Hampton Court Palace - Part 1 Of Its History From 1236 to 1702

Dec 17 08:42 2008 RodBooth Print This Article

The history of Hampton Court Place - Part 1

Hampton Court is a medieval Palace with a hall whose roof boasts the finest decorated hammer-beam roof in England.

The history of Hampton starts with the Knights of St John who acquired the manor of Hampton in 1236 and used the site as a centre for their agricultural estates to store produce. There were very few residences,Guest Posting but the palace was in a convenient spot between the royal palaces at Sheen and Byfleet, so Hampton was a natural place for a break in the journey.

Thus it became a kind of high-status guest house until the Knights of St John decided to rent the house out to tenants in around 1490. The first tenant was the courtier Giles Daubeney, who lived here from 1494.

Henry VII and his queen stayed at Hampton on a number of occasions - it was a peaceful retreat from Westminster and the Tower of London. Hampton Court's next occupant was Cardinal Wolsey, also Lord Chancellor, and close friend of king Henry VIII.

He built a vast palace, a magnificent Bishop's palace, with sumptuous private chambers and three suites for the royal family: one for King Henry VIII, as well as one for Queen Katherine, and even a suite for Princess Mary. A grand processional led from these grand apartments to the double-height chapel. But one of the most impressive parts from this period is Base Court, the huge outer courtyard with about 40 guest lodgings - all ensuite with a lavatory!

Thomas Wolsey used Hampton Court to entertain and host some important ambassadorial and diplomatic visits. These visits were occasions for impressive displays of wealth and the inevitable conspicuous consumption, though matters of state were also dealt with. Wolsey was criticised by many for his extravagant lifestyle and his ostentatious palace at Hampton Court. But what finally brought him down was his persistent refusal to assist Henry in obtaining a divorce from Katherine, who could not give him a male heir. Wolsey was deprived of both Hampton Court and his position as King's Minister.

So then Henry decided to rebuild much of the palace so it was a modern and sophisticated residence. There were tennis courts, pleasure gardens, bowling alleys and a hunting park of more than a thousand acres. The kitchens were huge, as was the Palace chapel, and so too were the communal dining hall and the communal flushing toilet, which could seat thirty guests at once - the "Great House of Easement", it was called - which seated nearly thirty people at a time! Water flowed from Coombe Hill in Kingston through lead pipes for three miles to supply the palace.

All of Henry's six wives visited the palace and were given lavish lodgings. The palace offered accommodation for the King's courtiers, family, servants and visitors. In August 1546 Henry fêted the French ambassador and two hundred gentlemen of France plus a thousand courtiers of his own for six days.

But a year later, Henry had died, leaving three surviving children (9-year old Prince Edward and his older sisters Elizabeth and Mary), all of whom ruled England, and all of whom stayed at Hampton Court.

Edward was christened in the Chapel here in 1537, and his Henry's daughter Mary honeymooned here in 1554. Hampton Court was a relaxing country retreat well away from the hurly burly of London politics and the pressures of central London royal palaces like St James's. Little building happened over this time, since Henry's works had been so magnificent.

When Elizabeth ruled, she visited Hampton Court Palace regularly; at this time it was the most splendid and magnificent royal building to be found in England. During her reign, Hampton Court it remained a stage for dramatic performances and court masked balls.

But Elizabeth's successor, James I, brought with him a new band of courtiers and a new, more lavish style of culture and entertainment. When James VI of Scotland became James I of England, Hampton Court provided excellent hunting and served as a venue for banquets and court masques, plays, dances, and productions by William Shakespeare. James's court was notorious for its huge expenditure on theatrical entertainments: and, also, for that matter, for its uproarious revelry. Each autumn the royal court, including James's wife and children, visited and James's queen, Anne, died at Hampton Court in 1619.

Charles I was James's son; he updated parts of Hampton Court, built a new tennis court and redirected the Longford River, so that its water came 11 miles to power the fountains of Hampton Court's gardens. He was a knowledgeable art collector and acquired many of the royal paintings and sculpture. His most impressive addition was Mantegna's Triumphs of Caesar, from the Gonzaga family in Mantua; this magnificent painting has been here since 1630. Unfortunately, Charles was removed from his throne by Parliament in the civil war and imprisoned here. He was executed in 1649.

Parliamentary troops seized the palace in 1645. Motivated by radical Puritanism, they stripped many of the Royal goods, and removed all the fittings from the Chapel Royal. Ironically, Cromwell, leader of the reformation, kept Hampton Court Palace and its greatest treasures for his own enjoyment. Cromwell's daughter, Mary, was married in the Chapel Royal, and Cromwell enjoyed a lifestyle similar to that of the Royals who had been deposed.

In 1660 Charles II came to power and it's clear he preferred Windsor Castle to Hampton Court. Nonetheless, he attended royal council meetings here and even built lodgings here for one of his mistresses, Barbara Villiers, and her illegitimate children by him. These rooms were the start of a move towards the style favoured by William III and Mary II, who ruled from 1689.

They commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild Hampton Court; William decided the buildings needed replacing. Wren's initial plan was to demolish the entire palace, with the exception of the Great Hall. But money was in short supply and Wren had to be satisfied with some work on the king's and queen's accommodation near the old Tudor lodgings. Work began in May 1689; but after Mary died in 1694, all building works stopped, and little was undertaken until 1697. Encouragement to his efforts was provided by the burning down of Whitehall Palace in 1698!

Wren transformed the facades of Hampton Court, replacing medieval Tudor work with the grand and elegant baroque features that we see today. Inside, Gibbons carved magnificent elegant fireplaces and mouldings and Antonio Verrio was commissioned to paint triumphant and colourful ceilings.

The gardens were renewed and landscaped with a collection of exotic plants from all around the globe. Gilded wrought-iron screens by Jean Tijou and a new Banqueting House by the river completed the works. But sadly William died at Kensington Palace from complications after falling from his horse in Hampton Court Park in 1702.

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RodBooth
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