Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hampton Court Palace

After saying goodbye to Robin on Thursday morning, Sonia and I took the train to Hampton Court Palace, which is about 20 minutes southwest of Wimbledon.  If you are a fan of The Tudors, this is where it all happened.  Henry VIII slept here -- with many different women.  So did William & Mary, and King George II.  This place literally oozes history.  And it's beautiful!  I took way too many photos to share here, but here are some highlights.

View from across the Thames
Main Entrance
Across the moat and through the main gate
Fun with frescoes
Fun with guns
King's chamber
Lots of giant tapestries
Henry VIII Slept Here
The Clock Court
The World's Oldest Living Hedge Maze!
Into the Maze...

We found the center!
The Lion Gate
Massive, gorgeous gardens
Do trees grow that way naturally?  Probably not.
Chocolate Court (disappointing)
The Privy Garden
Horse-pulled tram
Great Fountain Garden
Ironwork screen by Jean Tijou
Privy Garden
Fancy chimneys

Pond gardens (former Tudor fish ponds)
Pond gardens
The Great Vine (over 230 years old, still producing grapes!)
Chapel garden
The Great Hall
Giant fireplace from Queen Mary II's rooms
Fountain Court
Queen's bathroom
One of many huge kitchen rooms
Towards the end of the day, we got to chatting with one of the "warders" in the Georgian part of the palace.  She told us some interesting ghost stories -- she leads ghost tours in October -- and filled us in on the more recent history of the palace.  George III chose to abandon Hampton Court as a royal residence, and in 1760, it was divided up into "grace-and-favour" apartments for friends of the monarch and people who had served the country.  The average apartment was 11 rooms (and these are BIG rooms!), but some were as large as 40 rooms.  Although some were retrofitted from kitchens and other less cozy parts of the palace, these were highly-coveted lodgings.

The palace gardens and state rooms were opened to the public in 1838 by Queen Victoria, which made life a little less luxurious (and private) for the people who were living there.  Remarkably, the grace-and-favour program continued until 1970, and then was phased out gradually as people voluntarily moved out -- or passed away.  Even today, there are still two elderly widows who live in the palace, and a few of the smaller apartments are rented out to staff members.  Imagine living in a 500-year-old royal palace!

Sonia and I spent 6 hours there, and I think we managed to see about 90% of the palace and grounds.  Definitely worth a trip if you come visit and have already hit all the big tourist sites in central London.  I'd be more than happy to go with you...

1 comment:

  1. I wanna go! I remember a cafe just outside the palace with the most amazing smells in the morning. That needs to be investigated.


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