Way back in May, my mom came to visit for about a week. I’m fully convinced that she’s devoted to seeing everything England has to offer in her lifetime and we certainly hit the ground running on this visit as well. We spent her first day in London, but the second day we took the train down to see Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court Palace is part of the Historic Royal Palaces, which includes six iconic structures: Kensington Palace, the Tower of London, Banqueting House, Kew Palace, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, and of course Hampton Court Palace itself.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAMPTON COURT PALACE
It was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey under King Henry VIII with building beginning in 1515. A short 14 years later, Wolsey fell from favour with the King, so he gave the palace to Henry, who later expanded it.In the 17th century, King William III set about expanding and renovating the palace to rival the Palace of Versailles in France, causing much of the original Tudor palace to be lost. However, his work stopped in 1694 before it was complete, which left two distinct and contrasting styles: Tudor and Baroque. In the 18th century, King George II was the final monarch to reside in the palace.
SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT HAMPTON COURT PALACE
The renovations that Henry ordered on the palace when he first came into possession of it cost him £18 million at the time!
The King’s Beasts are ten statues one the bridge leading to the gatehouse and represent the ancestry of Henry himself and his third wife, Jane Seymour.
The clock on the gatehouse facing the inner court was installed in 1540 and contains three dials that tell the hour, the day of the month, and the position of the sun relative to the earth.
Henry VIII married his final wife, Catherine Parr, at Hampton Court Palace in 1543.
It’s one of two palaces left in England owned by Henry VIII, the other being St. James’ Palace in London.
William Shakespeare staged several of their places at Hampton Court Palace for King James I.
Queen Victoria opened it to the public in 1838.
In the late 1800’s, the American Vanderbilts modelled their Florham estate in Madison, New Jersey after the Baroque style of the palace.
The palace has served as a filming location for Hollywood since the 60’s with films including A Man for All Seasons, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Holmes & Watson, Cinderella, and most recently (and perhaps most recognisably), The Favourite.
The gardens have the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze, designed in 1700.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE TODAY
Today, Hampton Court Palace is a popular tourist destination as it’s quite literally a snapshot in time for two significant periods of British history. Your ticket of admission will include an audio tour, which will take you through the palace, dressed to represent the different periods in its history and you will, without a doubt, feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.
The palace also hosts festivals, concerts, and an annual flower show. There are regularly scheduled special exhibits, including a recent exhibit of costumes from The Favourite that I believe we only missed by a few weeks.