Hampton Court Palace
The Palace isn’t just Tudor, it was a Palace for other Kings and Queens too. When William III took the throne in 1689 he asked Christopher Wren to design a new Baroque palace . Originally the Tudor Palace was to be demolished, but the cost was to be too much for the Royal purse. Instead a third of the palace was replaced.
A grand staircase with small steps and huge painting takes you up to William’s state apartments. This was and still is an impressive way to enter. As with Henry VIII, visitors were vetted before being let through to the following rooms. The guard chamber is almost encrusted with weaponry showing Williams hunger for war. These were not just for show, but could be used by the army should the need arise.
Next follows a succession of chambers each with a throne and canopy. The further on you got the less fancy the canopy, but the chair beneath got comfier. Large paintings cover the walls and other than the throne there is little furniture in the rooms, instead they would have been filled with beautifully dressed courtiers. By the time you reach the Privy Chamber the chair is fluffed up and plump the canopy has disappeared, a wonderful crystal chandelier hangs in the centre of the room which lines up wonderfully with the Privy Garden outside.
A huge bed sits in the Great Bedchamber, this is where the King was dressed in view public, an incredible painted ceiling above faces the on looker not the king. This was all for show, which the King would rather have lived without.
Below the grand rooms are the more private apartments where the King really lived his life. Here his collections of favourite paintings hang on ropes, many of them night time scenes now hard to distinguish their content. The Orangery houses the orange and bay trees during the winter months, gives a great view down the Privy Garden.
These are less flamboyant rooms, cosy and homely. In his private dining room he surrounded himself with full length portraits of the Hampton Court Beauties. The serving area could be closed off after the meal leaving the king and his guests in peace.
Queen Anne followed doing a touch of remodelling herself. The Royal Chapel which had stained glass and a fantastic blue and gold ceiling from Henry VIII’s time was altered. The window frames left in place, but the glass depicting Henry, Katherine and Wolsey are long since gone. Much of the lower walls are now wood, vertical parquet covers the wall behind the alter and huge wooden columns attempt to hold up the Tudor ceiling. Sadly you’re not allowed to take photos here, the ceiling is great.
Then came the Georgians. George I built a set of rooms for his son in which he and his wife entertained lavishly. A new kitchen was also built which you can now stay in as it is one of the Landmark Trust properties, The Georgian House.
When George II succeeded his father in 1727 the palace entered it’s last phase as a royal residence. The Queens staircase had a make over by the architect William Kent with Roman niches and trompe l’oeil panels below another great painted ceiling.
The Queens Guard Chamber has quite a fireplace. Two men, possibly Yeomen of the Guard have the huge mantle piece resting on their hats. Here as else where in the Palace visitors would be vetted before being let further into the rooms.
The Public Dining Room is decorated with more impressive painting and a large table shows off a display of napkin artistry.
Stood in the room are white costumes made from fibrous paper, these represent members of the court and have a small resume on their bodices or cuffs.
The period detail sewn into them is wonderful. There is a more sociable feel to these rooms than those of earlier periods. Courtiers would play games, gambling, loosing hundreds of thousands of pounds.
By 1737 George II no longer wanted to use Hampton Court as a royal palace so it was filled with grace and favour residents. The accommodation not the best, some residents didn’t have access to hot water. Many residents were widows who’s husbands had worked for the monarch. This continued until the 1960’s and there are still a couple of elderly residents still living in the Palace.
In 1838 Queen Victoria decided to let the public see inside the palace and opened up its doors, this proved to be very popular.
The Privy Garden needed a closer look, especially as there was a nice boat moored just outside the Tijou Screen (a shame they still haven’t finished painting it!). After a fire damaged the palace in 1986 the decision was taken to restore the privy garden back to how it had been in William III’s time. The trees were kept clipped at 7 to 8 ft high and a view of the Thames was possible. This in later years had been left to grow and had got quite out of hand, no longer could the palace be seen from the river.
During August there is plenty happening. The King Henry VIII’s sporting academy is taking place throughout the gardens. Real Tennis is played on the indoor court, there is fencing and sword fighting, wrestling, crossbow and falconry displays.
After quite a busy day we deserved some chilled medication and a good job we got it when we did as the stand closed soon afterwards. Mick had Chocolate Brownie and I had a very good Raspberry Sorbet, no gluten free cones today though!
Other areas of the grounds are open to the public. The Rose and Kitchen garden were worth a wander around, plenty growing in the vegetable beds, they even had some Royal Blackberries!
Even though we’d been a touch reluctant to buy two full price tickets to the palace we were amazed at what we got for our money. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, so much to see and do. We didn’t quite manage to see everything so we may come back another time to look at the galleries and go round the maze, however, we’ll try to time that with a two for one offer.
This one was built by it’s current owners and has three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
£1,295,000 no chain and it’s detached!
Sorry Ade, at least you were only a million out this time!