Continued from : London – Part 1
The medieval parts of London were a must-see for my UK itinerary, as I have grown up reading various history and fantasy books inspired by England. There are many palaces and royal residences in London built in various times, and I decided to go for one of the oldest – Hampton Court Palace. For an insight into royal life in the Tudor Era (late medieval period), I highly recommend Hampton Court Palace. This was the residence of Henry VIII and a lot of events of his tumultuous life took place here.
The building of the palace began in 1500s for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the chief minister of Henry VIII. As Wolsey fell from favour, the cardinal gave the palace to the king to check his disgrace. The palace then went on to become one of Henry’s most favoured residences.
The Great Hall was the most important part of the palace. The style of ceiling is called a hammer-beam. Rather than having a continuous wall-to-wall horizontal beam, partial beams are layered over each other, supported by curved braces, which shifts the weight of the roof over the walls.
The walls were marked with animal heads, as hunting was an important marker of medieval royalty. In addition, there were stained glass windows and intricate tapestries lining the walls. The hall was used for banquets, receptions, masques and balls. The king sat on the high table at one end, and observed the courtiers and the entertainment while dining.
There were various portraits in other rooms of the residence, including those of Henry VIII and his heirs Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I.
During my visit, we were entertained by some mock-jesters who dressed in and enacted out historic comedies for our entertainment as well.
Tudor Food & Wine
My favourite part of the palace was the Tudor kitchen. It was extremely informative on foods and cooking practices of the period.
Since dishes had to be on time, the meats were pre-cooked by boiling them in a designated meat-boiling vat of enormous size and following this, they would be roasted on giant skewers. Cooks were instructed to be frugal, and anyone carelessly throwing away trimmings or stealing them would’ve been severely punished.
Fresh herbs that were arranged inside for visitors to see and many placards were lined, with dinner menus and recipes. Henry VIII also had wine-cellars in the palace, such large quantities of wine – at this period in history – being a rare and imported delicacy in Northern Europe.
The cafeteria for visitors is setup in the former private dining rooms of Elizabeth I. I decided to get the chicken pie, which was delicious, and I noted the following recipe on the walls.
To make Succade (a preserve or sweetmeat) of peels of oranges and and limmons. First take your peels by quarters, and steep them in water, as so do againe, till the water have no bitterness, now prepare a Syrop, place them in a glasse or pot.
Around 1700s, King William III began his massive expansion work, which was intended to rival the Palace of Versailles. His work left the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque.
I spent most of my time in the Tudor half, although the Baroque period had intricate murals on the ceilings, and a more Romanesque influence from continental Europe. There were also many tranquil courtyards and vast gardens outside, which I decided to skip in lieu of time.
Right opposite Hampton Court is the town of Kingston-upon-Thames. Although today, a small town in the London area, it is an ancient market town (going back to 800s) where early Saxon kings of England held their coronations in 900s. The ancient market still continues today at the same place in the town square, and walking around the streets, its history was easy to appreciate.
Kingston-upon-Thames was a wonderful way to end the visit to Hampton Court. The palace, the grounds and the town transported me to another era, and I could appreciate the times that inspired works like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.