This one has been on the bucket list for a long while. Seeing as we both had the day off for my birthday, and we’ve heard it is best to go down on a weekday, C and I finally got ourselves down to Hampton Court Palace last week.
Those who know me, or who have been reading this blog for a while, know already that I am a bit of a sucker for English history, most particularly history of the Monarchs and their families. And narrowing it down further still, I went through a big stage where I was absolutely obsessed with the Tudor history, mostly Henry VIII, but also his father, wives, children and advisors. Who am I kidding, I am still pretty obsessed with it! Don’t ask me why.
It’s any wonder then, that I would be excited to check out Hampton Court Palace! This absolutely stunning building is not far outside of London, set alongside the Thames river and is surrounded by some beautiful gardens.
It has been home to many different people, starting with Thomas Wolsey in 1514, Henry VIII’s closest adviser, who started renovating it from a manor house into a palace. After a number of years, and a fall out with the King it was then used by Henry VIII not long after his divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon. In many parts of the Palace, you can see how he arranged for changes and renovations to be made over the years, and the influence on the Palace that his next 5 fives had.
It’s absolutely massive, and despite spending about 5 hours there or longer, we still didn’t see everything. The Palace, and by that I mean the actual building, is a sight to see in itself, made up of different brickwork and built in various architectural styles, it’s an incredibly beautiful building and I was fascinated by the detail of the building both inside and outside. The various gates alone were intricately made and beautiful to look at, let alone the building.
The interior of the palace is now made up of a number of different exhibitions providing snapshots of the lives of the royals and the members of their court over the years. From how the kitchens operate, to what they eat, to sleeping arrangements, to sporting equipment and tennis courts and many other glimpses of life as a royal. You will see loads of tapestries, paintings, incredible ceilings, royal chambers, amazing stained glass windows, loads of old pots, vases, furniture, sculptures and artifacts.
Then there’s the outside of the palace, and that alone is enough to spend hours in from the deer park, to the mushroom trees, to the east gardens and through the famous maze. The maze was probably the most disappointing part of the trip – much smaller than we’d expected and a bit of a non-event really. Nothing in comparison to the maze that can be found at Leeds Castle.
The experience is also made interesting by a number of actors and actresses who you can find in various parts of the Palace at various parts of the day, bringing to life some of the events that took place during King Henry VIII’s reign. We unfortunately only saw one of these, which was a role play of the discussion between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s brother about breaking with the Roman Catholic Church and divorcing Catherine of Aragon.
If you’re a little curious about English history, architecture, art, interiors or or gardens, Hampton Court Palace is well worth a visit. There is a lot you can learn about and even if you’re not so interested in any of the history or the people, the building and the gardens are pretty enough that you’ll still enjoy it!
We ended our long day of walking around with a birthday drink – bubbles for me – while overlooking the Thames and the setting sun before heading back into London.
Another amazing day!