The glorious ‘pleasure palace’ at Hampton Court was a safe haven for Henry VIII, a glorious space where he could play tennis, joust or hunt. And Henry wouldn’t even have secured this location in the first place, if it wasn’t for his desperate search for a Queen who could give him a male heir.
Why come you not to Court ?
To which court ?
To the king’s court ?
Or to Hampton Court ?
Nay, to the king’s court !
The king’s court
Should have the excellence
But Hampton Court
Hath the pre-eminence !
The estate initially belonged to Thomas Wolsey, Henry’s close friend, adviser, and the Archbishop of York at that time. At this time, he was quickly rising in the ranks and was well on track to becoming a cardinal as well as Lord Chancellor of England. In Wolsey’s hands, the palace was a space which often hosted many different members of royalty, including Henry VIII himself.
Making the place his own, Wolsey transformed the house into a grand palace fit for a bishop, along with private chambers for himself and separate suites for the royalty of the time. The palace was well suited to such royal visits, even hosting a number of major European delegations in the 1520s. These were occasions designed to show off the host’s style and wealth in both décor and food, but these eventually came to an end. In the late 1520s, when Henry was refused a divorce by the Pope, Henry blamed Wolsey. Furious at his Archbishop for failing to secure his divorce, Henry removed Wolsey’s title and forced him to give him Hampton Court Palace.
Having secured the palace, Henry began to execute his own plans for the palace. Hampton Court quickly became one of the most sophisticated and stylish palaces in the country, boasting bowling alleys, a hunting park of more than 1,100 acres, an expansive kitchen, a grand chapel, pleasure gardens and tennis courts. The palace became a medium through which Henry could show off his power and abundance, a reminder to everyone who visited of the King’s magnificence. A key point of this reminder was, of course, the dining.
One of the most important events hosted at Hampton Court occurred on the 15th of October 1537: The christening of Edward VI. This is an event which will be covered later in the blog.