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Friday March 23, 2012

Henry VIII and Hampton Court

Some colleagues came over from the US and at the end of the week, we went out to be tourists for the day at Hampton Court (always popular with Americans). Here is Lee, obligingly pretending to be a tourist for me in the Great Hall.


We began our tour with the kitchens which were very interesting given the audio guide narration by the experimental food archaeologists. These ovens - a variation on a modern barbecue - are considered by them to be a more versatile and superior method of cooking than those used today.


You can see Lee listening with rapt attention while warming himself by the spit roasting fireplace (it was chilly out of the sunshine).


From here we progressed to an exhibition of Henry's early days on the throne, and then on to his apartments. This is a view of the frieze in the Great Hall, showing the motifs of the Tudor Rose, the French Fleur-de-Lis, and Henry's Coat of Arms, which incorporated the English lions with the fleurs-de-lis - emphasising the English claim to the French throne. This claim illustrated in the arms from the 1300s was only finally relinquished, and thus dropped from the Coat of Arms, in 1801 during the reign of George III, (some good few centuries after we seriously held any territories in France I think!).


We were actually lucky enough to run into His Majesty, Henry, in the courtyard, where we found him exhorting his (younger) subjects not to forget their weekly archery practice on the village green. There were a lot of period actors around - amusing and educational for the school parties (and us!) - plus opportunities to dress up if you chose to do so.

The weather has been wonderful, and I was so pleased it continued thus - last time my friend Lee was here, I subjected him to a challenging tour of the Thames Embankment in a really bitter wind, and by the time we got to the Millennium Bridge he was begging to find a cafe to get warm.
Despite the glorious sunshine, and an amusing excursion through the maze, ("Christina, what is the point of a maze...?"), I failed to take any photos outside, but was a bit obsessed with the ceilings.
Here is the amazing hammer-beam roof in the Great Hall....


...and here a couple of views of the beautiful gold-leafed ceiling in the Great Watching Chamber (or Guard Room, where people would wait for an audience with the King. The ceiling incorporates the badges and coats of arms of Henry and Jane Seymour (third and favourite wife who died 2 weeks after giving birth to the longed-for male heir).


The intricate ribs and pendants are of oak. In the centres of the compartments are oaken wreaths bound by ribbons, enclosing arms and Tudor badges, including the white Yorkish rose within the Lancastrian red rose, Henry VIII's hawthorn bush, Jane Seymour's phoenix rising from the flames, and her castle with rose bush and phoenix, fleur-de-lis, the arms of France and England quarterly, all in their proper colours and gilt. These ornaments are carried out in a form of gesso, apparently a kind of papier mache, pressed into moulds.


The only thing I felt we missed seeing was the Real Tennis Court, which was closed for the day.

Posted by Christina at 6:15 PM. Category: Days Out