The infamous 'Mute' and I took our annual trip to London in order to celebrate my birthday, before Christmas hits. Over four days we covered a lot of ground very quickly, and needless to say we relished our beds at the end of each night, just as much as the places we visited. I want to share our travels with you... So if you love the Tudors hold on to your French hoods, because you've come to the right place.
Day 1 - Hampton Court 11/11/2012
"Why come ye not to court?
To which court?
To the King's court,
or to Hampton court?
Nay, to the King's court!
The King's court
Should have excellence
But Hampton Court
Hath the pre-eminence"
Hampton Court was one of Henry VIII's main palaces, originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolesey, the King's favourite, who eventually fell from grace in 1529, after he failed to secure Henry a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, and thus gave Henry Hampton Court. As seen in the extract above by John Skelton, Hampton Court rivalled that of the Kings own palaces, and hunting lodges etc. Once in Henry's hands, Henry enlarged it, on a grander scale to rival other palaces within continental Europe. Both Henry's and Cardinal Wolesey's designs within/on the palace can still be seen to this day.
After a two hour coach trip to Victoria Station, and then an hour long train journey from Victoria, Mute and I were stood at the gates of Hampton Court. Our second visit to the palace, and still the magnificence it showed astounded us. After getting our tickets, and dropping off our luggage into the lockers, we headed to the Chapel Royal to attend a Choral Matin (well, we enjoyed it so much last time). Staring up at the breath-taking ceiling that Henry himself had designed, Mute and I took to our pew, right behind the choir.
The Chapel Royal - It is thought that Jane Seymour’s heart is buried within the chapel.
In the picture above, you are able to see where we were sat. If you looked up, you were able to see the Royal pew, where monarchs sit and listen to the services. For an hour and a half we were lost in the music, and in the humble service giving thanks to the soldiers who had fallen and fought for us. As a Te Deum was sung, I was thrown back into the past, thinking of Henry who had sat so very close, listening to the same Te Deum, as we were now. It truly was astounding.
Once the service was over we moved onto the kitchens. As we went through the many different rooms, and corridors, it was interesting to see how a Tudor kitchen ran. As the kitchens were serving many courtiers etc. they were of course large, for me it is always interesting to see the spit in action, the taste of roasted meat from the spit is apparently magnificent. Did you know that a pie in Tudor times, worked in the same way as our modern day take-away equivalent? They would rip the top off of the pie, and eat the insides, discarding the rest of the pastry, or eating it as was there fancy. They also allowed meat to cool for an hour, so that the rich herbs and spices flavouring the meat could be infused. You could imagine trying to keep meals from turning cold, before being presented in the Great Hall was a mammoth task in the Tudor days. I particularly loved the kitchen administrator’s office, with rolls, upon rolls of parchment. These rolls would have included the castings of the kitchens, and orders would have been made there. Also, the pewter and silver were on an adjacent room to the kitchen administrator’s office, so that they could always be closely watched, as they were such costly items.
After our kitchen tour, we suddenly became quite hungry (can't think why?), so we stopped off into the privy cafe to enjoy a hearty beef stew, with crusty bread and butter. It was delicious, a tad over priced, but you expect it to be at historical establishments. Once warm and full, we headed off to Hampton Court maze. In all honesty we had thought we were going to be in there hours, instead it was ten minutes if that, and we didn't get lost once! We were quite happy with our feat however, and the photo below shows it.
'Looks like we made it...'
After the maze, we headed back into the palace to enter one of my favourite parts of the palace, Henry VIII's apartments, housing the Great Hall. These rooms really helped show the splendour that Henry constantly had around him, giving you a better insight into how his majesty lived, alongside his wives, nobles, courtiers, diplomats etc. Upon entering the Great Hall, you are in awe of the tapestries which line the walls, these are Henry VIII's own personal tapestries depicting the stories of Abraham, and are the second costly item the monarchy own under the Crown Jewels housed at the Tower of London. But did you know, these aren't all the tapestries? There is another from the series within Westminster, it is hidden away from public view. You can still see the woven gold within the tapestries, and though the colours have faded somewhat, you can just imagine how they would have been 500 years ago.
The hammer beam roof is also an architectural dream, surrounded by the wonderful stain glass, throwing various colours into the hall. Time Team have done there own reconstruction of how the hall might have originally looked back in Henry's day (Time Team - Henry VIII's Lost Palaces). It would have been alive with colour.
The Great Hall
In this hall there is something very special. When Henry had his second wife Anne Boleyn executed on 19th May 1536, he had all her emblems removed from the palace, but he had missed one! A lovers knot intertwining an A and a H. I have included it in a picture below.
The last remaining lovers knot of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII
After speaking to one of the stewards within Hampton Court, he spoke to us of his studies into the palace, and how the Great Hall had changed over the years. He stated that the lover’s knot that remains might be a Victorian invention to bring visitors to Hampton Court. I hope this is not true, for it would be wonderful if this was truly Tudor. We also saw a stone carving of Anne Boleyn’s falcon, the detailing was phenomenal. It's the little thing's that help make the past come alive.
Moving on from the Great Hall, we went down into the Haunted Gallery, where Katherine Howard so say escaped house arrest, and ran down the hall screaming for Henry's name, and banging on the door of the Royal pew. The portraits that hang the wall are very fine, but one particularly caught my interest. It shows just how much power the reformation was having in England.
The Four Evangelists Stoning The Pope: A Protestant Allegory, By Girolamo De Traviso The Younger, c.1542.
Before we knew it the day was drawing to a close, we just had time to nip into the shop, and buy a bottle of mead (mmm... if you haven't tried it, you haven't lived!). Bottle of mead in hand, we walked out of Hampton Court, and out of the gates on to the street, and my heart sank. I can not wait for our next visit. We stayed at the Kings Arms Hotel over looking the Hampton Court Maze, in the Anne Boleyn suite for the night. I noticed they had all of the queens, except Anne of Cleves?? The pub had a picture of all Henry's Queens on the bar, which was quite nice. As the night drew to a close, we put our heads down, and went to sleep ready for our journey, the next day.
Day 2 - 12/11/2012
Today, mute and I hopped on the train back into Victoria Station, in order that we could carry out today’s proceedings. Once in Victoria, we weaved past the numerous crowds of people, who were sluggishly dragging themselves to work, but we were not sluggish, we were excited. After a quick trip on the underground, and a quick walk we were in Westminster. As we stood and stared at the houses of Parliament wondering how many biscuits the prime minister had eaten that morning, we were in awe of the architecture. Gothic Tudor. The houses of Parliament were rebuilt after a fire had burnt down everything, except the hall, which they had managed to save. Truly a masterpiece!
Suddenly, we had a spur of the moment idea (which detoured massively from our Tudor agenda), we wanted to take a ride on the London Eye, and see the City in all its glory. Running off to the ticket office, we paid the extortionate price of £18.50 each, and 10 minutes later, and a confiscated bottle of mead, we were in the pods. Having a trip on the London Eye was something on my bucket list, so I was happy despite the mead situation. Below you can see a picture of Buckingham Palace from our pod, this is the first time I have ever seen the palace with my naked eye!
Good Morning Your Majesty!
As more, and more of London came in to view, I was beginning to picture together what London might have looked like before the Great Fire had struck in 1666. If only the original London Bridge was still there, imagine all the history it has seen, not to mention the decapitated heads of notorious traitors. Featured below is a print that I got from the British Library on a previous trip, of the City of London, before the Great Fire of London struck.
The City Of London, before the Great Fire of London, within the print you can see London bridge.
After half an hour (which felt like five minutes) our trip had come to an end. After much talk on the various buildings we had seen, mute and I made our way to Westminster Abbey, we had originally intended to visit Westminster Abbey (like we had last year) to see Henry VII's Lady Chapel. However, we ended up taking a walk around the Abbey's Remembrance Poppy Field for all the fallen soldiers, who had fought for our country. Whenever, we hear of the numerous deaths from the World Wars it's hard to imagine the scale, but the field, really put the numbers into perspective, and of course that was only a small portion. The picture below will show you what I mean:
'Lest we forget...'
After walking round, and giving thanks to those who gave there lives, we made our way out of Westminster Abbey to the Cenotaph just down the road, which the Queen and many other military heroes had laid wreaths of poppies down on, the day previously. I had always seen the Cenotaph on the television, but to see it in person was something else all together.
The Cenotaph - An empty tomb used to commemorate the soldiers/heroes who fought for the country.
After a moments silence out of respect for the fallen, mute and I made our way to our next Tudor destination, the National Portrait Gallery. This was my second visit to the National Portrait Gallery, and much to our disappointment the exhibit that we were there to see, was closed. The Tudor exhibit. I have, included below a picture of one of the most famous portraits that hangs in the gallery, that of Anne Boleyn. Although the portrait has been identified as a later portrait, and therefore can not show her true likeness, the picture I feel helps show some of the mystery of the infamous Anne, and how she managed to attract a King like Henry VIII.
Anne Boleyn - This was the portrait I really wanted to see.
We didn't stay long at the National Portrait Gallery (We aren't fans of Modern Art), although we did wander around the Stuart exhibition. In which we marvelled at the different styles and paint strokes of the various artists. The next destination was The British Library in Euston Road, and after a quick lunch from a nearby cafe, we made our way there with much haste. The library was to be our last destination of the day, and I was eager to show Mute the many illuminations, and manuscripts on display.
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures within the British Library exhibit, so therefore we were unable to obtain pictures. Admittedly, if we were I would be photographing everything. Nevertheless, I will tell you of some of the treasures that the library houses, and why I find them so fascinating. Within the exhibit, they have Lady Jane Greys book of hours, which is inscribed with her own fair hand. To see the book of a Lady, who only ruled for nine days, and had such an affect within Tudor monarchy is something in which I will never forget. The detailing of the book is magnificent and helped show Jane's status in society, and helps show her studious and pious nature. There is also a letter from Elizabeth I to her brother Edward VI, in which she is pleading to see her brother, but to no avail. It is wonderful to see the elegant style in which Elizabeth writes, just one of her many talents.
There is also, the Coronation book of Anne Boleyn, which shows the detailed planning and events of what took place on the very day of Anne's Coronation. The picture below shows Anne at the head of the table, dining, following her crowning. Henry was overlooking Anne, out of sight of the many Nobles and Courtiers, so as not to draw distraction from Anne on her big day. How thoughtful, eh?
If you get the chance to visit the exhibit at the British Library, please do, it is amazing to think what other wonders of Tudor significance might be hiding within the sacred walls. After, what felt like ten minutes, but what was in fact an entire afternoon, Mute and I left the library, quite mesmerised, and travelled by train to Windsor ready for the next day. And we slept so soundly due to the large amount of travelling we had done that day - result!