Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hampton Court

Hampton Court UK Courtyard
Hampton Court Inner Courtyard

Okay, kiddies, settle in. If this page is taking a while to load, it is because there are so many photos. And that is because there is so very much to see at this Royal Palace on the outskirts of London. 

In keeping with my bathroom fetish, I've even got a Royal Toilet for you. A little frayed at the edges, perhaps, but really, where else are you going to get these intimate glimpses. 


By now, most of you are aware of how much I love looking at
Hampton Court Palace arched doorways
houses of any kind. Not only am I totally enraptured by the architecture, but I am endlessly fascinated by all they reveal about the people who lived there.

This is particularly true of England, France and Italy because I find their histories so interesting and exciting. Of course, they go back so far and include so many people that I find it impossible to remember almost anything about any of them. 


James I, Anne, William & Mary, George I
But that has the happy result of making it all new and interesting all over again, every time I run into it. Never was this more true than at Hampton Court. Not only was it the home of that big, bad boy, Henry VIII, but also that of the first James and George, the beloved Queen Anne, William & Mary and so many more.

You can read all about it on the Hampton Court Palace official website or, as always, Wikipedia. It's not a whole lot of text, especially given its long history, so you may find it pretty interesting if you take a quick look. 

Certainly, the photos will be better than mine. I think this was
Hampton Court Palace inside grounds
one of those days my camera was not set on auto, as it should have been, and it's even more patently obvious than usual that I am incapable of holding a camera perfectly straight for even so long as it takes to push a button. sigh.

Anyway, like Fontainebleau in France - which this kind of reminds me of, the Royal Family doesn't use the Hampton Court Palace anymore. In fact, I was kind of flabbergasted to find out that they sometimes rent it out as a filming location. I know that many stately homes are used that way, I just didn't know that official royal residences were, too. Among others, you can see it in the live action Cinderella movie that came out last March.

In any case, this thing is monstrously
huge. It thoroughly exhausted me, but the place is extraordinarily well done and I loved every moment of it.

Although the kitchen is usually my least favorite room in any place I happen to be living, I usually find examples from centuries past wonderfully intriguing, and Henry VIII's is probably the peak in this category. But more on that later. Let me start from the beginning.

Hampton Court is roughly an hour from where I was staying in central London. I chose to go over there by bus, hoping to enjoy looking at everything along the way, but this was a mistake. 


In addition to all of the lurching from pulling in and out of bus stops, the roads we traveled were not created for cars to be parked on both sides of the street AND allow two vehicles to pass each other from opposite directions when one is a big hulking bus. That meant we were constantly weaving sideways whenever it was possible, if necessary for cars to pass by.

So even though I was sitting right at the front of the bus, nice and high up with a great view, I still spent most of the ride slightly nauseous with motion sickness. Needless to say, I took a train back.

Hampton Court UK FrontHampton Court Palace presents quite the impressive entrance. They've added some delightful very well-done imitation carriages for children to play in, and lots of seating. They seem to understand very well how physically challenging this place is to get through.
Hampton Court Palace 1st inner courtyard
1st Inner Courtyard

From the long walkway, you pass first into one courtyard, with various entrances to things to see. Then you go through any number of different entrances to reach the second courtyard seen in the photo at the top of this post. 

The buildings around the courtyards contain all the different areas for residents, visitors and staff. Hampton Court Palace is very good about letting you see practically everything, even behind the scenes. And that provides the most amazing contrast. Look...

Hampton Court Palace Dining Room
Let's start with dining. When Henry VIII entertained on special occasions, large napkins were folded into interesting shapes for the entertainment of the diners.




Hampton Court Palace formal dining roomAnd even when Royals were entertaining on less notable occasions, they used the larger public dining rooms. (Staff in costume added interest, as did costume replicas.)





Hampton Court Palace Private dining roomBut one of the reasons this place is so  huge is that there were so many apartments, more like suites, for different people. And some of them, particularly the Royals, had their own dining rooms. That way, they could dine privately in their own quarters.

Hampton Court Palace small dining room
Of course, this was still not the same thing as eating in a breakfast room off the kitchen, but hey, there were standards in those days.





Hampton Court Palace wardrobe replicas
I loved the displays of papier-mâché figures. Not only do you get a great idea of how they dressed, but there were gossipy little notes attached to them. 







Hampton Court Palace gossipy costume note"Powerful German mistress of the King. Nicknamed the Maypole." I swear I was almost incontinent with excitement. Why is this not done everyfreakingwhere?




Hampton Court Palace dress of the day
They also had more normal representation of the couture of the times.







Hampton Court Palace Lovely ceiling huge fireplaceAnd I loved that they didn't forget about the staff. Still, I would have liked seeing some housemaids.

The rooms themselves were every bit as eye-catching. I love the ceiling and light green paint in this one. Plus, look at the size of that fireplace!

Hampton Court Palace Canopied Throne chair
Each King and Queen had a throne room, to see visitors. 








Hampton Court Palace Throne chairAlthough certainly impressive, they were still fairly understated compared to the bling you'd probably find at their London counterparts. This was the country house, after all.








Hampton Court Palace State bedroom
They also entertained visitors in their bedrooms, "the ultimate destination for the most privileged courtiers" according to one sign. But though that was a custom which lasted for a very long while, and was found in other countries, apparently some felt it was necessary to establish boundaries. That is quite the lovely ornate barrier in this State bedroom.




Hampton Court Palace Bedroom William IIINot all bedrooms sported a fancy fence, though. And, strangely enough, the occupant of this one did not really feel comfortable with the custom. Another sign informed us that "William III was very reluctant to perform the morning lever and evening coucher ceremonies of inviting courtiers into the bedchamber." 

Maybe he would have felt better with a nice big barrier of his own. 

Hampton Court Palace Hidden Bedroom William III
What was really weird, though, is that he installed a tiny bedroom right next door to this one behind a concealed door. It seemed that the big elegant bedroom was a bit too drafty for him. And no one was invited into the yellow room except his staff and favored guests.

Hampton Court Palace Bedroom Queen CarolineI have to say, I found the cards of information placed all over were the most interesting I've seen in any public place, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Still, even I was just a bit taken aback by the very frank revelation found outside one bedroom that said King George II and Queen Caroline "were both known to have a healthy sexual appetite."

I mean, there were groups of school children there when I was. But maybe it didn't faze them. Certainly movies and TV in England and Europe are much looser than they are here. Well, that's why we have cable.

Hampton Court Palace Royal bathing room
Royal Bathroom
As I said, this place really let you completely behind the scenes. I so admired this lovely bathroom.

Please note, however, bathrooms were for bathing. Other things were done elsewhere. Which brings me to...

Hampton Court Palace King's Stool Room toilet or stoolI was amazed that we were also allowed to see a Royal Potty. I have to admit that I wonder if it was allowed to become so frayed while a Royal occupant was still using it, or if that happened after it was no longer in service.

It's still a lovely room. And fyi, this is referred to as "the King's Stool Room" and that is his stool. Which makes me wonder if that is how poop became called stool, as well.

Yes, I know, TMI. And, I am so very sorry, but I have to venture momentarily even further into that territory. There was, in fact, a Groom of the Stole (Stool). And their duty was exactly what you might be forgiven for being reluctant to imagine. 

But while it might not be completely unsurprising that Royals had someone to wipe their asses, I was floored to find out that these guys parlayed their positions of most intimate servant to the King into powerful political roles, becoming directly involved in setting national fiscal policy. How these two incredibly different roles became intertwined is beyond my understanding. But I just couldn't keep that information to myself. I'm pretty sure that would have made my head explode.

Hampton Court Palace King's closet
Okay, back to the Palace. The Stool Room is just off the King's closet. I'd often seen reference to a royal or aristocratic person's closet, but didn't find out until recent years that it meant a small room, not a clothes closet. I liked the one here.






Hampton Court Palace servant's staircaseFrom here, we were allowed to descend the back staircase used by the servants. It wasn't at all shabby.










Hampton Court Palace Main staircase
But, of course, the main staircase was much more ostentatious. 










Hampton Court Palace Wall tapestryAs I said, this place is enormous. There is way more than even what I am putting up here.







Hampton Court Palace exterior courtyard
So many nooks and crannies, inside and out.









Hampton Court Palace formal gardens
And speaking of out, the grounds were lovely, as well.








Hampton Court Palace arbor
Both formal and charming. This arbor thing came out really dark. Try clicking on it to embiggen, and hopefully it will show more detail.





Hampton Court Palace Henry III's kitchen buildingsOh, and remember I mentioned Henry VIII's kitchens. Well, I thought they deserved their own section, they were that astounding. They are actually a separate set of buildings.




Hampton Court Palace Henry III kitchen produce
Again, I have to say how fabulously well Hampton Court Palace is run. These rooms were outfitted with very realistic props for the most part. 




Hampton Court Palace Henry III kitchen pewter place settingsAnd even those that were obviously fake still gave a very accurate idea of what the rooms were like when in use.





Hampton Court Palace Henry III kitchen fireplace
These buildings were just amazing.








Hampton Court Palace Henry III's kitchen prep roomI still can't even believe how great they were.








But wait, there's more! Henry VIII had his own freaking CHOCOLATE KITCHEN.


Hampton Court Palace Chocolate Room
Chocolate Room
I kid you not. In fact, he had a Chocolate Room AND a Chocolate Kitchen. 







Of the two, the Chocolate Room was by far the most interesting. 








It also contained more information.









Chocolate Kitchen
In comparison, the actual Chocolate Kitchen was nothing at all.







And that, finally, is pretty much it. I enjoyed this place so much, and a great deal of that had to do with how well everything was exhibited. 


Hampton Court Palace costumed musicians
There was even a small show of costumed characters playing music inside the 2nd Courtyard while I was there. And the pamphlet I was given seemed to indicate that there were similar activities most days.




East Mosely water view across from Hampton Court Palace
The crowning touch is that the Palace is situated in a fairly lovely town. Even walking to the nearby train station afterward was a pleasure.

I don't know whether I'll every return here, just thinking about the place kind of makes me tired. 

To be perfectly honest, I don't know if I could even recommend it to someone visiting London, because there is so much to see in that city, it's hard to imagine taking a day out to visit Hampton Court, fabulous as it is. I didn't get around to it until right before I left to come home and I spent literally weeks in London on and off. Of course, I never made it back to Windsor Castle, either.


Hampton Court Palace costumes, tapestries and gorgeous fireplace
That fireplace is swoon worthy
But for someone who is in the London area for an extended amount of time for any reason, this is a truly wonderful day trip. Since I hope to one day be someone who is in London for an extended amount of time, I may just get back there myself. Because, in case it wasn't clear before, I really did enjoy this day. A lot.

Oh, and I do apologize if it seems like this post could have used at least a little judicious editing. But, in actuality, I practiced a great deal of restraint. There is even more that I would be happy to share. But this post is already in proportion to its subject, and its worn me out. Consider yourself lucky.

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