This former royal residence is a magnificent display of the extravagance and opulence of the royal court – particularly under King Henry VIII. The young children all eagerly donned Tudor gowns and we firstly wandered through the royal kitchens. This took some time as the kitchens consist of over 50 rooms and three cellars, and were often preparing over 600 meals per day back in the 16th Century, going through 1240 oxen, 8200 sheep, 2330 deer, 760 calves, 1870 pigs and 53 wild boar in a single year! That sure is meat-lover’s heaven! The kitchens were matched by an even more impressive banqueting hall which could seat 300 at a time. When you are the guest of the King, the amount of meat you ate was the measure of the kingdom’s might! Today at Hampton Court they had a “live day” in the kitchens and we were able to talk with the staff, who shared numerous interesting insights into the workings of the kitchens, Tudor pie recipes, how to use a quill pen and the importance of the potato in helping industrialise England (one particularly enthusiastic historian clearly got a bit chronologically sidetracked sharing information!)
Back in the day, the way to impress your guests was of course to build a lavish palace with a large, sprawling entrance courtyard; pair it with an equally large and impressive entry stairwell … and match it by hanging a clock off the palace walls. Not just any clock, but a LARGE clock! Hampton Court Palace has it all. Oh, and throw in a well-manicured sprawling estate, with its own maze, tennis court and lake…
We certainly have learned a ton of English history in the last week. As GrandpaBear commented today, “I have learned more English history in the last week than in all my years at school.” Visiting the place “where it all happened” is a great way to interact with history. Talking with passionate historians is both educational and inspirational. As is watching costumed roleplays, which have been carefully scripted to inform as well as entertain. Seeing people wearing costumes, which previously had been nothing more than frilly pictures in books, really brings the time alive. However, impressive as Hampton Court was, it just confirmed what a ratbag Henry VIII actually was (as if the tower of Tower of London visit hadn’t done that already ).
One day wasn’t really enough to take it all in, but that sums up our week in London. So much to do, so little time! We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the capital, but we are really looking forward to a quiet week on the canal boat motoring along the Thames. One day, we may need to come back to London again!
Tags: 2012, postcard: England