Hampton Court - Jewel in South London Crown

If you are ever on a boring business conference in South London, make sure you finish early and make time to visit Hampton Court. The royal palace sits at the side of the river Thames and is host to the famous flower show held in July.
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Jan. 31, 2012 - PRLog -- If you find yourself conferencing in south London, are at a wedding or something else, why not extend your time there and take a trip to Hampton Court Palace, one of the residences of Henry VIII.

It’s a great day out and one that will give you an excellent insight into how the Royal Tudor court lived.  But first, here’s a little bit of history about the palace itself. Did you know that the first buildings at the palace belonged to a religious order founded in the 11th century called the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem?

They “acquired” the manor of Hampton in 1236 and used it as a centre for their agricultural estates – produce was stored here and this is where the accounts were kept.

But it was Cardinal Wolsey who was the first to leave his mark on Hampton Court. It was he who transformed what was then a grand private house into a Bishop’s palace. It was a time when he was on the rise in the Tudor court. As well as adding private chambers for himself he added three more suites for the Royal family of King Henry VIII, his wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon and their daughter Princess Mary.

But it was after failing to please King Henry, by not endorsing his scandalous relationship with Anne Boleyn and therefore not helping him achieve a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, that was Wolsey’s downfall. He lost Hampton Court Palace to the King, plus his other home at York Palace.

Today, there are no monarchs that live there but it is still an impressive place to visit. The grounds are beautifully kept and within them is the oldest surviving “real tennis” court. Tennis was played here by King Henry from as early as 1528.

As a young handsome man he was passionately addicted to sport, particularly tennis. The story goes that he was playing tennis at Hampton Court Palace when he heard that Queen Anne Boleyn had been executed.

The court here at Hampton is the oldest one in the world where tennis is still played and the only one open to the public in Great Britain.

If you decide to visit you can take a walk around Henry’s Great Hall, adorned with magnificent tapestries that extend floor to ceiling – these tapestries are known as the Story of Abraham. Tapestries were a highly valued art form in the 16th century and by the time Henry died he had amassed 2,000 of them.

The Abraham tapestries were a series of ten that he commissioned in 1587 at a cost of £2,000 – the same price for two battleships. He commissioned them to commemorate the birth of his son, Edward, with third wife Jane Seymour. They were embroidered with furlongs of gold and silver thread and would have been brightly coloured to even contemporary eyes today.

By 1649 these tapestries had quadrupled in value to £8,260, according to an inventory prepared for Oliver Cromwell on the death of Charles I. They are not to be missed on a tour of the palace, so once you have escaped from the confines of conferencing in south London, this beautiful, opulent and history sites is a must for visiting.

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