Hampton Court Palace is, along with St James’ Palace, one of the only two surviving palaces out of the many the king owned. It is full of history obviously and still very alive with all attractions organised all year round there.
I visited the palace in June. It was a sunny and hot day and visitors were surprisingly rare that day, which allowed us to explore the many rooms and gardens quietly as if the place was just for us. As if.
Today, DOYOUSPEAKLONDON takes you back to the time when Hampton Court Palace was a royal place, home of Henri VIII.
Hampton Court Palace on Thames
Hampton Court Palace is now a Grade I listed royal palace located in Richmond, south west of central London on the River Thames.
Stepping into Hampton Court Palace definitely feels like stepping into history. I visited the place with my family and we were all very excited to compare what we learned in books with what we discovered in front of us that day.
The visit includes Henri VIII’s apartments, the great hall, the kitchens, and the gardens. Everything is very well documented and well displayed so that everyone keeps interested along the way (I mean, especially the under 13!).
Hampton Court Palace history
The Palace was first the home of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (he started building it in 1514), the chief minister of King Henry VIII. He invested lots of money to create a palace “that could host not only the King and the royal court but also monarchs from across Europe”.
But in 1529, Cardinal Wolsey fell from favour and gave the palace to the king to check his disgrace. Henri VIII then used Hampton Court to “demonstrate magnificence and power in every possible way, through lavish banquets, extravagant court life and fabulously expensive art”.
In the following century, King William III did massive rebuilding and expansion work, which was intended to rival the Palace of Versailles. This caused to destroy much of the Tudor palace, leaving the place in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque.
Finally, Queen Victoria opened the palace to the public in 1838.
Hampton Court highlights
The Great Hall
Hampton Court Great Hall is an important room that has witnessed great events:
In 1603 William Shakespeare’s King’s Men first performed Hamlet and Macbeth for the new Stuart King, James I.
James’ son Charles I found himself under house arrest in the Palace in 1647 after his defeat in the Civil War. He tried to flee Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians by escaping through the Privy Garden, but he was later recaptured and executed in 1649.
During the Commonwealth (1649-60) Cromwell saved the palace from destruction by making it his new home. Despite his Puritan ideals, he enjoyed fine art, especially the tapestries that you can still admire in The Great Hall.
The royal Kitchens
The Kitchens occupy large buildings, because up to 800 courtiers could accompany Henry VIII and all needed to be fed, of course.
It was really interesting to hear details of the Kitchens’ organisation by Hampton Court staff guides.
And quite amazing to learn that back in the time, the kitchens became an efficient food factory serving 1600 meals a day!
The royal apartments
Hampton Court Palace still displays lots of furniture and art collection, that help visitors to realise what life was like in the time of kings.
Here is a selection of pictures of the different rooms you can visit, but there are lots more.
In particular, one room was explaining the meeting between Henri VIII and Francois I of France in 1520, called “the field of cloth of gold”.
It was fascinating to get so many details about this meeting!
The royal gardens
William III and Mary II created many of the most spectacular areas of the Hampton Court Gardens to complement the palace which they designed in a baroque style.
Visitors have the opportunity to wander in the gardens and enjoy magnificent vantage views.
At the end of the Pond Garden visitors can find a glass house containing the world-famous Great Vine. It is said to be the oldest (and largest) in the world!
Hampton Court Attractions
I visited Hampton Court Palace in Summer, but the Palace offers great opportunities during all seasons. In particular, as Halloween is coming soon, why not book a special ticket to “discover some of the strange happenings which have given Hampton Court Palace its spooky reputation”?
Also during Winter you can come and skate at one of the country’s most scenic skating settings as Hampton Court Ice Rink is back from 13 November!
There’s a wide range of attractions available all year round, which give the visitors plenty of occasions to enjoy the Palace in different contexts. You can find the full programme here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are about to visit Hampton Court Palace soon, please share your experience and opinion on DOYOUSPEAKLONDON’s blog!
To go further:
Hampton Court Palace: Hampton Ct Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU