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America knocks on palace gate in vain
- Queen turns down request

The Queen’s officials have rejected an extraordinary request from American diplomats to move the US embassy into Kensington Palace, the former home of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The bid to take over the building was made because the embassy’s current location, in Grosvenor Square, in Mayfair, is considered highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks despite the extra security measures put in place after September 11. James Lane, the US minister-counsellor for administrative affairs at the London embassy, approached Alan Reid, the royal treasurer and keeper of the Privy Purse, earlier this month to make the request.

Kensington Palace was considered by embassy officials to offer an ideal solution to their security worries. Situated in Kensington Gardens and set well back from Kensington High Street, it can only be approached via a guarded cul-de-sac. The well-protected Israeli and Russian embassies are in an adjacent, gated road.

The royal household considered the US approach seriously before rejecting it. Lane was told that the palace was deemed to be unsuitable for use as the US embassy. It is thought that the idea was turned down largely because it is home to several royal “sitting tenants”, including the Dukes and Duchesses of Kent and Gloucester, Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester, and Prince and Princess Michael. However, all the royal tenants are expected to move elsewhere during the next decade and royal officials have been discreetly exploring new commercial uses for the building, which costs £489,000 a year to maintain.

The US proposal, though, was considered to have come too soon. A spokesperson for the US embassy said: “There was some research into moving premises (to Kensington Palace). We were looking at the cost of renovating instead of moving as well and were exploring other possibilities.”

Another US diplomat said: “The Buckingham Palace response essentially foreclosed any further discussion on our potential occupation of the building.” However, other officials at the embassy remain highly interested in the site and are hopeful they may be able to get the decision reversed.

They feel the palace, which consists of 70 apartments and was built during the 17th century, offers a perfect blend of a central London location and the isolation necessary for added security, and they are hopeful that the royal family may have a change of heart on the matter.

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