Sunday, 29 November 2015

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

One of the most interesting parts of history, for me, has always been the Tudors. This was finally a Monarchy that had some stories to tell. I love the Monarchy and I am fascinated by our history, but there is something about the Tudors that the entire world finds fascinating. 

Tudor Entrance to Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace was initially brought to the attention of King Henry VIII by Thomas Wolsey - his trusted Almoner. Wolsey transformed the estate into a palace worthy of a King. Following Wolsey's 'failure' to obtain a divorce for King Henry from his first wife Katherine of Aragon, he fell out of favour with the King and at this point King Henry seized the palace for himself. 

Around the palace are small pieces of history which show the Kings presence in this magnificent building. Whilst Wolsey was having the Palace built he included Katherine of Aragon's crest into the woodwork. When Henry finally re-married with Anne Boleyn, he removed these and put her crest in its place. Following the beheading of Anne, these were also removed. Today, there are a couple of these badges that still remain!

Henry loved Anne Boleyn very much, he was infatuated with her and completely redesigned the Great Hall in her honour. The hall is beautiful and would have looked magnificent when it was initially built. At the very top, sat on the eaves, are small carvings of men looking down on the people in the hall - eaves-droppers! This is where the term has come from!

One of the most impressive parts of Hampton Court Palace were the tours that are offered there. Actors dress up in the time period and take you around the Palace - showing you secret rooms, all the while acting some of the greatest stories to have come from the Palace. One of the most notable stories is that of Catherine Howard. Catherine Howard was the Kings fifth wife. She was beautiful, young and the King adored her. At this point Henry was more resemblant to the King we imagine - fat, ugly and mean. As time passed Catherine became less interested in the King and fell in love with the Kings favourite courtier - Thomas Culpeper. The Queen committed adultery with him (which wasn't the most intelligent of moves, considering the Kings history) and her love letters to him were discovered. During the tours the whole act of finding out about the love letters and questioning Lady Rochford regarding the incident was presented for us (torture not included). This was excellent as it became part of the one of the biggest ghost stories of Hampton Court palace - the ghost of Catherine running down the hall, screaming and crying, trying to get to her King to apologise - unfortunately she never made it and was beheaded for her crimes.

The Palace has two very clear histories - its Tudor history and its Stuart history. After Henry's death, the palace fell to disrepair. It wasn't again inhabited for over 100 years, until King William III and Queen Mary II decided to take up residence. Extensive rebuild work happened under this period, with the original intention to knock the Tudor part of the Palace down and start again. However, with shortness of money, an additional part of the palace was added on. This creates a stark contrast when walking through the buildings as it is quite clear where one palace begins and the other ends.

A further 100 years later King George III abandons the building as a royal residence. Finally, 80 years later, Queen Victoria opens up the Gardens and State apartments to the public free of charge. The building has been open to the public ever since.

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