Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court- another palace for Henry VIII that I visited while we were in London. The palace was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey, but the Cardinal later gave to Henry VIII after Henry became jealous of the wealth of the Cardinal. The palace is located about 13 miles southwest of downtown London, right on the Thames. It was a favorite summer palace of Henry’s in his later life, and lived there with Anne Boleyn and his wives after her. He was even married to two of them at the palace. After he executed Anne Boleyn, he had all of the symbols of their relationship (H and A intertwined) removed from the castle. One was missed in the great hall though; you can still see it today. Other memoirs of his wives are still in the palace including pomegranates carved into the stone entryway to the great hall signifying his first marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Walking the halls you can also see many famous portraits of the Tutor family, including the large painting of Henry with his son, his wife Jane Seymour after her death and Elizabeth standing off to the far right side of the painting showing how much he loathed her and how far she was from inheriting the crown. Little did Henry know that his most successful heir to the thrown would be his despised daughter Elizabeth.

The kitchens of the palace were also open for touring and they were enormous! There was a bakery area (that was bigger than my house), a fisherman’s alleyway with lots of rooms for the fisherman to clean and filet the fish, a butchers area, and a place to make stew. The entire kitchen area was over an acre in size between the serving area, cooking areas, and the places where the produce was carted in for purchase. When cooking for 600+ people… I can imagine why they would need so much space for the kitchens!

Meat roasting fireplace

Fishermans Alley

Many years after Elizabeth I’s reign, the palace was renovated to accommodate King William III and Mary II. The newer part of the castle was completed in more of a French style that was popular at the time, instead of a Tutor style. The newer part of the castle overlooks the incredible gardens and vast grounds of the property. The king’s apartments overlooked the best of them all, the royal gardens which are absolutely meticulous. In the royal garden is an amazing archway that runs the length of the garden, the trellis of the archway is covered in grapevines and the grapes are sold on the property in the fall. In William III’s apartments there were three throne rooms to walk through before getting to the withdrawing room, and the king’s bedchambers (yes… he had two bedchambers!). He definitely felt it necessary to show he was king!

Under William III’s apartments were the rooms where the heads of state completed the business of the realm. One of the guards at the palace was nice enough to inform me that during William III’s reign, women were not allowed in this part of the castle. Only the queen was allowed to enter those state rooms, but she could only address the king when he was not working. There was very strict protocol in that part of the castle. I’m guessing it was to keep the men from the distractions of their wives.

The guard also informed me that in those times teeth were a big thing… A woman marrying a wealthy man was expected to have all of her natural teeth pulled, and fake teeth put in. Essentially, everyone in those days wore an early form of dentures. Since sweets were such a big part of their life in that era, by the time they were in their mid-twenties their teeth were completely rotted out! Showing your original teeth at court was a complete embarrassment in those times which is why you had to have the early form of “dentures”. If you were a commoner with nice teeth, you could sell them to the aristocracy for a lot of money! Can you imagine wearing someone else’s teeth? Yuck!

The gardens at Hampton Court palace are amazing! There is a large greenway where it would be amazing to ride through, the royal gardens, a rose garden (that used to be an herb garden for the kitchens), the tiltyard where jousting tournaments were held, and also a royal tennis court. This palace is definitely worth the 40 minute train ride from downtown London. You could easily spend an entire day touring the palace and gardens. The audio tour is free, but it is VERY cheesy. It seems like it was created mainly for school tours, but it does have some good information. Overall, this was a great experience!! I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in learning more about life in the Tutor court.

My favorite parts of Hampton Court: Anne Boleyn’s gate (pictured above- the ceiling of the archway leading into the great hall), seeing what life was like in the Tutor court, the gardens and the sheer size of the palace.

1 comment:

  1. Great history, Maren! I have read a lot about the Tudors and the merry old lives they led! OK, not all were so merry, but its fun learning about them.

    I am happy you and Josh are having this great opportunity and I will be reading right along with you.
    Jo, Mike's Mom
    (Stella is my dog and she has a blog too!)