I’ve been having a grand time revisiting some of my favorite London places, but I also wanted to see a few new sights in this glorious city. When I posted on Facebook that I was planning a trip to London, my friend Tracey said she’d just been there and recommended a visit to Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court was a fine manor house when Cardinal Wolsey leased it in 1514. His improvements transformed the buildings and grounds into a full-on palace. It’s located on the Thames a few miles southwest of central London. The Cardinal and the royals used to get to it by barge, but we took the train.
I’ve been reading Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s excellent 2009 novel about the court of Henry VIII. The events covered in the novel include Henry evicting Cardinal Wolsey from Hampton Court because the cardinal wasn’t able to get the Pope to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Hampton Court soon became a favorite residence of the King, who made it even grander than it already was.
A few monarchs later, the palace was also a favorite of William and Mary, but the Tudor style was passe so they hired Sir Christopher Wren in 1689 to knock down that pile of bricks and rebuild it in the more fashionable baroque style.
As it happens, the remodel went over cost, and then Mary got smallpox and died, so the project was only half-finished. The palace is now half Tudor from Henry’s time, and half baroque from the time of William and Mary. All of it is beautiful, and the gardens on the grounds are also quite lovely.
Just an interesting aside… it might be a bit late for this, but I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. If for some reason I find myself in need of a new career, I will be an Experimental Food Historian. There’s a team of folks who work in Henry VIII’s kitchens, making venison stew in giant copper pots, fashioning meat pies on big wooden boards, and roasting whole animals on spits. They want to find out exactly how it was done. I want to do that.
And a few more pictures from Hampton Court Palace: