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Kensington Palace Unveils New Exhibit Starring Royal Staff from Era that Inspired “Bridgerton”

The display illuminates the untold stories of those who kept the royal court running over 300 years ago

<p>Getty Images; Historic Royal Palaces</p> Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, in London in April 2022; A lace dress that belonged to Queen Charlotte displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

Getty Images; Historic Royal Palaces

Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, in London in April 2022; A lace dress that belonged to Queen Charlotte displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

A glimpse into the lives in the royal era that inspired the Netflix hit Bridgerton is unveiled in a new exhibit at Kensington Palace.

The stories of the loyal stalwarts of the servant quarters who helped raise the royal children of King George III and Queen Charlotte (and there were 15!) are captured through artifacts and rare servants’ uniforms.

"For a long time, we’ve wanted to put on an exhibition about the people behind the throne," Sebastian Edwards, co-curator of "Untold Lives: A Palace at Work," opening this week, tells PEOPLE. Without the army of servants in the Georgian era, "the monarchy would have less power and presence."

"While their work has been crucial, their stories remain largely untold, and we hope to shine a spotlight on some of these fascinating individuals from across the past," Edwards says.

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Among them was Anne Percy, the wet nurse who helped raise the royal children. She recorded their progress on a quaint cloth tape measure not unlike the notches on doorframes people might do at home today. So treasured were the wet nurses that there is evidence in Queen Charlotte’s ledger of her being paid a handsome $255 yearly pension.

The children were also taught about the world their father was intent on conquering with a wooden jigsaw, which is also on display.

<p>Historic Royal Palaces</p> A paper tape used to measure the heights of King George III and Queen Charlotte’s children displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

Historic Royal Palaces

A paper tape used to measure the heights of King George III and Queen Charlotte’s children displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

Queen Charlotte’s only known surviving dress, on loan from the Fashion Museum in Bath, is a centerpiece, along with an item that’s never been displayed before: a linen apron worn by Queen Charlotte’s dresser, Ann Elizabeth Thielcke.

"This is so rare," Edwards tells PEOPLE of the piece. "Because ordinary things tended to be thrown away or were lost forever." It survived because it was handed down through a family, until recently.

It appears that the palace of more than three centuries also contained a hot-headed chef to rival modern-day Gordon Ramsay. Patrick Lamb, who rose from Child of the Pastry in the early 1660s to be master cook to the monarch in 1683, was responsible for the coronation feasts of King James II, King William, Queen Mary and Queen Anne. He also had a fiery temper that got him into hot water. Documents show he was disciplined in November 1690 for a row with a Mr. Isaac which "proceeded from his passion, which he hoped would be excused in a cook."

<p>Historic Royal Palaces</p> A lace dress that belonged to Queen Charlotte displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

Historic Royal Palaces

A lace dress that belonged to Queen Charlotte displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

Related: Bridgerton Sneak Peek: Penelope Confronts Colin About His 'Cruel' Dismissal of Her as a Romantic Prospect

Then, four years later, it was "feared it might end in a duel," says Edwards, curator at Historic Royal Palaces. "In spite of that, he kept his job and provided the food for the formations of kings and queens," he says.

Lamb’s tiny royal cookbook — the first of its kind — is displayed in the exhibit, capturing a three-course dinner including "supe turnep" [turnip], cod’s head and ducklings.

Alongside it is another notebook, from chef William Daniel in 1737, detailing the kind of food — everything from puffin to blackbirds and turtle — that was found on royal menus. It also has evidence that they were already sampling Chinese food, with bird nests being served.

<p>Historic Royal Palaces</p> A never-before-seen apron that belonged to Queen Charlotte’s dresser, Ann Elizabeth Thielcke, displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

Historic Royal Palaces

A never-before-seen apron that belonged to Queen Charlotte’s dresser, Ann Elizabeth Thielcke, displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

The stories of servants and royal staff reveals the diversity of the roles needed to keep the palaces running, from the rat-killer, whose uniform included and wheatsheaf and rat-embroidered motif on the sleeve, to the mythical-sounding Keeper of Ice and Snow. Frances Talbot managed the royal icehouse at Hampton Court Palace in the 1770s, which was a physically demanding job, as she sawed ice for the kitchens to provide cold drinks and iced desserts all year round.

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<p>Historic Royal Palaces</p> A detail of Queen Charlotte’s dress displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

Historic Royal Palaces

A detail of Queen Charlotte’s dress displayed at the new exhibit “Untold Lives: A Palace at Work” at Kensington Palace.

The palace is also using the exhibit to explore the presence of Black and Asian royal servants and attendants at court. Many of the stories are difficult to trace, as records of servants’ names don’t necessarily indicate race or heritage. Among those included, however, is Mehmet von Könsigstreu, Keeper of the Privy Purse for King George I. Mehmet and his wife, Marie Hedwig, are believed to be one of the first interracial married couples at the Hanoverian Court.

A trusted servant of King George I, Mehmet enjoyed intimate access to the monarch, and became an influential figure.

"For centuries the palaces have been kept running by a host of people working behind the scenes," Edwards explains. "In recognizing the contribution they made, we hope that all our visitors find new connections with the palace and their stories, celebrating the lasting legacy which their roles have contributed to these amazing historic places."

"Untold Lives: A Palace at Work" opens to the public at Kensington Palace on Thursday.

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