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December 6, 2014

England: Hampton Court Palace

Filed under: Architecture, Europe, Photography, Travel, Travel, United Kingdom, Writing — anotherheader @ 1:22 am

The riverside gardens at Hampton Court Palace

The riverside gardens at Hampton Court Palace

Along with St. James’s Palace, Hampton Court Palace is one of only two surviving palaces of the many owned by King Henry VIII. Full of history and interesting architecturally, the palace is today a significant tourist attraction. The building and grounds receive over a half-million visits each year.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey took over the site of Hampton Court Palace in 1514. Soon after construction began to build the finest palace in England. At the time, Wolsey was a favorite of King Henry VIII. But before long, Wolsey’s inability to arrange an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon began his downfall. Wolsey, believing that Henry was jealous of his grand palace, gifted Hampton Court to his sire. The generosity did not help. Wolsey was ultimately charged with treason and died soon after.

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The front gate at HCP

The front gate at HCP

With Wolsey out of the way, Henry expanded and elaborated on Wolsey’s Thames-side palace. Periods of construction continued for decades. After the end of the Tudor dynasty and the restoration, the palace became to be viewed as antiquated. Thus with William and Mary on the throne, a new round of renovations was begun with the oversight of the architect Christopher Wren. Work continued until the 18th Century when the palace ceased to be a royal residence.

With the many masters and a hodge-podge of styles, I’d expect this royal palace to be an architectural disaster area. But it’s not. Hampton Court Palace ended as a surprisingly homogeneous and pleasing structure.

Is it wrong for an American to visit a British Royal Palace on the Fourth of July?

Is it wrong for an American to visit a British Royal Palace on the Fourth of July?

Stiffs don't always like to share their benches.

Stiffs don’t always like to share their benches.

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