Back in Time at Hampton Court Palace

One of the things you may not know about me is that I am a BA History graduate. I studied at King’s College London (KCL for life), and focused  lot of my areas of study on the period historians call ‘Early Modern’ and which everyone else calls ‘Tudors and Stuarts’. I have always loved this era (1500-1750) because it was one of the most eventful in British history (and European, but I focused on the UK for my studies). From the glamour and drama of the turbulent Tudor family to the unification of England and Scotland under James I; the witch trials, plague, fire and civil war: this era is undeniably one of the most exciting you could ever study!

Back to the present day and my boyfriend and I were surfing Trip Advisor for ideas for day trips with his dad on his recent visit to us. We hit upon Hampton Court, and a few days later we drove into the grounds of this most iconic of royal palaces.

As per, I took about a billion photos of the gorgeous buildings and grounds. I also tried to recall all the facts and stories I could remember from my course, with limited success! Luckily there was plenty of information available in the rooms we visited, and one of the lovely staff members (stuck out on freezing cold courtyard duty) told me all about the beautiful astronomical clock on one of the palace’s outer walls. For example, it was designed by German Nicholas Cratzer, was installed in 1540, and shows not only the hour, day and month, but also the phases of the moon, signs of the zodiac, and even the time of high tide at London Bridge!

We kicked off our visit in the kitchens, taking comfort from the warmth of a massive fire before moving onto the apartments, which told the story of Henry VIII as a young man. From your school history lessons, you may remember Henry as an overweight tyrant with a penchant for weddings and beheading those who displeased him. Well the young man couldn’t be more different.

Married to Catherine of Aragon for nearly 20 years, Henry was athletic and dynamic, a keen jouster and a popular choice for king after his older brother Arthur (Catherine’s first husband) died. But despite giving birth to six children, only one survived, and she and Henry could not produce that longed-for son. It was this which set in motion events which would lead to his divorce, the division of the church and his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Quick history lesson for anyone who doesn’t know how to remember Henry’s wives and children – he was married six times and had three children who lived to adulthood. In order:

1 – Catherine of Aragon: Spanish Catholic, gave him his eldest daughter Mary. Divorced and exiled, she never saw her daughter again, and is believed to have died of cancer.

2 – Anne Boleyn: Henry split the English church from Rome and risked excommunication to marry spirited Anne. She gave him his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, but was later executed on charges of witchcraft and adultery.

3 – Jane Seymour: Henry apparently claimed Jane was the only wife he ever loved. She also gave him his only surviving son, Edward. Go figure…

4 – Anne of Cleves: Swiftly divorced when Henry realised that her portrait was not quite true to life. Like a Tinder wedding, if you will…

5 – Katherine Howard: It is said that her ghost haunts Hampton Court and runs screaming through the corridors, which is supposedly what she did the night before her execution for adultery…

6 – Katherine Parr: The only wife to outlive Henry, which is an achievement in itself!

If you don’t know this little list by rote and you were a British schoolchild, the chances are at some point you learnt the macabre song ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’. Have a listen out for the creepy disembodied voice whispering it on one of the palace staircases to really freak you out…

One of my favourite parts of Hampton Court will always be the grounds. Being February the gardens weren’t at their best when we visited, but the topiary, statues, maze and deer still looked pretty impressive to us! I last visited Hampton Court nearly 5 years ago with uni friends in a much-belated birthday trip. We spent a lot of time pratting around the grounds in the sunshine, so I’ll add in a few highlights from that visit to make you smile and show the gardens off to their sunniest advantage…

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since ^these^ photos were taken! I am now closer to 30 than I am to being a student, which is a scary thought! All the photo credit goes to the lovely Emilie, who is a photography genius, and the only person who could convince us to act like High School Musical extras in public…

Hampton Court is one of six venues in the UK with the title of historic royal palace (funnily enough, Buckingham Palace is not included). Queen Victoria was the first monarch to open Hampton Court to the public for the first time, and it has been in high demand ever since. There’s an ice rink at Christmas, a flower show following on from Chelsea every July, and plenty of events throughout the year celebrating its impressive history. If you’re not a tourist visiting London it might seem miles away from the capital, as it is technically in Surrey and not accessible by Tube. But if you’re a history buff don’t let that put you off: it’s well worth the trip to this pretty little corner of the world to immerse yourself in the past.

  • fun shot of all of you jumping! great photos!

    • Sophie

      Haha, thank you! It was a really fun day, and it was great to go back again recently too. Have you ever been to Hampton Court?