Hampton Court

Finally, after taking longer than it took for the pilgrims to reach Canterbury, I arrived at Hampton Court Palace.

Hampton Court, from the river

My first view of the Hampton Court Palace, from the bridge over the Thames.  The palace is celebrating its 500th anniversary w/concerts and strolling players and son et lumière shows.

Hampton Court, entrance

Hampton Court Entrance

I’ve wanted to go to Hampton Court for a long time, but somehow never got around to it before this trip.  Then a couple of months ago, I got hooked of the television version of the first two books of the Wolf Hall trilogy, on BBC Two,   (Never read the books.  Years of Internet addiction have left me w/an attention span so truncated that I have trouble following the plot lines of 30-second commercials.)

The early part of the series deals w/the changing relationship of Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey, and Wolsey’s residence,  Hampton Court—“the finest palace in England “—plays a significant role.  I added a visit to the palace to my must-do list.

HC Cape
If you want, you can rent a period costume on site.   I don’t think this couple quite pull off the illusion, though.  Those don’t look like authentic 16th Century audio guides to me.

HC Hall

And the audio guides weren’t the only thing that lacked authenticity.   The buildings are magnificent, but the interiors are disappointing.  The problem is that the contents of Henry VIII’s apartment, f’rinstance, were sold off and disbursed centuries ago.   What fills the space now is, largely, a collection of reproductions.

Even the Tudor crown on display is a reproduction;  Oliver Cromwell had the original melted down in 1649.

So while the space is impressive, it’s nowhere near as dazzling as the interiors of the Palace of Versailles, Neuschwanstein Castle, or Schönbrunn Palace.

The parts of the palace that were built during Hampton Court’s 17th Century restoration under William and Mary fare better, but even in several of those rooms, there’s a sense of…dowdiness.


The King’s Bed, from the William and Mary Renovation.

But the grounds are beautiful.

HC Grounds

The Hampton Court Maze

And of course I couldn’t leave w/o exploring the Hampton Court maze.  Ever since I was v young, I’ve dreamt of having a topiary maze.  That, and a secret passage that led from the library to a hidden room.

Both those things are a little too difficult to pull off in a city condo.

“We’ll just go in here, so that you can say you’ve been, but it’s very simple.  It’s absurd to call it a maze.  You keep on taking the first turning to the right.  We’ll just walk round for ten minutes, and then go and get some lunch.”
— Jerome K. Jerome,  in “Three Men in a Boat”

Three hours later:

HC Maze

NB:   It really isn’t all that complicated.  Even Jack Nicholson could have solved it in 20 minutes.

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