A day out at Henry VIII’s favourite palace

Hampton Court Palace

A great day out today at Hampton Court Palace, the Tudor grange developed by Cardinal Wolsey into the most stunning of palaces and requisitioned by Henry VIII after Wolsey fell out of favour. It was to remain Henry’s favourite home over the course of his life, and it played an important role in the lives of all his children: Edward was christened there, Mary spent her honeymoon there and Elizabeth was a regular visitor, loving to hunt in its extensive parkland.

It’s such a fascinating experience, wandering around the various apartments of this immense building, which is really more like a small town: I learned so much exploring them and seeing the characters of that fascinating period brought to life. It was especially good to see another side to Henry; nowadays, of course, he’s remembered chiefly for having had six wives (and having chopped the heads off two of them), but he was also an intelligent & highly-educated man, an impressive athlete and a talented musician.

Interesting, too, to learn about William III and his wife Mary II’s influence during the 17th century on the Palace: I wasn’t previously aware of this but they commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild Hampton Court in the baroque style that was so popular at the time – and William’s apartments remain virtually as he left them (padded velvet toilet seat and all).

Outside, blessed as we were today by gorgeous October sunshine, I was equally bowled over by the beautiful & varied gardens – particularly Henry’s Pond Gardens and William’s Privy Garden. And, of course, the famous Maze!

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