A COMPLETE GUIDE TO HAMPTON COURT PALACE, GREATER LONDON
The original home of the notorious King Henry VIII
Both myself and my mother are very interested in Tudor history, so we decided that a trip to London was in order to finally check out the home of Henry VIII. When we first arrived at Euston Train Station, the weather was pretty grim, but we weren’t going to let that stop us. I asked a police officer for directions to Hampton Court Palace and he looked at me blankly.
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As a joke, I replied, “Oh, I bet you have never heard of the Tower of London, have you?” Again, more blank stares, where he replied, “No, but I’ve heard of Tower Bridge, though!” Oh dear! He was being genuinely serious! Then Google Maps directed us to a run-down pub and we thought we might never get there. Feeling downtrodden and dejected, we headed back to Euston Train Station.
This time we found a guard who knew where we wanted to go. So, we headed to Waterloo Station and caught the train out to Hampton Court, which takes around 30 minutes. The weather was pouring down from the moment we arrived at the palace, until we boarded the train back to London, so it was definitely an indoor kind of day.
We entered the grounds through some beautiful black and gold gates and made our way down a long walkway to the front of the palace. The front half is built in a typical red-brick Tudor style, which was gifted to Henry VIII in the early 16th century, from his then minister, Cardinal Wolsey. In the late 1600s, during the reign of joint rulers William III and Mary II, the back half of the palace was demolished as they had the intention to rebuild everything in a baroque style. But Mary died halfway through construction, so the remodel was never completed. Thank God it wasn’t all destroyed as that would have been a huge tragedy!
We entered through large imposing black doors before passing under a beautiful ornate patterned ceiling that lead out into a courtyard. It was here we saw the replica fountain from the famous Field of Cloth of Gold festival in 1520. Both King Henry VIII and the French King Francis I attended the two-week celebration and were continually trying to show off as to who was the better King. Henry literally had fountains filled with wine, resulting in a lot of very drunk courtiers. Can you imagine if it was filled with wine on the day we visited? We soon would have forgotten all about the rubbish British weather!
Inside the palace, it was much warmer! Some rooms were filled with huge tapestries threaded with gold and lots and lots of paintings of the Tudors. One of the most amazing areas was The Great Hall, still in its original condition. The pretty vaulted ceiling is extraordinary, and the walls were decorated with enormous luxury tapestries, so it appeared very grand. Around the room, they had long tables set up where the courtiers would have eaten.
When we moved on to the next room, my mother, bless her heart, was feeling quite tired after walking around all day. With her poor mobility, she decided to take a seat in one of the two thrones set up. Within the palace, some actors play the roles of famous courtiers and monarchs who frequented Hampton Court, which I really enjoyed. Now, who should walk in while my Mum was resting on the throne but Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister.
She took one look at my mother, sat in the Queen’s chair and mock-berated her in front of everyone. My Mum caught my eye and we had to look away from each other, or we would have burst out laughing. I do not think that would have gone down very well. After all, it was only a quick trip back up the River Thames to the Tower of London!
A few minutes later, in walked Queen Anne Boleyn and we all had to bow as were instructed to do so by Mary. It was very realistic and really brought the palace to life! Luckily, Mary didn’t tell Anne about my Mothers treason, so we were allowed to remain at Hampton Court. Queen Anne was in a bad mood that day and unhappy with her husband (King Henry VIII) and his wandering eye and also blamed him for the rain! A few minutes later, she departed quickly to avoid him, and in walks relatively young and athletic looking Henry. This version of the King would probably have been before his jousting accident, which turned him into the tyrant he is more commonly known as today. We all had to bow for the King as he and his advisors entered, and he took his seat. Then we shouted, “God save the King!” I watched on as they then had a debate about whether or not to go to war against France. The actors took their roles very seriously and it was interesting to see what life could have been like at the royal court in the 16th century.
Hampton Court has some pretty amazing manicured gardens, which are set over several acres and are well worth venturing outside to see. That day there was going to be a jousting tournament, but due to bad weather, it had to be cancelled. By the time we made it around to the gardens, the rain had become torrential. I decided to brave the weather and have a quick walk around the gardens to snap some photos. They are so beautiful and lined with manicured trees and beautiful statues. I came back inside sufficiently drenched. Worth it!
I loved walking around the older, drafty corridors on the Tudor side of the palace as opposed to the baroque section (designed by Christopher Wren). These corridors would lead you to the fantastic Tudor kitchens, which also had actors giving you information on how much they were allowed to eat and drink per day and what type of dishes they prepared for the King. Make sure to check out Henry’s impressive wine cellars too.
The jewel of the crown has to be the Chapel Royal. It’s beautiful and intimate with the most fantastic painted blue ceiling decorated with gold stars. With its black and white tiled floor and wooden mahogany seating and paneling, it was simply stunning!
Hampton Court Way, Molesey, East Molesey, KT8 9AU | www.hrp.org.uk
Thanks for reading about my trip to the wonderful Hampton Court Palace, just outside of London. Ever since I have watched the TV show ‘The Tudors’ I’ve been eager to visit here. A few years ago, I got to do just that. Sadly due to the awful weather during my visit, it was difficult to explore their beautiful gardens, but I’d love to head back here one day, as I’ve heard they have a huge maze, which would be fun to do!
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