May 22, 2008

Hampton Court

Yesterday, being Wednesday, was our trip to Hampton Court. The way our professors were talking, we thought we would be there for a couple hours, but we ended up spending the whole day and were even late for dinner!

Hampton Court was built during the reign of Henry VII by Cardinal Wolesy (who fell from the King's favor when he told Henry he couldn't have a divorce). Wolesy told Henry that it was fit for a king, and therefore Henry took it over. We started our audio tour in the Great Hall, which I had always pictured as being bigger, but it wasn't that large at all. There were tapestries on the walls that Henry had bought to show off his money; they were made with real gold and silver thread. IT was hard to tell that fact, because they had become very faded over the years (as compared to the tapestries in the private rooms which were still bright and colorful). We went through all of Henry's rooms, in the Tudor part of the house, ending with the "haunted" passageway. When Henry accused his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, of adultery, the guards came to take her to the Tower of London to be executed. In that passageway it's said that she broke away from the guards and ran down it, begging her husband for mercy. She was eventually executed for treason, but her ghost is said to haunt the hallway. They have a video of it on Youtube, I believe, if you'd like to see her ghost. The ghost of Jane Seymour, who died giving birth to Henry's only son, is also said to haunt the the palace.

The house is built in several different parts. When Willliam and Mary of Orange became the King and Queen after Charles I, they liked Hampton Court so much that they wanted to add to it. So the front is Tudor and part was built by Christopher Wren (who designed St. Paul's Cathedral), and part if Georgian. In on of William's bedrooms (which had beds but weren't used so much as bedrooms as they were for meetings with the highs and mightys) there is a picture of Venus. It seems that she is looking toward the bed when you first walk in the room, but as you move across the room, she "follows" you and by the time you reach the opposite door, she is staring at the fireplace which is opposite the bed. That was pretty darn cool!

The last thing we saw inside the house was the kitchens. Did you know that geese were considered fish? I don't remember the reason, but I thought it was pretty odd. Our director's wife saw us as we were exploring the kitchens, and she told us that she thought cooking for 50 was bad, until she learned that the cooks at Hampton Court regularly cooked for 600 or more! And without the modern conveniences that she enjoys! Craziness.

After the house we went out into the gardens. The is a maze about a third of an acre in area, which is the only remaining part of the garden from William of Orange's time. The object is to get to the centre and back out again. It was a lot of fun, and we did make it to the center! We got stickers on the way out--hooray! We spent a lot of time in the rose garden as well, but then we saw that time and had to head home.

I'm still loving it in London, and I hope that everyone is having a great time back at home. Remember, if you want pictures, ask Mom.

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