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Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace - Joy of Museums

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace which is located upstream of central London on the River Thames. The palace building project began in 1515 with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey as the owner. However, in 1529, Wolsey fell from favor, and King Henry VIII seized the palace for himself.  Henry VIII enlarged the palace complex to cater to his large royal court. Today you can walk in King Henry VIII’s and his many wives’ footsteps.

“…to wish myself in my sweetheart’s arms,
whose pretty ducks [breasts],
I trust shortly to kiss.”
– King Henry VIII’s  love letter to Anne Boleyn

In the following century, King William III rebuilt and expanded Hampton Court Palace, which destroyed much of the Tudor palace, the King intended to build a palace to rival Versailles. Fortunately for us, the project ceased in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque.

King George II was the last monarch to live in the palace, and today, the palace is open to the public and displays many works of art from the Royal Collection. The Place complex includes extensive gardens, a maze, a historic tennis court, and a vast grapevine.

Explore Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

  • Name:                 Hampton Court Palace
  • City:                     London
  • Country:             United Kingdom
  • Type:                   Historic Royal Palaces
  • Location:            Hampton Court, Greater London, England

Your Visit to Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the borough of Richmond upon the Thames, 11.7 miles (18.8 kilometers) south-west and upstream of central London on the River Thames. Today, the palace is open to the public and is a significant tourist attraction, easily reached by train from Waterloo station in central London and served by Hampton Court railway station in East Molesey, in Transport for London’s Zone 6. Also, London Buses routes 111, 216, 411 and R68 stop outside the palace gates.

Highlights of Hampton Court Palace

  • Henry VIII’s Kitchens
    • Two hundred cooks, sergeants, grooms, and pages worked to produce hundreds of meals every day for the household of Henry VIII.
  • Henry VIII’s Great Hall
    • Built for Henry VIII in the 1530s, the room is spanned and decorated with a large hammer-beam ceiling and its walls are hung with historical tapestries.
  • The Chapel Royal
    • The Chapel Royal is a masterpiece of religious architecture with a rich design in Tudor style. Kings and Queens sat in their private pew which looks down the main body of the chapel. It is here, that in 1540 Archbishop Cranmer handed Henry VIII the letter accusing Catherine Howard of her adulterous behavior.
  • Haunted Gallery and Processional Route Walk
    • Henry VIII’s route from his private apartments to the Chapel is the infamous Haunted Gallery. In 1541, Catherine Howard, the King’s fifth wife, discovered that she was to be charged with adultery, the charge for which her predecessor, Anne Boleyn, had been executed.
  • Hampton Court Gardens
    • The famous gardens include 60 acres of spectacular gardens and 750 acres of parkland, all close to the River Thames.
  • Hampton Court Palace Maze
    • The Kingdom’s oldest surviving hedge maze was commissioned around 1700 by William III. It covers a third of an acre and on average, takes 20 minutes to reach the center.
  • The Great Vine
    • The Great Vine is over 250 years old and is the largest grapevine in the world. It was planted in 1768.
  • National Plant Collections
    • The Heliotropium which is also known as the ‘Cherry Pie Plant.’ It is a small purple flowers smell of cherry and vanilla.
    • The Lantana and the Queen Mary II’s Exoticks are also designated a Heritage Collection.

History of Hampton Court Palace

Tudor Period

Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York and chief minister of Henry VIII, took over the site of Hampton Court Palace in 1514. Wolsey spent lavishly to build the most elegant palace in England at Hampton Court. The first courtyard was his creation, as was the second, inner gatehouse, which leads to the Clock Court. Wolsey’s seal remains visible over the entrance arch of the clock tower. The Base Court contained lodgings reserved for guests, while the second court, Clock Court held the state apartments. Henry VIII stayed in the state apartments as Wolsey’s guest immediately after their completion in 1525.

Wolsey only enjoyed his palace for a few years as in 1528, knowing that his enemies and the King were engineering his downfall, he passed the palace to the King as a gift. Wolsey died two years later in 1530. Within months of coming into ownership, the King began his own rebuilding and expansion. Henry VIII’s court consisted of over one thousand people, while the King owned over sixty houses and palaces. Few of these were large enough to hold the assembled court, and thus one of the first of the King’s building works was to build the huge kitchens.

The architecture of King Henry’s new palace was perpendicular Gothic-inspired Tudor with restrained Renaissance ornament. This hybrid architecture was to remain almost unchanged for nearly a century until Inigo Jones introduced strong classical influences from Italy to the London palaces of the first Stuart kings.

Stuart Period

On the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, the Tudor period came to an end. The Queen was succeeded by the Scottish King, James VI, who became known as James I of the House of Stuart. In 1604, the Hampton Palace was the site of King’s meeting with the English Puritans which led to James’s commissioning of the King James Version of the Bible. King James was succeeded in 1625 by his son; the ill-fated Charles I. Hampton Court was to become both his palace and his prison. Following King Charles’ execution in 1649, the palace became the property of the Commonwealth presided over by Oliver Cromwell. Unlike some other former royal properties, the palace escaped relatively unscathed. While the government auctioned much of the contents, the building was ignored.

After the Restoration of the Monarchy, King Charles II and his successor James II visited Hampton Court but mostly preferred to live elsewhere. By French court standards, Hampton Court was regarded as old-fashioned. The new joint monarchs, William III and his wife, Mary II, changed that when they embarked on a massive rebuilding project at Hampton Court. The intention was to demolish the Tudor palace a section at a time and to replace it with a vast modern palace in the Baroque style.

Half of the Tudor palace was replaced, and the new wings around the Fountain Court contained new state apartments and private rooms, one set for the King and one for the Queen. The King’s Apartments face south over the Privy Garden, the Queen’s east over the Fountain Garden. The suites are linked by a gallery running the length of the east façade, another reference to Versailles, where the Galerie des Glaces connect the King and Queen’s apartments.

After the death of the Queen, King William lost interest in the renovations, and work ceased. He was succeeded by his sister-in-law Queen Anne who continued the decoration and completion of the state apartments. On Queen Anne’s death in 1714 the Stuart dynasty came to an end.

Georgian Period

Queen Anne’s successor was George I; he and his son George II were the last monarchs to live at Hampton Court. Under George I, six rooms were completed in 1717. Under George II, further refurbishment took place, with new furnishings and decor including the Queen’s Staircase. Today, the Queen’s Private Apartments are open to the public and include her bathroom and bedroom. Since the reign of King George II, no monarch has resided at Hampton Court. George III, from the moment of his accession in 1760, never set foot in the palace.

Victorian Period

In 1796, during the reign of Queen Victoria, the Great Hall was restored, and in 1838, the palace was opened to the public. Hampton Court railway station, opened in 1849 and the palace soon became a major tourist attraction and, by 1881, over ten million visits had been recorded.

King Henry VIII Quotes

“Of all losses, time is the most irrecuperable for it can never be redeemed.”


“Two beheadings out of six wives is too many.”


“I would not be a queen, For all the world.”


“In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing die.”


“A peace above all earthly dignities,
A still and quiet conscience.”


“…to wish myself in my sweetheart’s arms,
whose pretty ducks [breasts] I trust shortly to kiss.” –  a love letter to Anne Boleyn


“Two beheadings out of six wives is too many.”
– King Henry VIII


Photo Credit: JOM