Hampton Court Palace Highlights
Hampton Court is an all-encompassing lesson in history and during any visit, there is so much ground to cover that you will be amazed. From Henry VIII’s quarters to the Tudor Kitchens and Mantegna’s ‘Triumph of Caesar’, the Palace has so much to offer. The Tudor dynasty left an indelible mark on the Palace grounds and so did William and Mary, as can be seen in the baroque flourishes in their apartments. The Canal, designed at the behest of Charles I, is a sight to behold and so is The Great Fountain Garden. A day’s visit is not enough to cover the Palace in its entirety, so here are some of the most striking features of the Palace that need to be visited!
1. Henry VIII’s Palace
Originally designed by, and for, Thomas Wolsey, the court soon came under the possession of Henry VIII and became his private abode by the 1530s. The palace served as his personal ‘pleasure palace’ and also his private quarters, along with his many queens. The King resided at Hampton and executed his monarchical duties from within its courts. Invitees were often men and women of import, who resided in 30 something rooms assigned to visitors, each more magnificent than the last.
2. William III and Mary II’s Apartments
William III and Mary occupied Hampton in the 17th-century and soon began work on personalizing the palace with baroque influences. The State Apartments were not only meant for sleeping or eating but to entertain guests of the highest caliber and means. The grand staircase leads to the private apartments of William III and you have the Guard Chamber, Presence Chamber, and the Privy Chamber with a view of the Privy Gardens, a most private part of the palace. The King’s private apartments are where you truly see the baroque flourishes and touches added by Christopher Wren with the custom-made closet that contained art hung by ropes, a most ornate dining room, and more.
3. Great Hall
An opulent area of Hampton Court, the Great Hall signifies the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn with her coat of arms carved into the roof along with their initials. Designed in 1533, the Great Hall symbolized Henry VIII’s power and standing to all of England and State visitors. The size of the place will leave you speechless and so will the magnificence of its design with powerful insignia, craftsmanship, and its hammerbeam roofs. The Great Hall was used primarily to entertain with food, drink, and art. During the reign of James I, it was the location of many grand plays performed by Shakespeare and his company. A striking tapestry decorating the walls depicts the life of Abraham and was then spun from gold and silver, one of the most prized possessions of the Tudors.
4. Tudor Kitchens
The Great Kitchen was built to serve at most 800 guests who toured with King Henry VIII and it was required to cater to such a massive count each day. It was extended from its original layout to accommodate the needs of the court and was known to prepare 1600 meals day in day out. Tudor Kitchens brought immense pride to the King and it was serviced by 200 cooks and more to keep it running smoothly. Cauldrons were kept over fires throughout the day while the meat was spit roasted to suit the royal taste. Today, the kitchens are a great place to visit where you can see how the Tudors dined and satiated their appetite for only the best, but don’t forget to visit the wine cellar!
5. Chocolate Kitchens
Designed by renowned architect Christopher Wren, the Chocolate Kitchens were created for William III and Mary II who had a sweet tooth. Chocolate being a scarce and luxurious commodity was added specifically to the Court to reflect the King’s wealth. The King preferred his chocolate in drink form and is said to consume it throughout the day. The Kitchens were built in 1690 and all the silverware and porcelain to serve this divine chocolate were kept in the Chocolate Room. Visitors can see the tools used to make the chocolate drink as it was prepared wholly in the kitchen starting from roasting the beans to the final product. Chocolate was often used to make discs or round pieces of chocolate, another delicacy specific to Hampton Court.
6. Wolsey's Closet
Although Hampton was first built by Thomas Wolsey for his own effects, the Palace eventually became a royal residence as he fell out of the King’s good books. Wolsey failed to annul Henry VIII’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon following which he was relieved of his duties. The Palace however, still has Wolsey’s Closet, a room that was his own private apartment with remnants of his person. The room reflects the Cardinal’s loyalty to the Tudors with their insignia adorning the ceiling and wall panels. The Closet or Wolsey’s apartments comprise of a separate wardrobe for the Cardinal and a fireplace that speaks to him having lived his life in the space.
7. Cumberland Art Gallery
Each royal that occupied Hampton Court as their private residence brought along a collection of fine and generous artwork that is now displayed in rotation at the Cumberland Art Gallery. As part of the Royal Collection, the artwork contains masterpieces from the likes of van Dyck and Rembrandt. The artwork served as a symbol of power and refinement elevating the royals’ stature among their visitors. The palace today serves as a place to marvel especially owing to the finest artwork collection of England. Some of the artwork you can expect includes van Dyck’s Portrait of Mary, Rembrandt’s An Old Woman and Frank Holl’s No Tidings from the Sea.
8. The Triumphs of Ceasar
Andrea Mantegna’s finest work, The Triumphs of Caesar, a collection of nine massive paintings hangs at Hampton’s Mantegna Gallery for all to see. The paintings were brought by Charles I in the 17th-century and remain at the Court even after 400 years. The paintings are significant as they reflect the glories of the ancient Roman Empire with Caesar’s triumphs at its helm.
9. Magic Garden
All the myths, legends, and tales of the Tudor dynasty come alive at the Magic Garden, a children’s playground designed with utmost care to bring alive the magic of the Tudors. From attractions and fixtures like the 25-ft long dragon that breathes steam every hour to the life-sized adaptation of the crown of King Henry VIII, the Magic Garden is a microscopic, and fun, recreation of Court life at the palace and pays tribute to Henry VIII’s affinity for fun and pleasure. The brightly-colored towers to the maze, kids will love the excitement of knighthood, battles, and dragon-slaying.
10. Royal Tennis Courts
Tennis was a favorite sport of Henry VIII and he was skilled at the game so Cardinal Wolsey had the court built on palace grounds. The viewing gallery is accessible to the public and you can find original tennis balls and other memorabilia on display. Today, the courts are used for the Real Tennis Championship that takes place every summer and is accessible to private members.