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.

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.