Hampton Court Palace was not originally intended as a royal residence. It was built by Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey and appropriated by King Henry VIII when he failed to bring about his divorce from Catherine of Aroagon. Wolsey's Closet, a strikingly attractive room, is now the solitary survivor of Cardinal Wolsey's personal apartments. It is situated in the range of buildings east of Clock Court.
King Henry VIII used the palace regularly, enlarging and altering the building, which was designed around two courtyards. The King added a further courtyard, remodelled the chapel, and rebuilt the Great Hall.
The King's only son and heir Edward (later Edward VI) was born at the Palace on 12th October, 1537. He was given a magnificent christening ceremony in the Chapel Royal. Edward's birth was reported to have difficult and protracted and his mother, Jane Seymour did not long survive the experience, dying of puerperal fever at the palace twelve days later. The ghost of Queen Jane is purported to haunt the palace, as it is claimed, does that of Henry's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, who, on being arrested for high treason at Hampton Court attempted to reach her husband to make an appeal directly to him, she was apprehended by guards as she ran to Wolsey's Gallery and pulled away screaming. She later met her death by beheading at the Tower of London. Ever after, sightings of the deeply agitated Catherine have been reported on the gallery, now renamed the Haunted Gallery.
Most of the Tudor Royal Apartments were swept away by the architect Sir Christopher Wren, who was commisioned by William III and Mary II to design a series of State Apartments. William suffered badly from asthma wished for a country retreat where he could escape the smog laden air of London.The superb paintings on the ceiling of the King's bedroom are the work of Antonio Verrio and fiitingly depict Endymion lying in the arms of the god of sleep, Morpheus. Verrio, a celebrated Italian artist is also responsible for the magnificent murals that adorn the King's Staircase, the Queen's Drawing Room and the ceiling and wall panels in the Banqueting Room. Carvings by Grinling Gibbons may be seen on the frames of the mirrors between the windows in the Banqueting Room and the oak reredos in the chapel.
Further State Rooms were added by the Hanoverian monarch George II, but his grandson and heir, George III, took a dislike to the palace and never lived there and eventually the Royal Apartments were opened to the public by Queen Victoria.
|To get there from the Americana; take the Bakerloo Line southbound to Waterloo. Exit to the railway station and take the train to Hampton Court (every 30 minutes). It is a 10 minute walk to the Palace and the route is signposted.
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