Thursday, May 23, 2013

London Days 4 and 5

Saturday was mainly spent at Hampton Court Palace, a quick 30 minutes from London and well worth the visit. It was originally built by Archbishop Wolsey who invited King Henry VIII to come visit almost as soon as it was finished. Henry apparently liked it a great deal, because a few years later, Wolsey, uh, gave the palace to the king (in order to avoid being killed). Henry had to expand it a bit though, in order to hold the court. With over a thousand people in the court, any royal residence had to be huge, and even still the court would only stay in one place for a short time before moving to a different local. They consumed so much food and wine that they would completely deplete the local resources. All the same, this was a favorite palace and Henry VIII's court and later the courts of his children were often at Hampton.

The great hall is exactly what you expect; gothic wood ceiling, lots of tapestries, and even more hunting trophies. The fun part of this section of the building is being toured around by a Tudor courtier via the audio guide as though you've gone back in time.

The Great Hall

Hunting trophies and tapestries abound

The clock was added during Anne Boleyn's reign

One of the unusual things is that different portions of the castle were added during each of Henry's marriages. So you'll see different insignia tucked away in different corners or different places will be named after different people. The astrological clock (so you could always know when the best time to have a son would be) is above Anne Boleyn's gate, so named because it was built while she was queen at the time. Other spots are less happy. The Haunted Gallery for example, where Catherine Howard supposedly ran screaming to Henry in an attempt to plead for her life. The guards caught her and took her away, but her ghost is supposed to occasionally  return in an attempt to make it to the door.

Base court

The palace was always meant to be a 'party palace'. Henry was very fond of having a lot of friends over for a good time, and Base Court has 44 private apartments for guests. Each one has a sitting room, a bedchamber, and your very own private privy, a great luxury for the day. Talk about 5 star accommodations. The fountain by the way can run not just with water, but on special occasions, the fountain will run with wine.

The main gate

After the Tudor line ended, James I (of the Stuart line) lived here occasionally, but his son Charles I ended up being imprisoned here before his execution. After the monarchy was restored, for obvious reasons, the kings felt no great need to spend much time at Hampton and the castle was not well maintained. William and Mary II felt that the castle was incredibly old-fashioned in comparison to Versailles, and decided to re-do it.
They got about half way through building a new Baroque castle in place of the old one before they ran out of money, and after Mary's death, William grew increasingly reticent and stopped the renovation work. George II was the last king to ever live in the palace, and the palace was renovated and opened to the public under the reign of Queen Victoria.

The second courtyard

The back facade

The back facade is very different from the front one. The gardens in the back are as they were under the Stuarts, hence the heavy French influence.

The gardens

Pretty colors

French style garden in full bloom

The world's largest vine

Hampton Court is also home to the world's largest grape vine, as confirmed by the Guinness World Records. It was planted in 1769, is 12 feet at the base, and yields an average crop of 600 lbs of grapes. 

Hampton Court was a lot of fun, and had the weather been nicer, I could easily see spending the entire day there. I nearly did even despite not walking the grounds extensively. They have costumed actors who wander in and out during the day playing out different parts of history. I met Catherine Howard for example, just before she got engaged to the king. I also saw Thomas Culpeper, George II and his wife Caroline, and a Tudor lady-in-waiting.

Back in London the end of Saturday and Sunday morning were mostly spent in walking around.

I'm not really sure

George V(?) 

The Globe Theater
And after that I returned to France, with two more stamps in my passport and a purse full of maps and brochures. 

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