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 One)

Hampton Court - vintage engraving 1

Hampton Court Palace located beside River Thames in Surrey is approximately 14 miles from Buckingham Palace in London, England.  In Part One of this three part series I will discuss the history of Hampton Court which was built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and later became the primary home of King Henry VIII.  In Part Two I will give a detailed tour of the Tudor side of Hampton Court and in Part Three I will give a tour of the Stuart side as well as giving suggestions on things to see and do when planning a visit to this grand royal palace.

The History of Hampton Court

In 1514 Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York, acquired the site at Hampton Court that was previously the property used by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem.  They had held the land since 1236 and used it mainly as a grange (a farm building, sometimes a barn used for produce storage, belonging to a monastery) as part of their agricultural estates.

Cardinal Wolsey

The location of Hampton Court was ideal for the ambitious Cardinal Wolsey because it was not far from London.  Wolsey was newly appointed to the position of Chief Minister for the newly crowned King Henry VIII.  Since Wolsey would be entertaining Royal guests he made plans to turned the simple manor house into a large and impressive cardinal’s palace.  It took over seven years to complete the project which included luxurious accommodates not only for Wolsey’s private use but also three suites of rooms that were built specifically as State Apartments for the use of King Henry VIII and his family.

Hampton Court - Wosley Hall

Wolsey was frequently criticized for his extravagant lifestyle but this was not to bring about his fall from the grace with King Henry VIII.  By the late 1520s, King Henry had decided to seek a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to marry Anne Boleyn to achieve his quest for a male heir.  (This is despite the fact that Catherine had given birth to a healthy daughter, Mary)  Wolsey failed to persuade the Pope in Rome to grant the request and this lead to King Henry breaking from the Catholic Church to eventually create the Church of England.  By 1529, Wolsey was accused of treason and arrested, he was stripped of his government position and his properties including Hampton Court were seized by the crown.  In 1530, Wolsey fell ill and died on route to London just before his scheduled imprisonment and execution.

King Henry VIII

With the dubious acquisition of Hampton Court, King Henry quickly decided to make the property his primary residence when he was not in London.  Extensive renovations and building additions were required to modify Hampton Court to accommodate the large court of King Henry which consisted of over one thousand people.  The new expansion which almost quadrupled the size of the original building retained the Gothic-inspired architecture set previously by Wolsey and would remain unchanged for nearly a century.  The Great Hall, with a carved hammer-beam roof, was completed in 1535 and quickly became one of the most important rooms of the palace; this is where King Henry would sit at a table positioned on a raised dais to dine on an elaborate meal prepared in the palace’s massive kitchens.

King Henry VII had a large astronomical clock added to the inner courtyard gatehouse tower in 1540.  The clock not only marks the time of day but also indicates the current month and date 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

Hampton Court became the preferred royal residence of King Henry VIII and all of his six wives and his three children lived there at various times throughout his reign.  The palace also provided accommodations for the royal court numerous courtiers and servants and was a place for lavish entertainment of visiting dignitaries such as the French ambassador in 1546.  Hampton Court was also the site for many British historical events, such as: In 1537, King Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to his only son, Prince Edward.  The child was christened in a ceremony at the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court.  Sadly, Jane died shortly after the christening due to complications from the birth.  In 1541, King Henry’s divorced his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, signing the papers at the palace and shortly after the King married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.  In 1543, King Henry marries his sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr, in the Chapel Royal.

King Henry died in January 1547 and his son succeeded him, King Edward VI (reigned from 1547 to 1553) then followed by his sisters, Queen Mary I (1553 to 1558) and Queen Elizabeth 1 (1558 to 1603).  The siblings made no significant changes to Hampton Court, although Queen Elizabeth I did add a small kitchen in the eastern section of the palace.

After Queen Elizabeth I death in 1603, there was no immediate heir to the throne since she was unmarried and had no children.  So, as a result a distant cousin of the queen King James VI of Scotland traveled south to become King James I of England (reigned from 1603 to 1625) thus beginning the Stuart period in the history of Great Britain.  King James enjoyed the excellent hunting provided in the park of Hampton Court.  He also used the palace for entertaining, holding banquets, dances, masque balls and plays, it is said that William Shakespeare was a royal guest at Hampton Court during this time.  King James used the royal palace sporadically, made no significant changes but continued to maintain the buildings and the surrounding grounds.

After the death of King James I, his son succeeded him, King Charles I (reigned 1625 to 1649) and unfortunately Hampton Court became not only his palace but also his prison.  The King’s main residence was the Palace of Whitehall located in central London and he used Hampton Court as a country retreat making minor renovations and he had built a new tennis court.  King Charles was an art collector and added several pieces including a significant acquisition in 1630, the Mantegna “Triumphs of Caesar” still hangs within Hampton Court.

King Charles I’s reign ended in 1647 during the Civil War when he was removed from office suddenly and forcefully.  Hampton Court became his prison where he was held for three months, briefly escaped then recaptured but was tragically executed in 1649.

The next 10 years where known as the Commonwealth period (1653 – 1659) in British history when no monarch ruled.  Instead Oliver Cromwell, a military and political leader, became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth (1653 – 1658) and then followed by his son, Richard (1658 – 1659).  During this period of time Hampton Court had been seized by parliamentary troops and an inventory of the royal possessions was made and eventually sold with many lavish items and decorations being removed from the palace.  Cromwell visited Hampton Court as his weekend retreat using the property for hunting and entertaining.  Also during this time his daughter, Mary, was married in the Chapel Royal.

In 1660, the monarchy was restored and King Charles II, the son of King Charles I who had been living in exile, ascended to the British throne (reigned 1660 to 1685) and thus began a period known as the Restoration.  King Charles II preferred to make Windsor Castle his primary residence when he was not in London and only went to Hampton Court infrequently.  He did not make any major changes to the palace but did have some outbuildings built on the property.  His successor, King James II (reigned from 1685 – 1688), felt that Hampton Court was too old fashioned and not up to the standards of other European courts such as the one in France and very rarely took up residence or entertained at the palace.

Then, after the death of King James II, the throne of England was occupied jointly by his daughter, Queen Mary II and her husband William of Orange who became known as King William III.  (Their reign began in 1689 and when Queen Mary died in 1694 King William continued to reign until 1702)  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.

King William and Queen Mary

Within months of their accession, the Royal couple had commissioned Sir Christopher Wren.  His 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 altered his plan to include two additional sections of the palace to accommodate the new State Apartments for the King and Queen.  The King and Queen’s suite of rooms were accessed by a grand staircase, the King’s Apartments face the Privy Gardens on the south side and the Queen’s face the Fountain garden on the east side.  Both the King and Queen Apartments are linked by a grand gallery running the length of the building between the two sections inspired by the design of the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles.

Hampton Court - 1816 Queen's Bedroom    Hampton Court - 1818

Work on the massive construction project began in 1689 and continued until 1694 when Queen Mary died.  A devastated King William called a halt to the construction leaving just an empty brick shell with bare walls and floors.  When Whitehall Palace, the British monarch’s main residence in London, burned down in 1686 King William hired Wren’s assistant, William Talman, to complete the project at Hampton Court to become a more permanent residence.  The King was very pleased when Talman finished construction under the original projected budget.  Unfortunately, King William was never able to live in the newly renovated Hampton Court for very long because he died in 1702 at Kensington Palace while he was recuperating from a fall from a horse he had when riding through the parks at Hampton Court.

When the project was finally completed the Tudor building and towers of King Henry VIII former state apartments where replaced with the more elegant and grand building of the new wings.  The interior of the additions were equally impressive with beautiful facades and elegant furnishings designed by Daniel Marot, carved fireplaces and architectural mouldings designed by Grinling Gibbons and beautiful painted frescos on the ceilings by Antonio Verrio.  Despite the fact that the original Tudor style sections of the building would greatly contrasted with the Baroque style of the new additions, somehow the design of the new state apartment wings blended beautifully together with the existing sections to create a cohesive appearance.

Also during this time, the grounds of Hampton Court were completely landscaped to include formal gardens filled with Queen Mary’s collection of exotic plants from around the world and enclosed with a lovely gilded wrought-iron fencing designed by Jean Tijou.  King William had also commissioned George London and Henry Wise in 1700 to design an intriguing trapezoid-shaped puzzle Maze which covers a third on an acre on the grounds of Hampton Court and was originally created using hornbeam plants, it is currently England’s oldest surviving hedge maze.

Hampton Court - Lions Gate

After the death of King William his sister-in-law, Queen Anne succeeded him. (she reigned briefly from 1702 to 1707).  Just to clarify the line of succession, Queen Anne was the younger sister of Queen Mary who was the wife of King William)   Queen Anne contributions to Hampton Court were very minor during her short reign and she continued the decoration of the interior and oversaw the completion of the State Apartments already begun by her predecessor.

With the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the accession of King George I (reigned 1714 to 1727); it marked the end of the Stuart period and the beginning of the Hanoverian period in the history of England.  King George, being from Germany and unable to speak English, was a generally shy man and he rarely entertained and infrequently visited Hampton Court.  The Prince and Princesses of Wales (the future King George II and Queen Caroline) were delighted with the palace and quickly took up residence in the Queen’s Apartment.

Eventually King George I became more comfortable in his role as King of England and briefly during 1718 he brought the full court to the palace and held several balls and other entertainment events.  This was short-lived and the King returned to the official residence in London at. St. James Palace, with occasional visits to the monarch’s private residence of Windsor Castle, and he was never to return to Hampton Court.  King George I died in 1727.

After the death of the King, his son became King George II (reigned 1727 to 1760).  The King would be the last monarch to make Hampton Court a royal residence.  During this time, the Queen’s Staircase was completed by William Kent and a new wing was added to the east side of the Clock Court in 1732 and was occupied by the King’s second son, the Duke of Cumberland and today this area of the palace is known as the Cumberland Suite.

1737 was to be the last year that the royal family would use the entire palace as a semi-permanent residence since Queen Caroline had died toward the end of the year.  The family returned to London and lived full-time St. James Palace.  The King never visited Hampton Court again and the estate was eventually divided into “Grace and Favour” apartments which were granted as rent-free accommodation to people because they had given exceptional service to the British monarchy or country.  The occupants lived, often with their own small households of servants in the other rooms of the palace and not the State Apartments.

Then many years later in 1838, Queen Victoria (reigned 1837 to 1901) ordered that Hampton Court’s public rooms be opened for the people to view without restrictions.  Prior to this time, only people of high social standing had been allowed a brief tour of the State Apartments, Great Hall and other rooms of the palace.  Later, as a result of the renewed public interest in Hampton Court, between 1838 to 1851 renovations were made to restore the grandeur of the royal estate.  Eventually the State Apartments, Great Hall, Main Gatehouse and the entire west front of the palace were returned to their previous Tudor style appearance.

In the following years, only minor repairs were made at Hampton Court and generally the palace retained the public rooms for visitor tours and the private areas as “Grace and Favour” housing.  Then, in 1986 a fire severely damaged a large portion of the King’s Apartments which eventually took six long years to repair.  Great care was taken to restore the suite of rooms to their original appearance at the time of King William and Queen Mary.  Furniture, paintings, tapestries and other decorations that had been removed back in the 18th century were subsequently returned to the palace as part of the large restoration project.  (This restoration process was very similar to the early 1960s in Washington, D.C. when First Lady Jackie Kennedy headed a committee to painstakingly renovate the public rooms of the White House) After the work was completed, plans were made to further renovate the Queen’s Apartment in a similar manner.  At this time changes were also made to both the exterior and interior areas of Hampton Court to more historically accurate to reflect both the Tudor period of Cardinal Wosley and King Henry VIII and the Stuart period of King William and Queen Mary.   Visitors would also have access to the palace through a designated tour route and later a “living history” element was added to the program with characters dressed in period costumes thus giving visitors a feeling of how life was back in the Tudor period of England.

For more information on Hampton Court, please click on the link for the additional posts in the series, Hampton Court Part Two for a tour of the Tudor section and Part Three for a tour of the Stuart section.