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Historic Hampton Court and the Royal Richmond Park

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Hampton Court Palace and the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Kew are within an easy drive of each other along the Thames in West London. 

Construction of Hampton Court Palace was begun in 1514 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey before being gifted to King Henry VIII and his then queen Anne Boleyn in 1529.

With St James’s Palace, it is one of only two of over 60 grand houses and palaces owned by the King that remain standing.

www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace

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On arriving at Hampton Court, we are ushered to the Great Hall where one of the Palace team was about to giving a short talk on Ann Boleyn.

Gazing up at the magnificent carved hammerbeam roof covering the Great Hall, I am looking at what Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn would have seen when it was completed in 1535.

The Palace had been handed over to Henry, in 1529, by Cardinal Wolsey.

It was a, hoped for, peace offering by Woolsey after relations between the two had soured.

Though little good it did him.

Wolsey was stripped of his great status and wealth by the King and he headed to York to be out of harm’s way.

Not so. Woolsey was charged with treason but died travelling back to London where he would have faced certain death.

And while Hampton Court Palace is more usually associated with Henry VIII, it was hearing a recounting of Anne Boleyn’s life and times that proved most interesting.

Anne was a real tour de force of a woman in the male dominated Tudor court.

King Henry became an ardent admirer, but she refused to lose her standing at court by becoming his mistress. If the King wanted her, it was marriage or nothing, though Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon.

Henry looked to his Cardinal, Wolsey, to get the wedding annulled so he could marry Anne.

Wolsey failed to secure the annulment and Anne was closely involved in plotting his downfall.

With Woolsey out of the way, the King’s newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void.

The King married Anne but, as our school day history taught us, this did not end well for her.

The second of Henry’s six wives failed to give Henry the son and heir he craved, and she had to go.

Anne was accused of high treason, on largely trumped-up grounds, tried and found guilty and beheaded in the Tower of London in May 1533.

She was aged between 28 and 35 years old and disgraced.

Elizabeth, Anne’s daughter with Henry would become England’s Queen and, in addition to outshining her father’s reign, she also restored Anne’s reputation at court.

While part of the original Tudor Hampton Court survives, there is much more to Hampton Court Palace.

Visitors can also admire late 17th Century Baroque style rebuilding and expansion of the Palace that was undertaken by King William III and Queen Mary.

William hoped to create a Palace to rival Versailles but did not live long enough to complete this task.

That said, it was still a magnificent royal residence King George II was the last monarch to reside in the palace.

The gardens

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The Palace itself is surrounded on three sides by 60 acres of formal gardens and some 750 acres of parkland within a loop of the Thames.

The Hampton Court Palace maze is the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze.

It was commissioned around 1700 by William III, covers a third of an acre and is frustratingly effective at confusing those who enter it.

What’s on

Hampton Court Palace also stages a year-round programme of festivals and special events.

Highlights among these are its annual music and food festivals and the Festive Fayre in December.

www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/whats-on

The Historic Royal Palaces

Hampton Court Palace is managed by Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity that also looks after the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and the Banqueting House in Whitehall with Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in Northern Ireland.

www.hrp.org.uk

 

London’s largest Royal Park of special interest BCU-4

A morning or afternoon in Richmond Park will also reward those able to spend a little longer in this part of West London

Covering some 2,500 acres, it is the largest of the capital’s eight Royal Parks and resplendent in ancient trees and a range of rare species including fungi, birds, stag beetles, bats, grasses, and wildflowers.

The Park is also London’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It was first established in 1625, when Charles came, with his entourage to Richmond to escape an outbreak of the plague in London.BCU-6

While holding court there, he commandeered the area on the hill above Richmond into an area for hunting of Red and Fallow deer and today some 650 of these fine animals live in the park.

The landscape of Richmond Park today is largely determined by the deer herds that have roamed freely here for almost four centuries.BCU-5

The parks grassland habitat requires grazing with the trees all having a browse line as the deer eat all the leaves and twigs growing below about 1.5 metres.

Deer grazing also prevents tree seedlings from growing, keeping the grassland open.

During the autumn the deer ‘rut’ (breeding season) sees the Red stags and Fallow bucks competing for females (hinds and does respectively).

The large males roar, bark, and clash antlers, to fight off rivals and attract as many females as possible.

The young, born between May and July are hidden among the bracken and long grass by their mothers.

www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park

https://www.frp.org.uk/its-the-rutting-season-what-you-need-to-know/

The Royal Parks also look after Hyde Park, The Green Park, Greenwich Park, St James’s Park, Bushy Park, The Regent’s Park, Kensington Gardens.

www.royalparks.org

A place to stay

The Queen’s Head, Kingston-upon-ThamesBCU-7

Owned by Fuller’s, The Queen’s Head at Kingston-upon-Thames is well placed for Hampton Court, Kew, and Richmond Park.

It is also a very short walk to the Thames, which makes for pleasant riverbank strolling.

Our room at the Queen’s Head was all one would want in a pub  –  it was very comfortable with a full en-suite, tea, and coffee facilities and wi-fi.

The welcomeBCU-8

It is the welcome that sets it apart.

The best pubs have character with staff that make you feel like a local as soon as you arrive, and the hospitality at the Queen’s Head was as friendly as it was efficient.

Then there is the ‘pub grub’. Fuller’s place great emphasis on a quality menu that concentrates on seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally wherever possible.

The battered haddock with triple cooked chips and crushed minted peas and the Miso glazed tofu with an orange, pine nut, brown rice and sesame seed salad were two delicious dishes.

Had we been able to spend another night we agreed there would have been stiff competition between the Roast salmon and Chalcroft Farm beef burger or Prawn & crayfish Marie Rose and the Plant-based Club from the sandwich menu.

More information 

www.queensheadkingston.co.uk

www.fullers.co.uk/hotels

Shakespeare in the Garden

The other thing to look out for is Fuller’s annual Shakespeare In The Garden season through late-spring and summer.

The productions invariably have ‘comedy, romance and adventure’ with original songs to help customers follow the plot.

www.fullers.co.uk/shakespeare