Hampton Court


Without a past, there is no future, I could not help thinking about this phrase over and over again as we wandered the opulent rooms and grand hallways that can be found within Hampton Court Palace. Having lived in this area for many years it was finally time to climb into the past and walk through the palace gates. Whilst I have played tennis on the courts, run through the maze countless times and walked through the walled rose garden, I have never really taken in the magnificence of this building, particularly the interior, amazing what we take for granted, what else do we have on our doorstep that we spend years just ignoring, things we see every day but do not give them a second thought, meanwhile tourists travel thousands of miles and stand in awe and wonder - to say I was humbled and a smidgen embarrassed at my previous lack of effort is putting it mildly. 

The palace came from rather humble beginnings, it started as a grange for the Knights Hospitallers of St John Jerusalem in 1236 but once Henry VIII acquired the property from the unfortunate Cardinal Thomas Wolsey - he, as an enthusiastic palace builder added dramatically to its simple roots and thereby forming much of the palace which we see today. By the time Henry VIII finished his building works at Hampton Court Palace in approximately 1540, the palace was one of the most up to date, sophisticated and magnificent in England which included running water, vast kitchens, splendid gardens and tennis courts to name but a few. King William III (r 1689-1702) and Queen Mary II (r 1689-94) then subsequently brought baroque architecture and style to Hampton Court having commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild it soon after their accession to the English throne and he set about creating an English version of Versailles Palace albeit on the banks of the Thames.

It is perhaps therefore easier to think of Hampton Court as the ‘story of two palaces’: a Tudor palace established first by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and made even more spectacular by Henry VIII, alongside a baroque palace built by William III and Mary II. Today it is used primarily as a tourist attraction, a popular conference location, wedding and events venue including of course the annual flower show, the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show which is perfect for any budding avant gardeners out there.

I leave you with a quote from Pastime with Good Company by Henry VIII, King of England written, I would like to believe, about his pleasure Palace, Hampton Court Palace and if not about the palace itself, as a popular ballad it must have most certainly been played at the Royal Court "pastime with good company I love and shall unto I die; grudge who list, but none deny, so God be pleased thus live will I. For my pastance hunt, song, and dance. My heart is set: all goodly sport for my comfort, who shall me let?" An upbeat song celebrating the feeling of merriment at court with lyrics that celebrate getting together with friends and ‘good company’ in pursuit of those courtly sports such as hunting, singing and dancing.