Henry's heirs

Henry's heirs

Henry VIII's children at Hampton Court Palace.

One of Europe's greatest palaces

Each of Henry VIII's children stayed at Hampton Court. Indeed, Edward had been christened in the Chapel Royal at the palace in 1537, and Mary spent her honeymoon here in 1554.

Each continued to use Hampton Court as a country retreat away from the business of politics and away from the more confined and claustrophobic world of the central London royal palaces like Whitehall (Thomas Wolsey’s old palace of York Place) and St James’s.

Neither Edward nor Mary added much to the buildings at Hampton Court, or indeed anywhere else. Their father had left so many houses of good quality that it was as much as the succeeding monarchs could do to keep them standing, let alone build more.

Hampton Court under Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I (r 1558-1603) visited Hampton Court Palace regularly but she too built little. Traces of work completed during her reign do remain however. For example, the easternmost kitchen – the Queen’s private or privy kitchen – is now the Privy Kitchen Coffee Shop. There is also a bay window inscribed 1568 that can be seen from the Pond Gardens.

Even without significant changes, half a century after Henry VIII had built Hampton Court Palace, it was still among the most impressive in Europe.

The Duke of Württemberg, who visited the palace in 1592 called it 'the most splendid and most magnificent royal edifice to be found in England, or for that matter in other countries'.

A venue for diplomacy and the arts

During Elizabeth’s reign, Hampton Court continued to welcome foreign delegations. It also remained a stage for court entertainments and, in particular, for dramatic performances and court masques.

But Elizabeth’s relatively parsimonious cultural patronage would soon be eclipsed by her successor, James I, who brought with him from Scotland (where he had ruled as James VI) a new band of courtiers and a new style of culture and entertainment.

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