It was a beautiful spring day today – the sun was shining and the air was warm. Having recently bought a year membership to Historic Royal Palaces it seemed like a perfect day to walk down to Hampton Court Palace. It was also a Saturday, so the palace was incredibly crowded and families were out and enjoying the park and buildings. Membership allows me unlimited entry to the palaces for the year so I decided that I would spend most of the time outside enjoying the weather and leave the majority of the interiors to another day.
The pictures give a flavour of the magnificence and beauty of the formal gardens and the unique juxtaposition of the Tudor palace with the Baroque buildings of William III and Mary II, Britain’s only joint monarchs.
The Tudor brickwork at the palace was one of the wonders of the age. Today it still manages to impress, particularly the chimneys – not just practical, but beautiful as well.
The Base Court is a wonderful place to sit and watch the tourists go by. There is a replica of the wine fountain built at the celebrations of The Field of The Cloth of Gold – unfortunately no longer supplying free wine to all who needed a drink… If you look to the bottom right of the painting of the event, you can see people partaking of the king’s generosity. And one poor chap who has over-indulged!
The Tudor palace rambles and wanders around corners and crevices, and you are never quite sure what to expect. The views however, whether grand and sweeping or small and intimate never fail to impress.
In the chapel court, a Tudor garden has been recreated and set out in a style similar to that which Henry VIII and his children would have known. One of the more unusual things, to modern eyes is the heraldic beasts on poles, punctuating the paths and providing a vertical element that helps to maintain a sense of scale in the small courtyard.
To my mind, one of the real joys of the palace is the combination of the Tudor and Baroque buildings. Having planned to demolish the old Tudor palace piecemeal, as the new Baroque edifice was built, we can thank the perennial shortage of money that plagued the Stuart monarch for the fantastic marriage of old and new. This really is one of the few times that running out of money on a building project worked out for the best, I believe.
From the SE of the palace, you get a clear view, in all it’s idiosyncratic glory, of the English Baroque of Sir Christopher Wren and a tantalizing glimpse of the palace that was intended to rival Versailles.
I briefly stepped inside the palace and wandered from Tudor to Georgian – the wooden paneled walls of one to the Georgian splendor of the Hanoverian state rooms. This is a place that deserves more time and I will be back. Just not on a sunny bank holiday weekend!