You are at the top of the page

Skip to content or footer

Start of main content

The Tudor World in the Wolsey Rooms

Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times

Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times

Discover the oldest rooms at Hampton Court Palace and meet the ordinary men and women who enabled the Tudor court to exist and flourish.

The Wolsey Rooms were originally built for Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII's chief minister, when he owned Hampton Court in the 1520s. Explore his world and the events of the early years of Henry VIII’s reign.

This remarkable story of an ambitious royal dynasty is told through rare and important 16th-century artworks and historic objects, as well as interactive displays. Find out about the achievements of the Tudors, and the impact of their rule in an age of great change. In the tumultuous 16th century, English people had to adapt to survive, while European exploration – and exploitation – of the wider world affected lives everywhere.

Header image: The Field of Cloth of Gold, c1545. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024

When

Opens 13 July 2024

In line with palace opening hours

Where

Ground floor: Interactive displays, digital artworks and tactile objects. First floor: artworks and historic objects, via a spiral staircase.


Ticketing Information

Preview day (Members only): 11 July 2024


Included in palace admission (members go free)

Buy tickets to Hampton Court Palace

Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon and Thomas Wolsey

See portraits of the three people who defined early Tudor history. In 1509, Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon – the daughter of one of Europe’s most powerful families – united England with Spain. Along with Thomas Wolsey, Henry’s Lord Chancellor, they planned to place England at the heart of European politics through victories won on the battlefield, and the creation of a new Tudor dynasty.

An illustration of a man wearing a red cloak and hat over a white shift, depicted on a wooden panel

Image: Thomas Wolsey, c1840-5. © Historic Royal Palaces

Tudor History Paintings

Highlights of The Tudor World include three astonishing paintings that tell the story of Henry VIII and Thomas Wolsey’s European adventures. But these are not just stories of kings. The Battle of the Spurs records Henry’s victory against French armies in 1513, while also depicting the fatal violence of war - for the soldiers and ordinary people crushed by Henry’s political ambition.

Contrasting with this scene of terror, The Embarkation at Dover and The Field of Cloth of Gold depict the spectacular celebrations hosted by Henry and Francis I, King of France in 1520. Perhaps there are also portraits here of the thousands of craftspeople and labourers who toiled tirelessly to build and furnish Henry’s magnificent temporary palace, erected for the occasion. And of the artists, musicians and cooks who spared no expense to prove the English court could rival the French.

Portraits of Power

Other important paintings on display in The Tudor World are portraits of powerful 16th-century rulers – rivals of the Tudor dynasty. Within Europe, France and Spain battled for supremacy, while the Ottoman Empire expanded west from Asia.

Hürrem, also called 'La Rossa' (because of her red hair), was an enslaved European woman sold to Suleiman, the Ottoman Sultan. She defied the odds and not only gained her freedom, but became the official wife of Suleiman, and an influential force in Ottoman politics when the Empire was at the height of its power.

Portrait inscribed "Rossa Femme De Soliman Empereur Des Turcs" depicting a woman wearing an elaborate headdress. She wears a jewelled crown surmounted with white linen, which hangs down her back. A peacock feather adorns the front. Her rich red dress covered with a white linen stomacher and blue bodice have gold-jewelled facings with a ruby brooch at her breast.

Image: 'Rossa', 17th century. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024

A work of art depicting a pope sprawled on the ground, flanked by two female figures who are labelled ‘Avara’ (avarice) and ‘Ypocrysis’ (hypocrisy). The figures on the ground are being stoned by the four evangelists, each with halos, who are labelled (left to right) ‘Ioannes’, ‘Mathevs’, ‘Lvcas’ and ‘M[a-r]cvs’. On the ground in front of the figures are a cardinal’s hat and a document with four seals (presumably a Papal Bull).

Image: A Protestant Allegory, by Girolamo da Treviso, c1538-44. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024 

Stoning the Pope

In England, Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church to secure a new marriage with Anne Boleyn. Henry set himself up as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, and granted himself a divorce from Katherine. On display in The Tudor World is a painting that Henry himself commissioned, showing the Four Evangelists, authors of the Christian New Testament, crushing the ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘avarice’ of the Pope.

Tudor Treasures – Great and Small

The Tudor World showcases a rotating display of objects from Historic Royal Palaces’ collections, relating to the lives of the ordinary men and women who kept Hampton Court Palace going during the Tudor age.

There is also the chance to see some rare and wonderful treasures from other collections, telling a wider story of the impact of Henry VIII and his heirs on Tudor England. Henry's reforms had an enormous influence on the lives of ordinary people across England. For a century, religious divisions caused social uncertainty and persecution. Some were able to adapt or even to take advantage of conflict and change. Others suffered or died for their faith and beliefs.

A fragment of an armorial green-glaze stove tile decorated with a lion holding a horn of plenty.

Stove Tile, from Henry VIII’s bathroom at Whitehall Palace, c1530-40. © Historic Royal Palaces

A portrait of a woman. The longhaired figure wears pearls attached to her wrist and a pendant with a miniature around her neck.

Image: Tudor Woman in a Persian Dress, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, c1590-1600. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024

The Impact of Globalisation

The Tudor World also explores the wider context of the 16th century. This was an age of discovery, of new cultural encounters and shared knowledge in science, art and fashion. Europeans left their homes in search of trade and treasure, but voyages of curiosity and exploration easily led to conflict and exploitation. Rich Europeans could enjoy exotic foods and wear luxury fabrics from around the globe, but their fine clothes and jewellery were made from natural resources often plundered from Africa and the Americas.

Accessing the Tudor World Displays

Ground Floor

The Tudor World includes an accessible, step-free ground floor display including hands-on interactives, replica Tudor artefacts, and digital projections unlocking the secrets of Tudor history paintings, as well as further historic objects from Historic Royal Palaces’ own collections. Some of these displays include sound effects, smell interactives and interpretative films.

First Floor

Whilst we strive to make Hampton Court accessible to all visitors, due to the constraints of the palace, there is limited access to the first floor via a spiral staircase. Lift access is available up four steep steps.

Plan Your Visit

Explore The Tudor World

Opens 13 July 2024

The Tudor World is included in your ticket to Hampton Court Palace.

EXPLORE WHAT'S ON

  • Families
  • Events

Henry VIII's Joust

Experience the thrill of the Tudor joust as the country's greatest knights battling it out at Hampton Court Palace.

  • 13-14 and 20-21 July 2024
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • 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

Henry VIII's Kitchens

Transport yourself back to the heyday of Tudor feasting and entertainment in Henry VIII's Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.

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

BROWSE MORE HISTORY AND STORIES

Henry VIII, Terrible Tudor?

Who was the real Henry VIII?

Katherine of Aragon

Katherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII. In her eyes, she was his only Queen.

Elizabeth I

From Tower prisoner to English Queen

Shop online

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'.

£16.99

Henry VIII gauntlet armour oven glove

This fun oven glove has been inspired by a suit of armour made for Henry VIII in 1540, which is on display at the Tower of London.

£18.00