Travel – Hampton Court (Part Three)

Hampton Court - Baroque styleHampton Court Palace is sometimes considered to be two palaces combined to form one large royal estate.  The original section is a Gothic style palace built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey during the Tudor period.  King Henry VIII later claimed the palace for his own use after the Cardinal had fallen out of favor and the King went on to create a grand residence truly fit for royalty.  Several centuries later King William III and Queen Mary II, who ruled England jointly during the Stuart period, completely renovated Hampton Court and built two Baroque style additions creating the King and Queen’s State Apartment.

In this post, Part Three, of the three part series I will explore the Stuart side of Hampton Court with suggestions for the things to see and do when planning a visit to the palace.  Previously, In Part Two, I gave a detailed tour of the Tudor side of Hampton Court and in Part One I discussed the building of Hampton Court and its history throughout the centuries.

A tour of Hampton Court

Most visitors enter Hampton Court from the Main Entrance on the west side from the parking lot or by walking a short distance from the Hampton Court Railway Station.  After arriving, visitors then proceed into the palace over a short bridge by walking through the Great Gatehouse coming out into the Base Court.  Visitors continue on the tour, passing through the Ann Boleyn Gatehouse and into the Clock Court with the Astronomical Clock in the tower on the far side.  (For more detailed information about this part of the tour, please clink on the link to Part Two)

This is the part of the tour which separates to enter the Tudor buildings on the left and the Stuart / Georgian buildings to the right.  I would recommend starting to the left and touring this section of the palace since in the timeline of the history of England the Tudor period of Wolsey and King Henry preceded the Stuart period of William and Mary and later the Georgian period.

Then, after visiting the Tudor sections of Hampton Court, visitors should then proceed into the Stuart and Georgian sections of the palace.  But first, here is a little history …

In 1689 England had two monarchs that ruled jointly, Queen Mary II (the daughter of King James II) and her husband, William of Orange (King William III).  It was during this period that Hampton Court would undergo almost a complete renovation changing the architecture of the building, both exterior and interior, from a Gothic style to a Baroque style that was in keeping with the rival French court of King Louis XIV which had recently taken up permanent residence in the impressive Palace of Versailles.

Within months of their accession, the Royal couple had commissioned Sir Christopher Wren and the original plans had intended that the Tudor palace of King Henry VIII would be entirely demolished, retaining only the Great Hall, and then replaced with a more modern palace.  The problem was that funds were not available to finance the ambitious project and Wren eventually revised his vision to include two additional sections of the palace to accommodate the new State Apartments for the King and Queen.

King’s State Apartments

The entrance to the King’s State Apartments is under the colonnade in the Clock Court.  Visitors should proceed up the grand King’s Staircase to view the main rooms of the King’s State Apartments.  The King’s Staircase was painted by the Italian painter, Antonio Verrio, and the mural is called “Victory of Alexander over the Caesars”.  There is also a lovely wrought iron balustrade that was designed by Jean Tijou, he was a French ironworker and patron of William and Mary.  His ironwork can also be seen in several impressive gates located on the grounds of Hampton Court and at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth estate.

    Hampton Court - King's staircase

(Special Note: Look for Verrio’s signature which can be seen at the top of the stairs over the door leading into the Guard Chamber.

Today, visitors to Hampton Court will continue the tour into the rooms on the second floor of the King’s State Apartments.  Generally, the rooms of a palace would be arranged in a type of funnel pattern, meaning that the first rooms would be large and mostly lacking furniture allowing space to accommodate the large groups of courtiers waiting to see the monarch and as the courtiers would progress deeper into palace the rooms would become smaller and access more exclusive reflecting an increasing level of importance to the monarch until finally the most private rooms would be the monarch’s bedchamber.

The first room is the Guard Chamber which has an impression collection of weapons, such as muskets, bayonets, pistols, and swords hung on the walls of the room.  In the time of William and Mary’s reign, the Yeomen of the Guard would have been stationed at the door to check the court courtiers before allowing them entry into the Presence Chamber and access to the King.  The Presence Chamber was considered the official throne room of the palace; the King would sit on a throne placed on a fine Turkish rug positioned under a grand canopy.  Strangely, even when the room was not occupied by the King, courtiers would still have been required to bow to the throne as they would pass through into the other rooms of the State Apartments.

Hampton Court - Guard Chamber    Hampton Court - Presence Chamber

Visitors on the tour will continue into an area known as the Eating Room where King William would sometimes dine in public under the watchful eyes of the courtiers.  Centuries ago the room would have been furnished with a large dining table and a special chair for the King.  Today, the lighting fixtures (torcheres) and mirrors (pier glasses) seen in the room are original pieces but the dining table is a reproduction which was made in 1992.

The next room is the Privy Chamber which is considered the main ceremonial room in the palace where King William would greet statesmen, foreign ambassadors and other important dignitaries.  When not receiving invited guests, the room was also used for court functions.  In 1986, this area of Hampton Court had a severe fire but luckily most of the furniture was saved.  Unfortunately the fire destroyed the entire ceiling and the crystal chandelier and some of the wood paneling was also badly damaged, the room was eventually restored.

Hampton Court - Privy Chamber

Special Note: Damage from the fire can still be seen today, look for the scorched paneling on the chimney wall.

Special Note: Before leaving the Privy Chamber, be sure to take a look through the windows which offer a wonderful view of the Privy Garden.

View of Privy Garden from King's Apartments

Continuing on the tour, the next room is the Withdrawing Room which was one of the more exclusive areas of the State Apartments and it is where members of the Privy Council, the Lord Chamberlain and other important officers of the court would have more private access to the King.

Hampton Court - WIthdrawing Room

In next room visitors will see the impressive Great Bedchamber, this is not where the King slept but a ceremonial room where he would dress in the morning and disrobe in the evening.  The room reflects the high status of the King and it is decorated with gilded furniture, beautiful tapestries and a luxurious bed covered with rich crimson taffeta curtains and bedding.  The King would retire into the adjacent smaller bedchamber to sleep; only the most trust personal servants had access to this room.  The painted ceiling by Verrio depicts Mars, the God of War, sleeping in the arms of Venus, the Goddess of Love.  When the King wanted to work privately, he would use the room next to the smaller bedchamber called the King’s Closet which functioned as a personal study, here a door leads into the Queen’s State Apartments.  There is also a small staircase that leads downstairs to three additional rooms known as the East Closet, the Middle Closet and the West Closet.  This is where the King spent most of his time during the day and it is decorated with his most treasured works of art.

Hampton Court - King's Great Bedchamber

Also on the main floor of the King’s State Apartments is the Orangery paved in a distinctive pattern of purple and grey Swedish limestone.  The Orangery is a type of greenhouse where orange trees and bay trees were kept in the winter months, in the summer the trees would be moved outside onto the terrace which lead to the Privy Gardens.  Orange trees were very popular in England during the reign of William and Mary and also held special meaning because King William was from the Dutch House of Orange and some of the trees had been brought to England when he married Queen Mary which had originally grown in his gardens in Holland.

Hampton Court - Orangery interior    Hampton Court - Orangery exterior

Located at the far end of the Orangery are several rooms that King William used for private entertaining, the Drawing Room and Dining Room.  In the Dining Room, the table is set for an intimate dinner with the finest linens and gold plate serving pieces.  The walls are hung with a series of portraits known as the “Hampton Court Beauties”.  This room is the final room on the tour of the King’s State Apartments.

    Hampton Court - Private Dining Room

Queen’s State Apartments

The Queen’s State Apartments can also be entered from the Clock Courtyard and up the Queen’s Staircase.  This section of Hampton Court was originally built by Sir Christopher Wren during the reign of William and Mary and was still not completed at the time of Queen Mary II in 1714.  The staircase had remained very plainly decorated until 1734 when the painter, William Kent, was commissioned to paint the beautiful ceiling and the 1628 painting that hangs on the is by Gerrit van Honthorst, “Mercury Presenting the Liberal Arts to Apollo and Diana”.

Hampton Court - Queen's Staircase ceiling

Special Note: At the corners of the ceiling in the Queen’s Staircase, look for the monogram of King George II and Queen Caroline who later lived in the Queen’s State Apartments.

The rooms of the Queen’s State Apartments are very similar to the ones found in the King’s State Apartments.  The first room is the Guard Chamber and be sure to look for the intricate carved fireplace chimneypiece by Grinling Gibbons depicting the Yeoman of the Guard that would have been on duty in the room back in the Stuart and Georgian periods of Hampton Court.

Hampton Court - Queen's Guard Chamber with Yeoman Guard carvings on fireplace

The next room on the tour is the Presence Chamber and then the Public Dining Room which was used infrequently for dining and occasionally as a room for musical entertainment.  The marble fireplace chimneypiece was carved by Gibbons and the front bears the coat of arms of King Charles I.

Continuing the tour, the next room is the Audience Chamber where Queen Caroline would formally receive courtiers and foreign ambassadors.  The elegant throne canopy was originally used by Queen Caroline but the chair dates back to 1690 and is placed on a fine Turkish carpet.  The magnificent silver chandelier is suspended from a gilded Garter Star and inscribed with the official Order of the Garter motto, “Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense”.

hampton Court - Queen's Audience Chamber

The Drawing Room was the most important and exclusive rooms of the Queen’s State Apartments.    This is also the room where Queen Caroline would set up several card tables in the evening for entertainment.  On the west side of the room there is a door that leads to a private dining room and on the north side hanging above the fireplace is a painting of Queen Anne’s husband when he was Prince George, the Lord Admiral of the Fleet.

Hampton Court - Queen's Drawing Room ceiling    Hampton Court - Queen's Drawing Room

The next room of the tour is the Queen’s State Bedchamber and is furnished with the original bed which was made during the time when the royal couple was the Prince and Princess of Wales.  The ceiling is painted by Sir James Thornhill and depicts Apollo and his chariot.

Hampton Court  Queen's Bedchchamber

The Queen’s Gallery was originally intended as Queen Mary’s private gallery, but it was not completed at the time of her death in 1694.   Today, several 18th century Brussels tapestries depicting the story of Alexander the Great hang in the Gallery.   There is also a grand marble chimneypiece which was carved by John Nost.

Hampton Court - Queen's Gallery

Special Note: Sometimes, in the Queen’s Gallery on either side of the fireplace are two large blue and white delftware tulip vases.  Seasonally, tulip bulbs are planted within each of the tiers and the tulip plant and flower would sprout from each of the individual containers.  Shown in the photo to the right is an example of a smaller delftware vase with tulips in bloom.

Hampton Court delfware tulip vases    Delfware tulip vase - smaller version in blooom

The final rooms on the tour of the Queen’s State Apartments are the Queen’s Closet which has a door that connected to the King’s Closet and the Room of the Ladies of the Bedchamber which was for the use of the Queen’s personal servants.

The Cumberland Suite

The entrance to the Georgian Rooms of Hampton Court is under the George II Gateway and then up a small staircase on the left.

Hampton Court - George II Gateway

The Cumberland Suite was designed in a Gothic Revival style by William Kent for the Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of King George II and finished in 1732.  Currently the Cumberland Suite displays an ever-changing display of artwork from the Royal Collection.

Hampton Court - Cumberland Art Gallery 1    Hampton Court - Cumberland Art Gallery

Included on this portion of the tour are: the Wolsey Closet with has a gilded ceiling incorporating badges of the Tudor Rose and the Prince of Wales feathers.  The next rooms on the tour are the Communication Gallery which served as a link for people to pass into the queen and king apartments and the Cartoon Gallery which was specifically built for King William III by Sir Christopher Wren to display Raphael’s “Acts of the Apostles” which were cartoons, meaning a drawing made on sturdy paper as a study for a painting or tapestry.  In 1865, Queen Victoria decided that the cartoons should be displayed for public viewing and Prince Albert loaned them to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where they still remain today on permanent exhibit (as shown in the photo on the right), the cartoons currently hanging in the Gallery at Hampton Court are copies of the originals (as shown in the photo on the left).

Hampton Court - Cartoon Gallery    Raphael Gallery - Victoria and Albert Museum 1

The next set of rooms on the tour were originally designed for Queen Mary II, put when she died in 1694 the rooms remained vacate for several years until 1716 when they were given to Prince and Princess of Wales and later rooms were lavishly renovated when they became King George II and Queen Caroline.  The private apartment was then used exclusively by Queen Caroline, the rooms in this section of the palace are: The Private Drawing Room was used by the Queen used to play quadrille (a card game) or for afternoon tea service, the room’s walls are covered in a beautiful crimson red flock wallpaper that dates back to the 18th century.   The Queen’s Private Bedchamber which was considered the most restricted and private room in the palace and indeed there are special locks on the doors that can be closed in the evening and opened in the morning from a device located near the bed.

Queen Caroline Bedchamber

Special Note: Over the chimneypiece hangs a painting of Queen Caroline painted by Joseph Highmore.

Visitors will continue on the tour viewing rooms such as the Dressing Room and Bathroom which features a reproduction bath (remember bathing at that time was considered a luxury and not a common daily activity!).

Queen Caroline Bathroom

The next room is the Private Dining Room with an adjacent Sideboard Room and finally the Private Oratory which features a beautiful carved dome ceiling and is where the Queen would have used the room for morning and evening prayers as well as her weekly religious discussions with her Chaplain.  This concludes the tour of the Georgian section of Hampton Court and visitors will exit down the Caithness Staircase.

Hampton Court - Queen's Private Oratory dome ceiling    Hampton Court - Queen's Private Oratory

Other points of interest at Hampton Court

The Hampton Court Gardens

The Hampton Court Gardens have been carefully tended for over 500 years.  As previously mentioned in Part One of this series on Hampton Court, the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem used the land since 1236 as part of their agricultural estates.  In 1514 Cardinal Thomas Wolsey acquired the property he had ornamental gardens planted.  Then in 1529 the estate came under the ownership of King Henry VII and sections of the property were enclosed for a deer park to be used for hunting and riding.  So, gradually the land changed from being used for agricultural purposes to the recreational activities for the monarch.  Currently the Hampton Court estate includes the palace buildings which cover 6 acres, the formal gardens which cover 60 acres and the park lands which cover 750 acres.

When visiting Hampton Court, be sure to allow plenty of time to walk the formal gardens or to take a carriage ride through the park. Listed below are two exceptional features that I highly recommend seeing:

The Maze

The Maze of Hampton Court was commissioned in 1700 by King William III and is designed by George London and Henry Wise.  The Maze covers a third of an acre and is located to the north of the main buildings of Hampton Court.  When the Maze was originally planted hornbeam was used and later it was replanted using yew and it is England’s oldest surviving hedge maze.  Visitors will find the puzzle maze fun and sometimes confusing with its many twists, turns and dead ends.

Hampton Court - the Maze

The Great Vine

 The Great Vine is located adjacent to the main building of Hampton Court on the south side of the estate and fills the entire greenhouse.  The Great Vine, Vitis vinifera “Shiva  Grossa, was originally planted in 1769 which makes it almost 250 years old!  The plant is still producing and annually yields approximately 600 pounds of black dessert grapes.  (If you are lucky to visit Hampton Court in the first weeks of September you might be able to taste the grapes)

Hampton  Court - the Great Vine exterior    Hampton  Court - the Great Vine interior

This concludes the three part series on Hampton Court.  Part One discusses the building of Hampton Court and its history throughout the centuries.  Part Two gives a detailed tour of the Tudor side of Hampton Court.

If you are planning a trip to England and a visit to Hampton Court, please see their official website for information regarding hours of operations, admission prices, directions, etc

Travel – Hampton Court (Part Two)

Hampton Court - main entrance 1

Hampton Court Palace is located beside the River Thames and in 1998 my son and I traveled there by boat on a special tour for a day trip, departing in the morning from London and then returning in the late afternoon by railway.  In this post, Part Two, of the three part series I will explore the Tudor side of Hampton Court.  Previously, in Part One I discussed the history of Hampton Court which was originally built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and later became the primary home of King Henry VIII.  In Part Three I will give a detailed tour of the Stuart side of Hampton Court with suggestions for the things to see and do when planning a visit to the palace.

Hampton Court Palace is sometimes considered two palaces combined to form one large royal estate.  As previously mentioned, the original section is a Gothic style palace built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey during the Tudor period.  King Henry VIII later claimed the palace for his own use after the Cardinal had fallen out of favor and the King went on to create a grand residence truly fit for royalty.  Several centuries later King William III and Queen Mary II, who ruled England jointly during the Stuart period, completely renovated Hampton Court and built two Baroque style additions creating the King and Queen’s State Apartment.  The photos below illustrate the contrast in architectural styles.

Hampton Court - Tudor style    Hampton Court - King's Apartment exterior

Today, great care has been taken to restore the exterior and interior of the large palace building and also to return the grounds of the royal estate back to their original appearance. The State Apartments were completely restored with furniture, paintings, tapestries and other decorations to create the suite of rooms as they would have appeared during the Stuart period. Other areas of Hampton Court, such as the Great Hall, were fully restored to reflect the palace at the time during King Henry VIII’s reign in the Tudor period.  Visitors have access to the palace through a designated tour route and there are additional displays in various areas of the palace which explain the history of the buildings throughout the centuries.  A “living history” element is also added to the program of activities which includes characters dressed in period costumes that give visitors a feeling of how life was back in the Tudor period of England.

Special Note: When visiting Hampton Court, be sure to keep your eyes open because there are so many architecture features that convey hidden meanings or messages. 

A tour of Hampton Court

Trophy Gate / the Great Gatehouse

Most visitors enter Hampton Court from the Main Entrance on the west side adjacent to the parking lot or by walking a short distance from the Hampton Court Railway Station entering the estate through the Trophy Gate.  In past centuries, most visitors arrived by boat traveling along the River Thames.  Visitors would then proceed across a short bridge, which at one time crossed over a moat, to enter Hampton Court through the Great Gatehouse.   After King Henry VIII acquired Hampton Court from Cardinal Wolsey he commissioned ten statues that were placed on pillars long either side of the bridge.  These statues are known as the King’s Beasts and represent the ancestry of King Henry and his third wife Jane Seymour.  The statues are the lion of England, the Seymour lion, the Royal dragon, the black bull of Clarence, the yale (a mystical creature) of Beaufort, the white lion of Mortimer, the White Greyhound of Richmond, the Tudor dragon, the Seymour panther and the Seymour unicorn.

Hampton Court with the King's Beasts
Hampton Court - King's Beasts 3    Hampton Court - King's Beasts 2

Special note:  Before walking through the Gatehouse, be sure to look up to see a carved panel  with the coat of arms of King Henry VIII.

Hampton Court - King Henry VIII coat of armsSpecial Note: When walking through the Great Gatehouse, be sure to look up at the magnificent ceiling which features the Royal Arms that has been used by English Sovereigns since 1837 placed in the center.  Other emblems represent a cardinal’s hat with ornamental tassels, the entwined initials of Thomas Wolsey, the archbishop mitre representing Wolsey’s position as Archbishop of York, a Tudor Rose, Queen Victoria’s Cypher, a Tudor Crown and Wolsey’s Pallium & Processional Cross.

Great Gatehouse ceiling

Base Court / Ann Boleyn Gatehouse

After passing through the Gatehouse, visitors entered an area called the Base Court which features a reproduction wine fountain that once stood there in the Tudor period.  Looking forward on the far side is the Anne Boleyn Gatehouse which was built to honor King Henry’s second wife (of course that was before he had her imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed for adultery!).

Hampton Court - Base Courtyard

Special note: When walking through the Anne Boleyn Gatehouse, be sure to look up at the lovely ceiling with the Tudor Rose positioned at the center!

Ceiling of the Anne Boleyn Gatehouse

Travel Tip: Before progressing further into the palace of Hampton Court, be sure to see the introductory film featuring the lives of King Henry and his six wives which is shown in the Buttery to the left of the Boleyn Gatehouse before starting the tour into the main areas of the palace.

Clock Court / Astronomical Clock

After viewing the film, proceed through the Boleyn Gatehouse and enter the area called the Clock Court, be sure to turn around and look behind and above the Boleyn Gatehouse entrance you just passed through to see the coat of arms of Cardinal Wolsey.

Hampton Court - Cardinal Wolsey coat of arms

Then, look to the far side of the courtyard and the top of the Clock Tower to see the famous Astronomical Clock commissioned by King Henry and installed in 1540.  The clock not only marks the time of day but also indicates the current month and day of the year, the phases of the moon, position of the sun and twelve signs of the zodiac.  The clock also indicated tide and the high water mark at London Bridge, this was very important since Hampton Court is located on the Thames River and during the Tudor period boat travel was still considered the preferred method of transportation.

Hampton Court - Clock Tower 1    Hampton Court  - Astronomical Clock

The Clock Court of Hampton Court is also where the architecture style of the Tudor period of Wolsey and King Henry blend with the style of the Stuart period of King William III and Queen Mary II.  To the left of the courtyard is the majestic Gothic style Great Hall which was built by King Henry and to the right is the elegant Baroque style colonnade which leads into the State Apartments created by Sir Christopher Wren for William and Mary and also the later Georgian additions of the Cumberland Suite added during the time of King George II.

This is the part of the tour which separates to enter the Tudor buildings on the left and the Stuart / Georgian buildings to the right.  I would recommend starting to the left and touring this section of the palace since in the timeline of the history of England the Tudor period of Wolsey and King Henry preceded the Stuart period of William and Mary.

The Great Hall

In 1529, when King Henry acquired Hampton Court from Cardinal Wolsey by dubious circumstances, one of the first things he did was to renovate the Great Hall.  Visitors today will see one of the lasting remaining and considered to be the greatest of the medieval halls of England.  In the continuing process of change within the history of the palace, it is fortunate that this section was saved from complete destruction and demolished during the reign of William and Mary.  Both time and the lack of financing were a factor in saving both the Great Hall and the Chapel Royal but unfortunately the original State Apartments of King Henry, which were located to the right side of the Clock Court, were lost during the renovations and subsequent new additions built by Wren.

Hampton Court - the Great Hall - interior

The Great Hall is the largest room in the palace and measures 108 feet long by 40 feet wide with an extravagantly decorated hammer-beam roof soaring to the height of 60 feet.  The walls are decorated with beautiful Brussels tapestries from the early 16th century depicting the biblical story of Abraham.  The room is also decorated with beautiful stained-glass windows showing various emblems and an intricately carved minstrel’s gallery.  In Great Hall, King Henry sat at a table positioned on a raised dais and he would dine on a large meal over the course of several hours.

Special Note:  When King Henry suddenly dismissed his second wife, Anne Boleyn, (remember she was imprisoned and executed) all traces of her existence were removed from Hampton Court with the exception of a small carving on a ceiling beam in the Great Hall that was overlooked.  Try and find the intertwined initials of HA representing Henry and Anne which still remain hidden high in the ceiling of the Great Hall)

Hampton Court - Great Hall - HA entwined initals of Henry and Anne Boleyn

Special Note:  Another item of interest hidden in the ceiling of the Great Hall are several unique carvings of “eavesdroppers” placed to warn visitors to the court of King Henry that there were no secrets because someone would always be watching and listening!!

Hampton Court - Great Hall evesdroppers

Special Note: In a room on the left, before entering the Great Hall, there is a door at the top of the stairs that holds a long forgotten but lasting memory to King Henry and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  Above the door is a stone arch decorated with Tudor Roses the right for King Henry and Spanish pomegranates on the left for Catherine.

Catherine of Aragon - Spanish pomegranets    King Henry VIII - Tudor Roses

After leaving the Great Hall, visitors can continue a tour of the Tudor section of Hampton Court passing through rooms such as the Horn Room, the Great Watching Chamber and the Haunted Gallery (where it is said that Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry, went screaming and running through the room shortly after she was accused of adultery.  She was put under house arrest prior to her imprisonment at the Tower of London and ultimately she was executed)

The Chapel Royal

The next major room on the tour of the Tudor section of Hampton Court is the beautiful Chapel Royal which has been in continuous use for over 450 years.  Cardinal Wolsey built the current Chapel on the exact site of the former thirteenth century chapel of the Knights Hopitaller of St. John of Jerusalem.  When King Henry acquired the property from Wolsey he had recently broken ties with the Catholic Church and as a result most of the religious decorations defined as being connected to Catholic faith were removed and replaced.  Since that time, each subsequent British monarch has altered the interior appearance of the chapel according to their personal style.

The chapel’s most impressive feature, which has remained throughout the centuries, is the wooden and plaster ceiling commissioned by King Henry and constructed during the 1530s by master carvers and carpenters with the oak acquired from Windsor Forest.  The main color of the ceiling is a lovely shade of Tudor blue and gold with the pendants accented with red and white paint.  The ceiling has been repaired and restored several times over the past centuries.

Hampton Court - Royal Chapel ceiling

The Royal Pew section of the Chapel Royal was reserved exclusively for the use of the reigning monarch and the decorations reflect this with beautiful oak paneling and pillars designed by Sir Christopher Wren and created by Gringling Gibbons.  Between each of the windows in the chapel is a panel painted by Thomas Highmore in 1710.  Each panel is topped with a pair of gilded cherubs and designed with the same elements; the star of the Order of the Garter at the top, a cross of St. George in the center and at the bottom is the Royal Crown.  The central plaque of each corresponding pair of matching panels that positioned across either side of the chapel are different; the first pair shows the plants of the kingdom – the rose for England, the thistle for Scotland and the shamrock for Ireland, the second pair is the Royal cypher of Anna Regina, the third is same Royal coat of arms featured in the Royal Pew, the fourth a lion with the Royal crown and the fifth and final pair between the last window is a heraldic badge of the Tudor Rose and the Spanish pomegranate to honor King Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

The Altar in the Chapel Royal is a carved oak table designed by Sir Christopher Wren and the oak reredos behind the altar were carved by Gringling Gibbons.  In 1537, Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry, died soon after the birth of their son, Edward and it is said that her heart is buried beneath the altar.

Hampton Court - Chapel Royal altar

Henry VIII’s Tudor Kitchens

One of the most interesting places in Hampton Court is the Tudor Kitchens that can be found in the basement below the Great Hall and can be accessed through a door in the Clock Courtyard.  At the time that Cardinal Wolsey built Hampton Court, the kitchens were equipped to feed his household of 600 people.  When King Henry took over Hampton Court, the kitchens provided to be too small for his court of over a thousand people.  The kitchens were greatly expanded at this time to over fifty rooms covering almost 36,000 square feet in the palace where the food was prepared by a large kitchen staff to provide twice daily meals for the King and his court using approximately 760 calves, 2,330 deer, 8,200 sheep, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar annually and consumed with 600,000 gallons of beer.

Hampton Court - kitchen 1

When the Hampton Court was no longer used as a residence for the British monarch in the mid-18th century, the kitchens of the palace were converted into “grace and favour apartments”.  Then, in 1991 the kitchens were restored in appearance and function to represent how they looked and were used in the Tudor times.  The various areas in this section have interesting sounding names such as: the Boiling House, the Fish Court, the Great Kitchens, the Dressers, the Serving Place and North Cloister and the Cellars.

Travel Tip:  If you are lucky during a visit to Hampton Court, the docents will be available to discuss the Tudor Kitchens and give specific information regarding menu and meal preparations.

The Royal Tennis Court

The first tennis court at Hampton Court was built by Cardinal Wolsey between 1526 and 1529.  Tennis games had been created as an excellent form of exercise to keep the body strong and healthy.  Keeping this in mind, a young and virile King Henry would thoroughly enjoy playing a good game of tennis on the court of the palace.  Since that time there has always been one at Hampton Court and there currently is an active private tennis club that uses the facilities.

Hampton Court- Tennis Court exterior

On a tour of the Royal Tennis Courts is included in the admission to Hampton Court.  Visitors can expect to view interactive displays explaining how that the tennis game was played during the Tudor period and features handmade tennis balls and custom made racquets.  The external wall to the right of the viewing gallery was part of the original Wolsey building and the other three walls date back to the 17th century.

Hampton Court- Tennis Court interior

Listed below are two additional displays relating to King Henry that visitors should see during a visit to Hampton Court.

The Young King Henry VIII exhibition

The Young King Henry VIII exhibition at Hampton Court is a fascinating permanent exhibit which explains the life story of a young Prince Henry, Katherine of Aragon and Thomas Wolsey.  Hopefully, visitors will come away from the exhibit with a better understanding of how the young and handsome Henry turned into the old obese and tyrant of a man that broke ties with the Catholic Church to divorce Katherine and marry five more times!

King Henry VIII Crown exhibit

On display in the Royal Pew at Hampton Court is a re-creation of King Henry VIII’s crown which was later used at the coronations of each of his three children.  Unfortunately, during the time of the Commonwealth period of England, Oliver Cromwell had many outward symbols of the British monarchy, such as the original crown, destroyed and melted down.  From the King’s own written record describing the crown in detail and how it was constructed, along with painting depicting the crown, a fairly accurate replica was created.  The original crown was made from 84 ounces of gold and decorated with 344 rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds and pearls.

 Hampton Court - King Henry VIII crown recreation

This would conclude the tour of the Tudor portion of Hampton Court.  Part Three of the series will give a tour of the Stuart section of the palace, please click on the link to view.  For more information about the history and the building of Hampton Court throughout the centuries, please click on the link to Part One of the three part series.