For many people today, Hampton Court Palace is Henry VIII. It is indeed Henry’s royal standard that flies over the gatehouse. But it wasn’t always so...
Early on in Henry VIII's reign, Thomas Wolsey, one of the chaplain's in Henry's court, first acquired a relatively small manor house here in 1514, and constructed a magnificent palace around it.
Henry was married to Katherine of Aragon for almost 24 years. They shared a similar education and a love for court entertainment and learning. But, somewhere between the private tragedy of miscarriages and stillbirths and the public political and dynastic ambitions of Henry VIII, their marriage failed.
When Henry VIII wanted a divorce from Katherine, Cardinal Wolsey, in his unique position as papal legate and chief minister, was in a fantastic position to pull it off. Or fail … Katherine resisted, and the Pope refused. Wolsey was helpless. His titles and properties were confiscated and the Cardinal died in 1530, after his arrest for treason. When Wolsey fell from power and influence Henry acquired Hampton Court, and began his own ostentatious building programme.
Hampton Court now truly became Henry VIII’s favourite palace. He spent more time here than at any other of his residences during the second half of his reign, building new apartments for himself and his new wives. And the palace survived to witness many of the most important events in the chequered political and matrimonial history of the 1530s and 1540s.