Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London, in the historic county of Middlesex, and within the postal town East Molesey, Surrey. It has not been inhabited by the British Royal Family since the 18th century. The palace is 11.7 miles (18.8 kilometres) south west of Charing Cross and upstream of central London on the River Thames. Redevelopment began to be carried out in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. In 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the King seized the palace for himself and later enlarged it. Along with St. James’s Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.
The Bro and I inspected it recently, and found it to be not wanting. The place is neat and tidy and has not been glitzified or Disneyised, for which we are truly grateful.
From central London on the advice of no fewer than three tourist information geezers and geezesses we took a long, long tube ride followed by a long, long bus ride – only to find out that there is a national railway station just yon side of the Thames with a direct train to/fro Waterloo… So getting back into London was a whole heap swifter and easier!
The archway into the palace has a slightly ornate ceiling…
Cardinal Wolsey went a bit OTT with his home, and this is one of the reasons why Henry VIII snaffled the place immediately Wolsey fell out of favour. Again, as with the galleries and museums in London full to the brim of treasures that a chap can just stand and gawp at, so Hampton Court Palace is amazing in that a body is free to just wander from room to room in the footsteps of giants of history. Were I to have stood in Henry’s great hall while he was around I would likely have met a sticky end, and yet just a few futuristic centuries later it’s all mine for the photographing and the sitting down and the ooh-aah’ing.
The wall-hangings would have been a brash riot of brilliant blue, red, gold and green but after all of these centuries they’ve been muted by stray UV and now are much more suited to current tastes.
There are no guided tours as such, but there are re-enactments of some of the actual incidents that would have taken place – re-enacted in the very rooms where the original action took place!
Catherine ‘Give-us-a-kiss’ Howard’s wee affair with one Thomas Culpeper and their sticky mutual demise was the order of play for the day that we were there. Letters were discovered, messages passed about and everyone rushed from room to room like loons. This made it somewhat le difficile to photograph the place or the proceedings, since everyone was everywhere most of the time. Hey ho nonny nonny, hey ho.
One thing that the place lacked, if lack be the correct word, was any feeling of other-occupation. Ghosts. Not a one.
It’s a bit awkward, what with meself bein’ a spot of an total atheista and all, but I do have a tendency to be able to point out the corners where other folk have perhaps experienced a certain je ne sait what exactly, mayhap an overlap in time or dimension… and yet Hampton Court Palace, for all its history, felt blank. I even had to fake the obligatory “She walks among us photo”…
No, as far as ghosts are concerned, I’ve seen better at Winnington Hall in Cheshire. Many years ago while running an exhibition there I saw a woman walk into the gallery and towards me, so I gathered a catalogue and price list, stood to greet her and she was gone. Upon describing her to the staff they immediately identified her as “The White Lady” (she was indeed wearing a cream dress when I saw her) and a regular in the halls of the Hall. Thereafter for the remainder of my exhibition I was made a stop on public tours and had to describe the experience. It was all very matter of daylight fact to me. However, the dark shadows and lurking presences of whatever else was living in the place were not such ordinary things… Hampton Court though? Nothing. Da nada. Zip. Even in the wine cellars, from which Henry VIII’s court got through about six hundred barrels of wine a week.
The kitchens at Hampton are vast, and it is easy to imagine them bustling with panic and feverish activity as they catered not only for his Big Kingliness, but also for hundred and hundred and hundreds of guests and servants and wotnots. Muesli orders, green side-salads, veggie-burgers and steamed tofu dishes by the thousand each day.
Of course, no palace would be complete without a portrait of Henry, and here is one in his more commonly known guise as a bit of a fat and smelly old despot. In fact, like most of us, in his younger days he was quite the dashing, sporting cad. Still, when one is King, one mustn’t look like a queen [Confucius].
And that, dear fellows and fellesses, is a very brief summation and mostly in visual form of our inspection of Hampton Court Palace. A bit of a splendid place. No more, quoth the raven, not never no more…
Alright, alright, so it’s just a blackbird or something and not a raven, but I’m doing the best that I can with what was to hand.
Sheesh! What do you think I am, the Raven-Whisperer?