Guide to Hampton Court Palace History
Hampton court palace has been a witness to British Royal history for over five centuries. The palace formally became a royal residence under Henry Ⅷ in the 1520s. Since then it hereditarily passed down over the years and expanded to have several gardens, royal residences, and a playground. Read on to learn more about this vast British inheritance.
History of Hampton Court Palace
1. The Tudor Palace
This 16th-century country home, transformed by Cardinal Wolsey into a palace, was taken over by Henry Ⅷ . Wolsely created a building that was fit to host monarchs from all over Europe. The palace, with its extensive architecture, stood as a testament to the British splendor. Its beautiful gardens flourished under the royal inheritance and expanded to accommodate features such as the Grand Kitchens and the Great Vine. It was the perfect canvas on which to paint the British monarchy’s architectural history.
2. Henry's Home
Henry Ⅷ’s adoration of the Hampton Court Palace grew over the years. The gorgeous palace was often used as a testament to Henry Ⅷ’s power and opulence. By the 1530s, the palace doubled as a hotel, a theatre, and a vast leisure complex, and was often offered as an accommodation to high-profile guests. The rooms were appropriately styled to the status of the guest and were intended to impress. There were 30 suites reserved around Base Court, for the grandest of visitors.
3. Playhouse and Prison
This palace was witness to a dramatic series of events that unfolded during the 1647 Civil War. The palace transformed from an opulence-filled, art-adorned place to prison for the King, Charles I, in 1647. The King was placed on house arrest after his defeat in the Civil War against Oliver Cromwell but managed to escape through the Privy Gardens. However, he was later recaptured and executed, and the Hampton Court Palace was occupied by Cromwell for a short while.
The palace morphed under different rulers. It flourished under William III and Mary II, who took the throne in 1689 and constructed the new Baroque Palace, The Great fountain, and the new Privy Gardens, adding to the expanse of the Palace. The famous maze in the Hampton Court Gardens was also added in the late 17th century. Later, Queen Anne, in 1710, commissioned architects to remodel the Chapel and make it more modern and personalized.
5. The Georgian Palace
When George I took over the palace in 1714, he intended to further increase its grandeur. He wanted to host his guests as lavishly as royal entertainment was expected to. In 1718, he refurbished the tennis court to make it a grand assembly room, and the Great Hall was turned into a theatre. Opulent and stylish suite rooms were also built in his reign which he dedicated to his son George, Prince of Wales.
6. Grace and Favour Residents
By 1737, George II didn’t want to use the Palace as a royal residence, and therefore it was open to ‘grace and favour’ residents. These were usually the widowed wives who were given accommodations in return for their husband’s service to the monarch. Ironically, living in the place was not as ‘royal’ an experience one could have hoped for. There were several complaints of the palace being cold, damp, and out of hot water. Some older residents still stay in the palace to this day!
7. Granting Public Access
In 1838, Queen Victoria opened the palace gates to her subjects, and in 1851 conferred the palace to the British Government. The Hampton Court Gardens became a hotspot for tourists and initially became a site for intoxicated unruly behaviour. Despite the rowdy scene, the number of visitors rose every year to catch a glimpse of how the royals lived. The palace became more accessible in the 1920s with a convenient car park on-site, the construction of the Tiltyard Cafe, and visitors’ access to the tennis court.
8. Hampton Court Today
The palace charms thousands of visitors every year with old attractions and new ones to this day. The most recently added attraction is the Tudor-inspired Magic Garden, opened by the Duchess of Cambridge in 2016. Additionally, there are two festivals held at Hampton Court every year, the music festival and the RHS Flower Show. The Palace is witness to around 4 centuries of British Royal history, harbouring the finest art and architecture, all of which continues to allure the visitors.
Hampton Court Palace Facts
- The most popular attraction in the palace is The Maze, the oldest in the UK. It has been featured in movies and sitcoms such as Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Bridgerton.
- The beautiful 60 acres of Hampton Cout Gardens run all the way to meet the River Thames, allowing you to reach the palace via boat.
- Hampton Court Palace has the world’s longest gape vine and perhaps the oldest too.
- It is rumored that Henry’s fifth wife Cathrine’s ghostly presence still wanders around the corridors of the palace.
- By 1881, the Hampton Court Palace was a buzzing tourist attraction with over 10 million visitors recorded.
- The palace was also the venue for the 2012 Road Cycling Time Trial of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Plan your visit to Hampton Court Palace before visiting the iconic landmark.
All Your Questions Answered About the History of Hampton Court Palace
A. Hampton Court Palace was built in the 16th century. Its construction was started in 1515.
A. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a dear friend of Henry VIII, built the palace
A. Hampton Court Palace has 1390 rooms.
A. The Hampton Court Gardens are the magnum opus of the Palace and are a must-visit. The Maze is also very famous and worth visiting here.
A. Yes, there are a few grace and favour residents that still live in the palace.
A. The Hampton Court Palace is famous for its architecture and the historic art it harbors.
A. Yes, today the Palace is in possession of Queen Elizabeth II and the Crown
A. The Hampton Court Palace is an expansive area with over 60 acres of gardens. It would take at least a day to fully experience the Palace.
A. No, there are merely rumors of the ghost of Lady Cathrine roaming around in the corridors. However, there is no real evidence that it is anything more than an old maid’s tale.
A. Yes, there are several movies shot in the Palace, including Young Victoria, Theory of Everything, and Pirates of the Caribbean.