By RICHARD KAY and GEOFFREY LEVY
New home: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will move in to an apartment at Kensington Palace next month - one of the former homes of William's mother Diana
They will, of course, be waiting — just as they were always waiting relentlessly for Princess Diana when she lived there. For the paparazzi, it will be like old times when Prince William takes Kate to live in Kensington Palace later this month.
This palace, so perfect for the paps because of its high accessibility on all sides, is still resonant of Diana’s unhappy years inside its walls and of that lake of flowers which magically appeared at its front gates after her death almost 14 years ago.
One has to wonder just how deeply Prince William considered the implications of moving into the one royal address that is so personally associated with his mother — and which royal staff really do consider to be ‘unlucky’.
Clearly, the Duke of Cambridge is not quite the cautious young man that he seems. First, there was his emotional decision to give Kate his mother’s famous sapphire and diamond engagement ring — for many, a permanent symbol of Diana’s unhappiness.
Now, he moves his bride into Kensington Palace, where every time she tries to slip away to the shops on Kensington High Street — just as Diana loved doing — there will be inevitable comparisons with the mother-in-law she never knew.
To Diana, ‘KP’, as she called it, came to be ‘more prison than palace’.
To Kate, moving there will be the moment she really begins to understand what her royal life is going to be.
So why make their lives there?
Happy time: William may want to move into Kensington Palace because of fond memories he has of his early childhood before his parents' marital problems
Let’s look at the options. Clarence House was briefly considered because that is where William has been sharing an apartment with his brother, Harry. At least, it was considered until the Duchess of Cornwall, in her light but decisive manner, declared: ‘There’s no room here.’
Then there was St James’s Palace next door, where William has his office. But he did not want to live there because, as a friend of his says, it is ‘rather gloomy’.
The only other choice was Buckingham Palace, where Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and the Earl of Wessex still keep apartments.
But just imagine the upheaval — and angst for Charles — if the popular William were to make his marital home in the monarch’s official residence.
‘That would have been a very loaded message, even though entirely unintended,’ chuckles one senior aide. ‘Some people would be bound to see it as the Queen apparently endorsing her grandson as her successor — quite absurd, of course.’
Blessing: Diana, pictured with friend Susie Kassem, used apartments 8 and 9 after her divorce from Charles. They are no longer available
But all the time, Kensington Palace was where William really wanted to live with Kate, if only temporarily, possibly because of his fond memories of his own happy childhood there before things began to go badly wrong with his parents’ marriage.
They are memories that are very precious to Will, though he doesn’t really talk much about his childhood,’ says one of his closest friends.
Even so, the later unhappiness of his mother, whom her ten-year-old son often found himself having to comfort when she was in despair, probably makes it a blessing that Diana’s old flat, Apartments 8 & 9, is no longer available. Situated over three floors with staff quarters and a nursery, it would have been far too big for the newlyweds anyway.
After Diana’s death, it was stripped of everything and left a shell for almost ten years. Now it has been split up into various offices for charities, as well as providing an official home for the Army’s Chief of the General Staff: General Sir Richard Dannatt was its first resident.
Two rather more modest apartments are immediately available.
Comparisons: For Kate, moving in to Kensington Palace will be the first she gets to understand what her Royal life will be like
Turned down: Buckingham Palace was one residence the couple could have chosen but it would have caused too much angst for Charles
One, Apartment 4a, is in a section of the palace known as Clock Court, close to the late Princess Margaret’s old home. Its previous occupant was Sir John Tiltman, the Queen’s director of property services until his retirement in 2004.
The other is Apartment 11, vacated last December by Prince Philip’s former private secretary, Brigadier Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, who had been living there with his wife, Gay, for the previous year.
Until then the couple had resided in Nottingham Cottage, a self-contained house next door to the Duke of Kent’s residence, Wren House. Nottingham Cottage is also empty, and we understand it will be one of these two addresses that William and Kate will move into.
Other owners: The Duke of Kent, left, owns a lavish home within the building, while the Duke of Gloucester owns a 21-room apartment
The cottage is favourite — cosy and private — and it will give them the use of a small walled garden, perfect for parking a pram. It is also the ideal spot for the newlyweds to put up the hammock bought for them as a wedding gift by members of the royal household sports club.
It is close to another walled garden, reached through a locked door, to which Princess Diana had exclusive use and which she came to regard as her private refuge. It was there that William was photographed by the world’s Press for his first official photocall at the age of one.
And it was in this secluded spot, shielded from the noise of the grinding Kensington traffic, that one of the most extraordinary and deeply moving episodes of his mother’s time at Kensington Palace took place.
Royal neighbours: Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have an apartment in the Palace and have access to the garden