The 18th century

The 18th century


From Queen Anne to the final royal visit

Hunting at Hampton Court

For Queen Anne (r 1702-14) and her predecessors the major attraction of Hampton Court was the hunting.

Beyond the new formal gardens, Home Park and Bushy Park provided an excellent countryside setting and maintained deer stocks, descended from the herd established by Henry VIII.

Despite her age and increasing ill health, Anne followed the hunt in a two-wheeled cart down specially cut rides.

Slow progress

Inside Hampton Court, Anne – as the reigning monarch - enjoyed the newly completed King’s Apartments when she stayed at the palace. But Anne preferred Windsor Castle, and William and Mary’s other new palace at Kensington, and consequently work on the unfinished Queen’s Apartments at Hampton Court (for the use of Anne’s consort, Prince George) proceeded slowly.

Anne did have time to introduce some startling new paintings, showing a semi-naked George disporting with sea creatures, into the Queen’s Drawing Room, but George died in 1708, and work again stalled.

The Hanoverians move in

Queen Anne's death in 1714 marked the end of the Stuart dynasty and the arrival of the Hanoverians. The new king, George I (r 1714-27), was a shy man who disliked ceremony.

He didn't speak English, spent much time in his native Hanover (Germany) and never brought his queen to England.

The result was a general decline in the trappings of royalty and in the development of royal palaces. However, the King's lack of interest in Hampton Court was more than made up by the Prince and Princess of Wales (later George II and Queen Caroline), who delighted in the display and magnificence of a royal court.

The Queen’s Apartments were finally completed at this point for the use of the Prince and Princess, under the direction of Sir John Vanbrugh.

Vanbrugh completed the formal circuit of royal apartments and fulfilled the vision of William and Mary and Sir Christopher Wren. Sumptuous furnishings from the cabinet-makers John Gumley and James Moore filled the rooms, and a new state bed lay under a painted ceiling by Sir James Thornhill.

The Prince's popularity with a section of the court, and with the public, combined with the King's absence from public life, led first to rivalry and finally to a split. The Prince was banned from the royal palaces after an argument with his father in December 1717.

A return to court at the palace

The King then decided to improve his image and embarked on a round of court entertainments to redress the balance between himself and his heir.

For a short period during 1718, George I held full court at Hampton Court, including assemblies and balls in the tennis court, Cartoon Gallery and Public Dining Room. But the rift with his son soon healed and the King reverted to his retiring ways.

St James’s Palace had become the principal official residence of the monarch by this point, and Windsor Castle remained the main private residence. Hampton Court Palace was little used for a decade after 1718, until the death of George I in 1727.

George II and the final flowering of Hampton Court

Mantegna's Triumphs of Ceasar.Prince George and Princess Caroline returned to Hampton Court soon after George’s accession to the throne as George II.

Finally, the completed King’s and Queen’s Apartments played host to a full gathering of the royal family and royal court. The final embellishment of the palace state apartments was the completion of the Queen’s Staircase by William Kent.

Queen Caroline also covered up the racy images in the Queen’s Drawing Room with Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar.

George II’s reign also produced the last rooms at Hampton Court built for any member of the royal family. He had new lodgings made on the east side of Clock Court in 1732 for his second son, the Duke of Cumberland. These rooms, today known as the Cumberland Suite, were also designed by William Kent and built at a cost of £3,454.

Hampton Court’s last royal visit

George II’s reign also marked the final year – 1737 – that the royal family used the entire palace.

In July 1737 Frederick stole his wife – Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg – away from Hampton Court to London in the middle of the night, where she gave birth to a short-lived daughter.

Frederick’s defiance of the King and Queen Caroline led to his dismissal from St James’s Palace in London. Queen Caroline died a few months following the episode, and the King never visited the palace again with his full court.

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