As well as being ‘something you definitely learned about in school’, Hampton Court Palace is a breathtakingly-beautiful destination in its own right. The stunning Grade I building, a blending of the Italian Renaissance and English perpendicular Gothic styles, was the pride and joy of Cardinal Wolsey – until he was forced to hand it over to Henry VIII (who, as your Year 5 notes will remind you, was livid at Wolsey’s failure to secure him an annulment to Catherine of Aragon, wife #1). King Henry, never a man of restrained tastes, set about making the palace – you guessed it – even bigger and grander.
Set by the riverside down in south-west London, Hampton Court Palace has its very own train station (about a 40 min trip from Waterloo). It really comes into its own at Christmas, when the grounds host a pop-up ice rink, Christmas market and festive lights trail after dark. But there are plenty of regal delights to be enjoyed year-round…
WHAT TO SEE
Among the highlights of Hampton Court Palace is the Great Hall – one of the triumphs of Henry VIII’s takeover (along with the immense kitchens he installed, capable of feeding of his thousand-strong court – a unit of measurement also known as ‘1 hungry Henry VIII’).
The Great Hall was a room of unparalleled grandeur, and is one of the highlights of a trip to the Palace today. Up above you? The hall’s ornate hammerbeam roof, with its carved and painted ‘Eavesdropper’ heads. On the walls? The Abraham Tapestries – woven in Belgium from wool, silk and gold and silver thread (Henry didn’t muck about), and depicting the patriarch Abraham in a number of Genesis-appropriate poses. As you take in the majesty of it all, check out the stained glass windows which were added in the 1840s following a restoration, and helpfully display the genealogy of Henry/his wives/Wolsey (remember, it goes; divorced, forced-to-give-away-his-nice-palace-then-died-of-heartbreak, beheaded, died…).
Elsewhere, you can head up the grand staircase into William III’s (recently reopened) state apartments – which include the Great Bedchamber, where the King came to be dressed in public; the Eating Room, where the King came to eat in public; and the Privy Chamber, where the public were strictly forbidden from entering.
It’s history brought to life – quite literally, in the case of the cheerful costumed perform—sorry, real actual Tudors, who’ll happily tell you all about what it was like to live in the 1500s!
It’s beautiful, educational, and there’s a heck of a lot of ghosts floating about. You’ll love it so much you’ll almost lose your head (just like Thomas Wolsey).
NOTE: Hampton Court Palace is open Wed-Sun (daily in school holiday time), and entry starts at £26.10. You can find out more, and book ahead, right here.
Hampton Court Palace | Hampton Ct Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU
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