Hampton Court Palace Outside London: Henry VIII's Royal Stomping Grounds
Updated: Jan 10
London's Hampton Court Palace is the perfect easy day trip from London. It's the world's greatest surviving medieval palace. And it has a deliciously rich and scandalous history. History nerds, royalists, and palace lovers will be in heaven.
Hampton Court Palace was the favored playground and leisure complex of England's infamous King Henry VIII and other notorious characters in English history. "Golden Boy" Henry suffered an injury there that would change the course of his life -- transforming him from a dashing energetic king into a tyrannical monster.
History of Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is really a tale of two palaces smooshed together. It's a combination of the Gothic Palace of Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII and the Baroque Palace built by the Stuart monarchs William and Mary. The palace was a royal residence from the early 1500s until the 1730s.
1. The Wolsey Palace
Built between 1514-25, the palace was originally the home of Henry VII's chief minister, Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York. Wolsey was the second most powerful man in England. Wolsey did the royal administrative work, while a young Henry partied.
Wolsey wanted a home befitting his prestige. He used red brick, a new architectural "wonder" material at the time. The palace was lavish. So lavish that gossip quickly spread that Hampton Court exceeded Henry's other 50-60 castles in beauty.
A spiteful Henry became jealous of Wolsey's masterpiece. He became covetous. The best places were supposed to belong to the king, after all. Wolsey reassured the king that he only built Hampton Court for Henry's glory and benefit. He prepared lavish royal apartments for the king and his 1,000 person entourage.
2. Henry VIII's Palace
A young Henry VIII used to "play" at the palace. It was his favorite summer retreat. There, with his never-ending energy, he would joust, play tennis, and bowl. Hampton Court became the ultimate royal playground.
Dr. Kent Rawlinson, curator of historic buildings at Hampton Court Palace, said:
Hampton Court was a pleasure palace for Henry VIII, where guests were entertained with spectacular revels and festivities, and wine and beer were drunk in enormous quantities, as evidenced by the great cellars that still survive here.