Royal couple to get new London digs

June 6, 2011 - 9:14 AM

Britain Derby Festival

Britain's Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, left, and Prince Harry wait for the start of the Derby during the Derby Festival at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Epsom, England, Saturday, June 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

LONDON (AP) — Most everyone wants a pied a terre in London, a fine city that showcases the arts and music and at times fine food. But only a select few can get a small renovated apartment in Kensington Palace to call home when they are in town.

It's one of the perks of power for Prince William, second in line for the British throne, and his bride, the former Kate Middleton. The finishing touches are being put on their new apartment, which will be their official London residence for the next year while they seek out larger quarters.

Not bad for a couple still on the south side of 30.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as the couple is officially known, plan to move into the refurbished apartments before embarking on their first official overseas trip to Canada and the United States later this month.

Their primary residence will still be a small house on the remote island of Anglesey off the coast of northwest Wales where William serves as a Royal Air Force helicopter rescue pilot.

But Kensington Palace will be their base on their visits to London, which in the past has included late-night clubbing visits but in the last year has focused more on family-oriented events.

William has strong ties to Kensington Palace — he lived there as a child, first with his parents, before their divorce, and then with his mother, the late Princess Diana, who used it as her primary residence until her death in 1997.

The palace is being extensively renovated. Much of it has been gutted in part so it can be brought up to current health and safety standards.

Other royals also live in the palace, which is broken up into a number of apartments. They share a spectacular flower garden built around an ornamental pool.

The late Princess Margaret, the queen's younger sister, lived there for many years in spacious apartment 1A, which enjoyed a private walled garden.

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said there had been reports that the remaining royals would be relocated and the palace turned into a museum.

"For many years there were a lot of royal aunts and uncles there," he said. "There aren't too many options for Kate and William in London without buying something new, and with the cost of security that's not going to happen."

With the height of the summer season approaching, royal officials said Monday that Middleton's famous wedding gown will be put on public display when Buckingham Palace is opened for tourists from July 23 until Oct. 3.

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who allows tourists to visit some of the palace's state rooms during the summer months.

The tour also includes a display of some paintings from the queen's extensive art collection. Works by Rembrandt, Rubens and others are on display.

The much-praised dress was designed by Sarah Burton of the Alexander McQueen fashion house.

Royal collection officials said the special exhibit will also display the veil, tiara, shoes and diamond earrings worn during the April 29 wedding.

The diamond-and-sapphire engagement ring she has been wearing since November will not be part of the display — it is still on her finger, recently displayed at the Epsom Derby horserace she and William attended Saturday.

The state room tour, which will include the wedding gown and accessories, typically costs 17.50 pounds ($29).