Hampton Court, favorite palace of King Henry VIII, stands regally apart from the goings-on of the village nearby. Standing by the banks of the river Thames, ever flowing, one can marvel at the passage of time .. and wonder how such a structure can remain as long as it has.
We bundled up against the bitter cold (although it’s just an hour or so outside London, the weather was so different!) The sun glistened on the frosty snow and it’s glitter seemed a fitting touch for such an opulent place.
Built in the 1500s for a Cardinal, the grandeur seemed out of place for non-royalty. Hence, to avoid suspicion, the Cardinal gifted the palace to King Henry, who was already a frequent visitor.
The Courtyard boasts a fountain from which flowed not water, but wine! Keep the guests perpetually tipsy, and you’ll never fall out of favor, right?
We stepped inside to see Henry’s Lodgings and the Great Hall. Tapestries of enormous proportions lined the walls. The detail is exquisite (I’m not sure the pictures will do it justice). Above, you can just barely read the words “Dieu et mon Droit” – French for “God and my Right” – a reminder of the Divine Right of Kings, and that the King should not be crossed.
We moved on through the Chapel, and on to the other rooms and hallways. Then, we time traveled.
In 1689, the new monarchs William and Mary decided to re-invent Hampton Court in the Baroque style. Unfortunately they never quite accomplished that goal, but parts of the palace reflect the new style.
The staircase in the hall is the first indicator of the change, and it continues through the Dining Hall (where authentic and magnificent paintings by Rubens hang on the wall – I apologize for the glare!!) and in all the bedrooms, dressing rooms, parlours, etc.
After the palace, we went out to the Palace gardens. Again, what we saw today was not the original. Apparently Henry’s renaissance garden was converted to baroque by William and Mary. Nevertheless the gravel and bright green against the rich blue sky made for a beautiful view.