Hampton Court Palace celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2015
2015 will mark 500 years since Cardinal Wolsey – Henry VIII’s trusted adviser - commissioned builders to lay the foundations of Hampton Court Palace. Today, it is one of Britain’s best-loved treasures, famously Henry VIII’s pleasure palace, the centre of court life for over 200 years. In celebration of this momentous anniversary, throughout 2015, the palace will host a series of special events, displays and entertainments, exploring the vast sweep of half a century of history: from the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII, to the small army of curators, conservators and gardeners who keep the palace ticking over today.
Records show that Cardinal Wolsey first paid builders to work on what would become Hampton Court Palace in 1515. The King’s most trusted servant, his star in the ascendancy, commissioned a palace in which he could entertain a monarch. Just over a decade later, he had surrendered the palace to Henry VIII in the midst of the ‘Great Matter’ of his divorce from Katherine of Aragon.
Since the royal occupancy of Hampton Court began, the palace has been a witness to the honeymoons of Henry VIII, Mary I and Charles II, and the birth and baptism of Henry VIII’s much longed for heir. It has been the setting for confrontations and private meetings between Mary I and Elizabeth I; Elizabeth and her many suitors; Charles I and Cromwell. It is the place where Jane Seymour died, where Charles I was imprisoned, and where William III suffered a fatal accident. Shakespeare performed in the Great Hall; Handel played in the Chapel Royal, and Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat got lost in the famous maze.
In the spirit of this dramatic history, in 2015, Hampton Court Palace will bring all 500 years of history to life, with a series of celebrations to mark the survival of this remarkable building.
- The year gets underway in January with a new BBC and Historic Royal Palaces partnership programme: ‘Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court’. Presented by Historic Royal Palaces Chief Curator Lucy Worsley, and Dr David Starkey, the BBC Two programme explores one of the most famous nights in Hampton Court’s history: the christening of Henry VIII’s much longed for son Edward VI, and features palace staff, in full Tudor costume, re-creating the baby prince’s christening procession.
- From February, Historic Royal Palaces will be recruiting 5,000 young people and families to contribute to a very special new animated film, retelling 500 years of history in 5 minutes. A year of movie-making activities and workshops at the palace will culminate in the creation of a film by Aardman Productions, which will premiere at the palace in October.
- From Easter, the famous wine fountain will flow once more, offering up a toast to 500 years of Hampton Court every afternoon. Visitors will be able to get up close and personal with a cast of characters from across the palace’s history, as costumed actors playing kings, queens and courtiers bring Hampton Court’s history to life. On any given day, visitors might witness Catherine Howard’s attempted flight towards Henry VIII to save herself, stumble upon Charles I and Oliver Cromwell deep in conversation, or see Elizabeth I’s giant porter brought to life in the Tudor rooms he once guarded, where his portrait now hangs.
- Over the Easter weekend a state of the art 3D film projection onto the Palace’s south façade, will take a kaleidoscopic journey through the building’s history, re-modelling and life of the palace in four ‘movements’. The Palace will be dressed for a celebration, with carriages from different eras parked outside the famous Tudor gatehouse.
- For May Bank Holiday Weekend, a ‘Time Quake’ quest will be held for families, inviting visitors to travel back in time and meet some of the key characters who have shaped the Hampton Court’s history. Specially written for the anniversary year by best-selling author Damien Dibben, an exciting reward will await those who complete the journey!
- The summer will see two large garden parties staged, celebrating a ‘palace of two halves’ and giving visitors the opportunity to explore great moments from Hampton Court’s past. Bringing the Tudor Palace to life, King Henry VIII will put on a show to impress the ambassadors, with sporting prowess on display in a magnificent Tudor joust, dancing in the Elizabethan knot garden, and the Tudor Kitchens cooking up a storm. Meanwhile, in a special Baroque themed weekend, Charles II, his new Queen and a selection of ravishing court beauties will celebrate a masque in the formal gardens.
It promises to be an action-packed, exciting year – after all, you only turn 500 once!
Notes for Editors
For more information and images, please contact Laura Hutchinson in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0203 166 6338/07990 726 229
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower ofLondon, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.
We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
We believe in four principles. Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work. www.hrp.org.uk
Registered charity number 1068852
BBC Two’s Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night At Hampton Court will go out at 9pm on Saturday 10th January. More detail here.