Thursday, June 4, 2009

Courtship (well, barge)

When I started planning my trip to England on my computer I researched a few "Tudor Tours" but all were overpriced and few even returned my emails. I did get a couple of suggestions from friends who have been to or live in England. One such suggestion was to visit Hampton Court Palace by boat.
Thursday morning I made my way right back to where I'd spent the day before: Westminster. This time I stayed on the north side of the Thames and bought a ticket to Hampton Court leaving from Westminster Pier by river barge. I would sail to the palace from London exactly as the Tudor kings and queens had done! Unfortunately, it sounded way more romantic than it actually was.

It turned out to be a decent day - mostly sunny but just a little windy and cool. Lovely for a river cruise - if that cruise was about an hour. Even two hours would be tolerable. Three hours on a barge were a bit much. But I stuck it out, taking random photos of homes and other things along the Thames to occupy my time. The one good thing was the lack of walking for three hours. Whew - I'm looking rough as I sit on that barge!
But it was all worth it when we pulled up beside the magnificent palace that Cardinal Thomas Wolsey built.

After the Tower, this was the place where I knew I would come in direct contact, yet again, with Anne Boleyn and all the places and things I have been reading and dreaming about for three years. Sure enough, the very first thing I encountered reminded me Anne was here:

More surprisingly, though, just inside the palace I was promptly invited to a re-enactment of the wedding of Henry VIII to Kateryn Parr: his sixth and final wife. Just moments later, I came upon the bride and groom greeting people in the dining hall.

And then the newlyweds we presented to us in the great hall just outside the privy chamber.

As goofy as it was (and as bad as Henry's beard was) it was actually kind of fun too. I really enjoyed the talk by two courtiers explaining each piece of their clothing and the type of people they would be at the court. I loved walking through the rooms escorted by a woman dressed in the same clothing she would wear in 1540! History and fashion geek that I am, I LOVED it.
More than "feeling" the souls of Anne or the others as I did at the Tower, Hampton Court bewitched me with it's authenticity and preservation of a 500 year-old, Tudor-era palace. They keep the kitchens just as they were when they would serve up to 1000 guests one meal at court!

A 16th century kitchen prep area...

Although I couldn't take photos inside the chapel royal, I did go in and stand in the Holy Day Closet where Anne worshipped and the obstinate Spanish Ambassador paid her obeisance just before her fall from grace. Knowing this was so intense. There was also a plaque inside that claims although Jane Seymour's body is interred with Henry at Windsor, her heart is rumored to be buried there. (Although I can find no other documentation of this.) It was at Hampton that Jane gave birth to the future King Edward VI and died there shortly after.
Although the white portions of the palace behind me here are clearly additions made well after the Tudor Dynasty and more in the Georgian style, the beautiful gardens and grounds are laid out the way Henry VIII had planned them.

Another of my favorite parts of Hampton: The Astronomical Clock - designed in a time when they believed the Sun moved around the immovable Earth. I love that it was showing the correct date, time and astrological sign!

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