Kings & Tyrants in the Winter Sun

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

When I was young I loved all the colour & pageantry of the Tudors & Stuart courts. This love has never diminished, although on occasion I’ve found its legacy rather oppressive, for example when I had a tour of the Houses of Parliament a few years back I found the attitude very backward-looking compared with the modern light Scottish Parliament building.

When down visiting family and attending Who Do You Think You Are Live this year I was really happy to get the chance to visit Hampton Court Palace yesterday. And with my cousin C who loves history too, rather than a bored son!

It was a fine, clear, cold, winter day with the towering chimneys dark against the blue. I struck really lucky with the weather for all 3 days, C was amazed to see water in the moat for the first time.

Hampton Court Palace statue

Hampton Court Palace statue

It’s just as well for both our families that they weren’t with us to be mortified when we each wore a velvet Tudor coat!  They are a great idea as they really made a difference in the Tudor rooms. But later in the William rooms I felt distinctly old fashioned…

As a child I’d visited Hampton Court Palace and had been disappointed not to see the ghost of poor Katherine Howard. This time it was really strange and quite spooky.

I was standing opposite a huge portrait of Henry VIII and listening to the audio commentary about how she was screaming and struggling to reach him and I was feeling really cold with goosebumps. Suddenly I looked to my left and there’s Henry himself striding towards me. So strange. People were jumping out his way as he went past into the guardroom.

C & I crept back and hovered around for a bit before getting a photo with the actor, all thoughts of the original’s tyranny put aside.

I loved seeing the composite painting of Henry’s family after seeing the original in so many books, and also that of Edward. I’d felt the same awe in Windsor Palace a couple of years back, discovering a portrait of the young (Princess) Elizabeth I. It was also nice to have Alison Weir talking on the audio-commentary, bringing influences together for me.  Actually my favourite picture was one of an unknown Tudor child, it was really sweet & happy.

After the Henry rooms we went on to King William’s suite. It was such a marked contrast that it felt like a different day out. He seemed such a grumpy reserved man. Interesting to hear of his genuine grief for his wife but with no mention of his long-term mistress. Didn’t have time to check if she was one of the Hampton Court Beauties, will have to check online later. And speaking of beauties it was a lovely surprise to see a lovely luscious Titian hanging in William’s suite.

We think the Queen Mary rooms were being renovated so it’s a good reason to visit again 🙂

A lovely day, can’t wait to go back.

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