You are at the top of the page

Skip to content or footer

Start of main content

Hampton Court Palace: Behind Closed Doors

Season 2

Watch Hampton Court: Behind Closed Doors on cath up on My5

Hampton Court: Behind Closed Doors.

An intimate look behind the scenes of King Henry VIII’s favourite palace and country retreat on the Thames. A Tudor jewel, in a usual year Hampton Court Palace now receives over a million visitors.

In this series we get up close and personal with the palace warders as they take us into the vast kitchens, the palace archives, secret nooks, hidden crannies, spectacular gardens and vast estate. Tune in to witness the gardeners as they attempt to put on the largest tulip festival ever staged in Britain, and see how the curators keep the palace’s rich history alive today, from dealing with an incredibly rare new discovery relating to Anne Boleyn to revealing how an Indian encampment was set up at Hampton Court at the end of World War I.

Season 2, Episode 1

Paul Fitzsimmons, specialist in Tudor antiques and Tracy Borman, Joint Chief Curator

It’s autumn at Hampton Court and Joint Chief Curator Tracy Borman receives an extraordinary call from Paul Fitzsimmons. Paul is a specialist in Tudor antiques and he’s bought a lot at auction on a hunch. Although he paid just £75 for it, he suspects it actually could be a rare object that might relate to Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn. Over her thirteen years working at Hampton Court Palace, Tracy’s heard a lot of stories like this and none of them have turned out to be true - but if this really is something with a link to Anne Boleyn it would be the highlight of her career – very, very few of Anne’s artefacts survive after Henry had almost every trace of her ripped from the palace following her execution in 1536.

Meanwhile, in the palace grounds gardeners are harvesting grapes from the Great Vine, the oldest and largest grape vine in the world. The 600 pounds of dessert grapes it still produces were prized by Queen Victoria, who used to give them out as gifts at Windsor Castle.

It’s also Halloween at Hampton Court and the palace hosts reveal stories of Hampton Court’s very own ghosts and Tracy researches the strange sightings of the Woman in Grey, said to be Sybil Penn, a loyal servant of Elizabeth I who died after nursing the young Princess in a room at the palace.

Season 2, Episode 2

It’s winter and Gardens Manager Graham Dillamore and his team are hard at work in the gardens preparing 120,000 bulbs for what’s set to be the biggest tulip festival in Britain. The festival is also a reminder of Hampton Court’s greatest plant collector, Queen Mary II, who brought thousands of different varieties to the palace in the 1600s, including rare tulip breeds, some of which Graham will be attempting to grow.

Joint Chief Curator Tracy Borman uncovers the extraordinary story of Henry VIII’s secret son; Henry Fitzroy. Little Fitzroy was the result of the King’s affair with his lady in waiting, Bessy Blount, and Henry VIII showered him with gifts and titles, making him the highest ranking noble in Britain at the age of six, all before tragedy occurred…

Parks and Estates Manager Nicholas Mallory Garbutt and his team have a plan to encourage a colony of sandmartins to visit Hampton Court’s wetlands on the River Thames with a specially designed nesting site. Every year these tiny birds make the three thousand mile journey from Africa and they’ve been coming to Britain for centuries - they would have been a familiar sight to Henry VIII. Can Nicholas coax them to return to Hampton Court Palace?

Season 2, Episode 3

Photograph of Standing with Giants installation at Hampton Court Palace in the East Front Gardens, depicting artwork featuring silhouettes of two World War soldiers. A wreath of poppies is positioned between them.

It’s November at Hampton Court and the staff are preparing for the biggest Remembrance Day commemoration at the palace in generations. Hampton Court Palace has had a long association with the armed forces over the centuries – the first barracks were built here in 1689 - and this year 125 silhouettes of soldiers are being installed in the gardens to remember those who gave their lives in battle. As well as British soldiers, there are also silhouettes of Sikh troops, in recognition of the Indian soldiers that were stationed at Hampton Court in 1919. Curator Misha Ewen explores the palace archives in search of photographs of these Indian soldiers to find out more about this little-known event in history.

Meanwhile cheeky George the foal, one of the newest recruits to Hampton Court’s herd of rare breed Shire horses, is put through his paces. He’s still very much a teenager in Shire horse years, so how will he take to this new training?

The tapestries at Hampton Court are the palace’s most valuable treasures – part of the Royal Collection, these extraordinary feats of workmanship were commissioned by Henry VIII, and are second in value only to the Crown Jewels. These ancient textiles need to be cleaned and maintained regularly to protect them from the conservators’ greatest terror; the common clothes moth, whose larvae can wreak devastation on priceless fabrics.

In the palace kitchens, Richard Fitch, an expert on historic food recipes, is trying out recipes from the Tudor period, including one of Henry VIII’s favourite dishes; eggs in moonshine (egg yolks boiled in rosewater) and reveals that Tudor food is a pretty acquired taste.

On Remembrance Sunday the chaplain of the Chapel Royal, Father Anthony Howe, prepares for the service. He reflects on Hampton Court Palace’s role in wars over the centuries - a young Winston Churchill was posted here. Out in the grounds amongst the silhouettes of the fallen soldiers, Martin, one of the gardeners at Hampton Court, honours the bravery of his own grandfather, who fought in the Battle of the Somme.

Watch Season 1 and 2 on My5

All episodes available on Channel 5.

Season 1, Episode

In this episode, we meet the team who keep Hampton Court Palace running in the present day - Palace Host Kitty shows us some of the palace’s extraordinary highlights such as the Great Hall where Henry VIII danced with his second wife Anne Boleyn. A mile away at the stables, head coachman Ed prepares his team of rare breed Shire horses including their very own new shire foal George. Once the palace doors are open, Palace Host James shows visitors the last remaining evidence of Henry’s passion for Anne Boleyn in the Great Hall- intertwined initials carved into the panelling, which Henry insisted should be removed after he fell out of love with her.

Historic Royal Palaces Chief Curator Tracy Borman follows the story of Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour, and goes behind the scenes to discover the suite of rooms he had built for her at the palace. Today the enormous stone fireplace is the only hint of the luxurious space where Jane gave birth to Henry’s desperately wanted heir, Edward. But Henry’s joy wasn’t to last as Jane tragically fell ill after Edward’s christening and died.

Out in the palace gardens, Russell the Wildlife Officer checks on the Royal deer herd originally established by Henry VIII. Head coachman Ed gets to know young George, the first Shire horse foal to be born at Hampton Court in a generation.

Season 1, Episode 2

In episode two, it’s time for Hampton Court’s world famous hedge Maze to get a haircut, carried out by gardener Deputy Head of Gardens, Graham Dillamore and his team. It’s a process that takes three weeks, even with modern tools.

Chief Curator Tracy Borman visits the chaplain of Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal, Father Anthony. He’s discovered an incredible treasure on eBay – a prayer book that could have been used in Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal by Elizabeth I’s priest. Tracy also follows the tragic story of Henry VIII’s unluckiest wife, the teenage Catherine Howard who moved into the palace after a whirlwind marriage. Henry was forced to confront the fact his young wife was alleged to have been having affairs. Catherine was placed under house arrest at Hampton Court and interrogated before being sent to the Tower of London to be executed.

Palace Host Errol explores the creepiest part of the palace – the Haunted Gallery – where people have seen the ghost of Catherine Howard running down the corridor, screaming and pleading for her life.

Out in the stables Head Coachman Ed gives new Shire horse foal George his first hoof trim, to prepare him for joining the team of rare breed Shires at Hampton Court.

Join as a member

Now's the perfect time to become a member of Historic Royal Palaces.


  • Things to see

Great Hall

Experience the splendour of the Tudor court in Henry VIII's Great Hall, complete with his magnificent tapestries.

  • Open
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Things to see

The Chapel Royal

Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens and see Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours, in the Chapel Royal.

  • Open Wednesday - Saturday
  • 10:00 - 16:00
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Things to see

Hampton Court Gardens

Take time to explore and relax in these world-renowned gardens and find our free entry Garden Open Days dates.

  • Open in line with palace opening hours.
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more


Henry VIII, Terrible Tudor?

Who was the real Henry VIII?

The story of Hampton Court Palace

Home of Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty

The gardens at Hampton Court Palace

A brief history of the famous royal gardens

Shop online

Shop Hampton Court Palace Gifts

Our gifts and souvenirs are are inspired by over 500 years of history from Hampton Court Palace.

From £2.50

Shop Tudor gifts

Browse through our Tudor Collection to find a whole range of products based on the Tudors.

From £3.00

Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman

Discover the world of Elizabeth I with this insightful look at Elizabeth's relationship with woman and how they helped to shape her into a remarkable monarch. This thrilling book explores the lesser known side of Elizabeth I who is often portrayed as a ruthless 'man's woman'.