The landmark visitor attraction - which has only opened for four months in the last year, leaving a £30 million black hole in its finances - welcomed its Royal Patron as one of the first members of the public back to view its unrivalled collection of art, design and performance.
Kate, wearing a red and blacked check Alessandra Rich dress with a black face mark and towering stilettos with gold buckles, was show around by Dr Tristram Hunt, the museum’s director, and headed first for its Raphael Court, home to the Raphael Cartoons, which has undergone a nine-month refurbishment to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.
It boasts seven full-scale designs for a tapestry commissioned from the Old Master by Pope Leo X in 1515 for the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
They have been leant to the V&A by the Queen from the Royal Collection.
Accompanied by Nicholas Coleridge, chairman of the V&A, and Julius Bryant, Keeper of Word and Image, Kate marvelled at the glory of the space, which has been designed to imitate the Sistine Chapel.
The highlight of her visit, however was the V&A’s landmark 2021 exhibition, postponed from last year, which is an exploration through film, performance, fashion, art, music and photography of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland over the past 158 years.
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser is a fully immersive exhibition , exploring the impact of the book from its Victorian originals through to Salvador Dali, The Beatles and Vivienne Westwood.
Kate seemed particularly animated as she viewed an interactive Mat Hatters’ Tea Party, complete with dormouse.
Afterwards she had the chance to speak to a group of museum staff about their experiences over the past year, which has proved particularly challenging for the sector.
She was firstly introduced to Tony Ryan, from the technical services team and was told he recently had the task of carefully moving Canova’s The Three Graces down to its new position in the museum’s sculpture gallery.
“That’s some responsibility!” joked the duchess. He also told her the last year had been “tough” but the staff had been brought back in “bit by bit” and kept in social bubbles.
“I am so glad for you and well done. [on the statue],” said Kate.
Niede Gentelini, from visitor experiences, told her: “The museum is this beautiful because to the collections, it is the soul of the museum. We are very happy to welcome you.”
She added: “People have been craving art. All this beauty is not so beautiful if people aren’t here to see it.”
The duchess responded: “Yes I think people have been craving beauty and inspiration. It’s going to be a good time to visit museums and galleries as they are not full of tourists coming in.”
She added: “I am very glad to be here today as we have had to cancel three previous visits because of Covid, so it’s nice to be here.”
Speaking after the visit, Kate Bailey, senior curator at the V&A, said the duchess had seemed thrilled by her visit.
“She was so engaged and interested,” she said.
“She clearly has a great knowledge of art history and I think it’s just so appropriate that she was here, among the first members of the public to come in, as our royal patron.
“As we were leaving she said how important it was to be here in the now and reflected on how the exhibition was multi-sensory, which is probably what people need now after months of lockdown.”