year restoration project.

The 17th century, four-story red brick home, restored down to the antique green verditer wallpaper and plush carpeting, last week held a private dinner for Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday the first major event since the work was completed.

Visitors will be admitted following a decade of structural repairs funded by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces.

It will be the first time the public have ever had access to the palace's second floor, virtually untouched since the king left and still decorated with the original wallpaper and wood paneling.

King George III who reigned between 1760 and 1820 suffered a rapid decline in health at the turn of the 19th century, when many perceived him as mad.

Historians now believe he suffered from porphyria, a hereditary disease that afflicts the nervous system.

Originally built in 1631 by a Dutch merchant, the palace has a basic Georgian exterior modest in comparison to the grander royal palaces of his day and was home to the monarch, his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their fifteen children.

"It was such a private place," said Susanne Groom, one of the two curators of the restoration. "It's just ordinary life here."

Following Queen Charlotte's death in 1818, the palace was officially closed. It was handed to the British public in 1899 by Queen Victoria.

"One of the things we were keen to keep was the atmosphere," project director Josephine Thwaites said. "The building itself has a lot of little secrets to it."

"We've been able to make this building accessible to the public in a way that's never been before. You have a sense of who lived here and how they behaved," he said.

Several rooms house the monarch's collection of paintings and in the queen's former bedroom a prized harpsichord is on display, reports AP.


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