Welcome to our Hampton Court history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.
"Why come ye not to court ? - To whyche court? To the Kyng's courte, Or to Hampton Court?" - From Skelton's satire on Wolsey.
Hampton Court, on the Thames above Kingston, was built in 1515-20 by Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York and Chancellor (i.e., chief secretary) to Henry VIII.
At this time Wolsey was a leading figure in European politics and at Hampton Court he maintained an establishment rivalling that of the King himself.
To propitiate his Royal master, whose favour he was then losing, Wolsey in 1525 presented Hampton Court to the King, who took possession on the disgrace of his minister and made various alterations, including a new Great Hall and a new chapel.
Thenceforward Hampton Court was a favourite residence of the English sovereigns until the death of George II in 1760, since when it has ceased to be occupied by the Crown.
During the Commonwealth the palace was occupied by Cromwell, a circumstance that preserved it from demolition with the other Royal residences that were pulled down at this period.
For William III and Queen Mary, who had a great liking for Hampton Court, Wren dismantled certain of Wolsey's Tudor structures and erected on their site a great new block of buildings in the Renaissance style of architecture.
Many of the suites of apartments are now tenanted by people distinguished in the service of the State, or by their widows or other relations. The State Apartments and the gardens were first thrown open to the public by Queen Victoria (ever prominent in good works of this sort) in the early years of her reign.
There are two entrances to the palace, one from Hampton Court Green on the west, by the Trophy Gate, the other on the north, by the Lion Gate, which faces the Chestnut Avenue of Bushey Park. This avenue was formed by Wren as a grand approach to a proposed new quadrangle. The former entry presents the buildings in their most pleasing aspect.
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