The Duchess of Cambridge has revealed the pandemic repeatedly forced her to cancel a visit to a major London attraction before she was finally welcomed by staff.
Kate marked the reopening of the Victoria and Albert Museum by touring its major exhibitions and declaring the public are “craving beauty and inspiration”.
The cycle of lockdowns which began last March have forced galleries, museums and art attractions to close for months and disrupted all aspects of modern life, and also seen major royal events cancelled or postponed.
During her visit, Kate told staff: “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.”
She added: “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.”
Kate was among the first to tour two exhibitions: the V&A’s Raphael Court and Alice: Curiouser And Curiouser.
The duchess, who is royal patron of the cultural attraction in central London, was given a guided tour of a series of works by the old master Raphael by Dr Tristram Hunt, the museum’s director.
Wearing a face mask and a dress by Alessandra Rich, she viewed the museum’s Raphael Court, home to the Raphael Cartoons, now open to the public following a nine-month refurbishment to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.
Raphael was commissioned in 1515 by Pope Leo X to create seven full-scale designs for tapestries known as cartoons for the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, and are considered to be one of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance.
During the visit the duchess learnt about the gallery’s new approach, which features an on-site digital experience, and how it will transform the way visitors view Raphael’s work.
The cartoons have been lent to the V&A from the Royal Collection by the Queen.
Kate also visited the V&A’s exhibition Alice: Curiouser And Curiouser, ahead of its opening this weekend.
It features more than 300 objects spanning film, performance, fashion, art, music and photography related to Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Kate seemed particularly animated as she viewed an interactive Mad Hatter’s tea party, complete with dormouse.
Afterwards she spoke to museum staff about their experiences over the past year and 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. People have been craving art.
“All this beauty is not so beautiful if people aren’t here to see it.”
Speaking after the visit, Kate Bailey, senior curator at the V&A, said the duchess had seemed thrilled by her tour.
She said: “She was so engaged and interested. 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.”