Hampton Court Palace

Originally posted on Blogger on 14 May 2015

On 10 April, I headed from RUL to London Waterloo via the Tube to catch a train to Hampton Court around 10:30. I’d been looking forward to this for awhile. The week before had been Easter and since the Chapel Royal is still used for services, I put the trip off for a week to avoid the people who would undoubtedly swarm the place on one of the holiest days of the year. I was also excited because Hampton Court is one of two surviving palaces from the reign of Henry VIII, and it was the story of his daughter, Elizabeth I, that gotten me interested in English history. From the beginning of the semester, I was researching when it opened for the summer.

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First view of Hampton Court
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Part of the front gate

When I arrived, I bought a ticket and started wandering. There was an option to rent an audio guide like there are in many museums around the world, but I know a lot about the people who populated the corridors (especially in the Tudor Era), that I didn’t see a need for it, nor did I want one. I wanted to simply go, pay for my ticket, and wander the same corridors I’d spent late nights reading about.

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The main entrance
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The ticket hall

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Installed in 1540, this astronomical clock not only shows the time. It also shows the day, the month, the phases of the moon, the moon’s age in the month, the movement of the sun according to the pre-Copernican theory and the time of high tide at London Bridge

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The entrance to the Henry VIII part

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A view of the courtyard through one of the iconic lead diamond windows of the 16th century

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The Great Hall was one of the centres of Tudor court life. Not only was this where meals were eaten, but during and after meals there was often dancing, music, and other forms of entertainment. The photo below was taken from the main entrance of the room, looking up to where the king and queen would sit. All of Henry VIII’s wives except Katherine of Aragon sat here. The ceiling is a beautiful ornamental wood, while many of the windows were of stained glass. The tapestries on the walls likely depict various moments of success in the reigns of kings both before Henry VIII and Henry VIII himself. The tapestries served both to provide ornament to the walls and added warmth to a room that despite many candles would often be cold due to the mini ice age England was going through at the time.

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The Great Hall
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A detail of one of the tapestries

The next room was a trophy room. The walls are covered in the mounted antlers of deer. Knowing Henry VIII liked hunting, it didn’t surprise me, but it did make me wonder if any of them were from the sixteenth century.

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Here’s some stained glass from one of the rooms beyond the Great Hall:

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This includes the Lion of England, the Dragon of Wales, the three lions of England and fleur-de-lis of France quartered, the Tudor Rose, an ‘H’ and a cardinal who is likely Cardinal Wolsey
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A detail. The fleur-de-lis of France, the Tudor Rose, a ‘H’ for ‘Henry VIII’ and an interlocking ‘HR’ for Henricus Rex (Henry the King in Latin). The fleur-de-lis was the symbol of the French royal family.  The fact it’s done in red and gold points to the fact English kings have claimed France as their own since the eleventh or twelfth century. The Tudor Rose was a combination of the White Rose of the House of York and the Red Rose of the House of Lancaster
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This one is an interlocking ‘TW’, standing for ‘Tudor’ and ‘Wales’. The Tudors were originally Welsh. 
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This is a piece stating their proud Welsh heritage: the Welsh dragon

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While walking through a corridor on my way to the Chapel Royal, I came across these three paintings of the Tudor dynasty.

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L to R. Top step: The parents of Henry VIII. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Bottom step: Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour, who would give birth to his heir, Edward, on 12 October 1536
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The iconic portrait of Henry VIII
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Henry VIII’s only legitimate male hair Edward VI. He would take the Throne of England upon the death of his father on 28 January 1547 and would die on 6 July 1553. He left the throne to be fought over by his older half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth, and his chosen heir Jane Grey, who would be queen for nine days before Mary ordered her executed
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Walked down this gorgeous staircase to get to the next section of the palace
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Took advantage of this long empty corridor for this photo and some thinking about the past

One of the legends attached to Hampton Court is about Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Catherine was seventeen when she caught Henry’s eye in 1540. It was after the Anne of Cleves debacle which culminated in Thomas Cromwell, a long time servant of Henry’s, to lose his head. Catherine began a liaison with Thomas Culpepper, a man of Henry VIII’s privy chamber. This would prove disastrous to all parties involved: Catherine, Culpepper, and the woman who helped them meet in secret, Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford. Jane had been married to Catherine’s cousin, George Boleyn, who had been beheaded in 1536, accused of similar accusations in his case with his sister, Anne, the Queen of England.

Thomas Culpepper and Francis Dereham, another man who had also had liaisons with Catherine, were beheaded in public at Tyburn and their heads were placed on spikes on London Bridge for all to see. Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn – as befitted their rank – were beheaded on Tower Green.

The legend says that when Catherine was arrested, she broke free of her guards and tried to get to Henry. At this late point, she still believed the king would save her. The legend also says that her spirit still haunts a corridor of Hampton Court.

Personally, I didn’t seek out Catherine’s ghost, but I thought about the many things that have been ripped away from people in this place.

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A selfie in the guarderobe or toilet of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey was an advisor to Henry VIII from when he took the throne in June 1509 to when Wolsey fell from favour in the 1530s

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There is also a section of the palace that was rebuilt by William III in 1689. I have to admit I rushed through that bit. I’ve never been partial to seventeenth century architecture, and I was more interested in the Tudor part and the gardens than looking at a section built by people I don’t know much about, nor do I know much about the time period they lived in. After all, why should I pay attention to that when what I wanted was there as well.

One of the spots I wanted to find was the kitchens. The kitchens are one of the bits that have stayed the same since the reign of Henry VIII. Because of the historical dramas I’ve watched and photos I’ve looked at, I had some idea of what they looked like, but I wanted to see them in person. Unfortunately, for awhile I couldn’t find them.

In the meantime, I went to the gardens and wandered through while eating a cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I also found a spot under a tree to read.

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The only photo I took in the 17th century part. A bathing chamber
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The back of Hampton Court, facing onto the gardens
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The fountain from my reading spot

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The river running along the back edge of the gardens

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Was trying to get the fountain, but got Hampton Court instead
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This sculpture stands next to a blocked off entrance
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Walked though this. In the spring and summer months, this would be covered in flowers. Since I was there in early April, things were starting to bud

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Ornamental chimneys

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The Lion of England. It’s holding a flag on which is the White Rose of the House of York, the house of Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth
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The Dragon of Wales. It’s holding the flag of St George, the patron saint of England

Then, after a lot of searching and looking at a map, I found my way to the kitchens.

The serving chamber

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Henry VIII’s wine cellar

The open-air passage to the kitchens

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!6th century cooking implements

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Minutes after I took this, a rod bearing meat, was laid across two of those rods. The rods are spits which were used for cooking meat. When it was set up, they asked for volunteers to try doing it. I was the first one to try it with a new batch
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A bell I assume was used to summon the servers
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Half-burnt candles amongst 16th century plates

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I could happily write my next novel here

Hampton Court was a great trip. I’m so glad I went. I’ve spent so much of the last ten years of my life reading about the people who populated the rooms in the Tudor era, and being able to retrace some of their steps and to walk through the gardens they would’ve walked through, it was a great day. I’m also certain that the fact I went on a sunny day leant itself to it. It wasn’t one of the days they say are so common in England. It was gorgeous and sunny whenever I was outside, and even inside, the sun shone in through the windows. It’s one of the most beautiful places, and the fact I’m obsessed with the Tudor era and Hampton Court is one of two surviving palaces from the period, makes it more special to me. I’m so happy I got to go to England for a semester, and managed to fit in a place that has so much of the history and time I love embedded in it.

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