Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A visit to Hampton Court

The Entrance to Hampton Court - 'The Tudor Palace'

I decided to make the most of my recent visit to see ‘Anne Boleyn’ at the Globe, and visited Hampton Court Palace. I haven’t been there since I was very young. It’s easy to get a train from Waterloo station to Hampton Court – they run almost every half an hour, and the palace is right by the train station. As last year was the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII, the palace is continuing it’s ‘Henry’ theme this year. Last year, the focus was on the women in Henry’s life, and to some extent, this continues. On the day I went, ‘Henry’ was in residence with his sixth wife, ‘Catherine Parr’. They were celebrating their wedding. The man playing Henry VIII was exceptionally good, and kept making appearances throughout my 4 hour visit, along with Catherine, his courtier and lute player. In keeping with the wedding theme, the Great Hall is set out for the wedding feast, and there were some wonderful notices about Tudor eating and social habits.

The palace is divided into ‘themes’. As well as the wedding theme, there is also a young Henry VIII exhibition running. It is set in part of the original palace, and the rooms occupied by Thomas Wolsey, who acquired the manor house there and turned it into a palace. The exhibition is set around Henry, Wolsey and Catherine of Aragon, and the early years of Henry’s reign. There isn’t really a lot to see, but the story is told through video and information boards.

The ‘Henry VIII’ apartments features the ‘wedding’ of Henry VIII. There are some well known Tudor portraits on loan and are displayed in the so-called ‘haunted gallery’ (the scene of Catherine Howard’s hysteria). The chapel is open to view, as well as Henry’s council chamber, which features ‘video’ performances from Henry’s councillors from the 1540s.

Hampton Court has 2 distinctive styles. The Tudor palace is much in evidence as you enter the palace. The monarchs that altered the palace were the joint sovereigns William and Mary. I have to say, their apartments hold little interest for me, but they make up the third exhibition and if you are interested in them and their baroque design, it’s well worth a visit, and if you are not, well, it’s interesting to see how the palace changed. They ran out of money, and thankfully, were unable to complete their redesign of the palace.

The kitchens at Hampton Court give an excellent insight to what life at court was like, and I’ll save this description for another day.

Below - the 'Baroque' Palace of William and Mary.

Initials of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
'Old and new' meet.

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