500 years ago one of the greatest upstarts in English history, a man called Thomas Wolsey, laid the first brick in what was to become one of King Henry VIII’s favourite palaces. My Tudor tour charts the ups and downs of Hampton Court’s history as it went from grand palace for one of Europe’s most notorious Kings to what William IV described in the 1830s as a ‘quality poor house’ as the previously Royal accommodation was given over to Grace and Favour apartments for those who had shown themselves loyal to crown or country.
My Tudor tour is packed with all sorts of fascinating information about Henry, whose abiding reputation remains as a ‘consumer of food and women’! With food in mind, we enter what is left of Henry’s vast labyrinthine kitchen complex that supplied food to the entire Tudor court. We will wander through the high-ceilinged rooms enjoying the smell of smoke from the original, open wood fire, and I will explain why meat was important and what was eaten on the many non-meat eating days in the 16th century Church calendar. I will answer such intriguing questions as how the Tudors used to clean the kitchen chimneys, how many animals were needed to feed the court and why Henry got so big so quickly!
But Hobnob’s Tudor tour is not just about Henry: as we wander his palace and admire the beautiful tapestries adorning the walls of his magnificent Great Hall, I will tell the tale of each of Henry’s wives and why he married so many times. We’ll imagine life at court and consider the contrasting roles of the workers at the palace as opposed to the courtiers and courtesans whose sole purpose was to keep the King and Queen happy and content. And just why did the Queen wear so many layers of clothes?!
Yet despite the riches at court, and the many and glamorous entertainments that were held after dark, palace life was not always happy. We’ll look at some of the intrigues that went on within the palace walls, the executions sanctioned in the name of the King and the characters behind the many ghostly tales that haunt the corridors of the palace.
And if that’s not enough, there’s a Tudor real tennis court to see too where Charles I played the day before he escaped through the Privy Garden to freedom, albeit of a temporary nature!
Equally interesting is the south side of the palace gardens where Henry planted the first private garden and had fishponds dug as breeding and holding pools.
So, step back in time with me and find out what it was really like to live and work at the Tudor court.
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