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As we turn to leave the river below bridge a glance must be directed to Greenwich, which at this period is so often mentioned both by Evelyn and Pepys, though neither has much to say about the old palace on the banks of the river.

Even the Queen's House, a more recent fabric than the ancient structure, and then belonging to Henrietta Maria, the Queen Dowager, does not seem to have been occupied by her. It still stands.

The fondness which the various Kings and Queens who have ruled this little island set in the silver sea had for the banks of the Thames is very remarkable.

They had palaces at Greenwich (or Placentia), the Tower, Bridewell, Whitehall, Westminster, Chelsea, Kew, Richmond (or Sheen), Hampton Court, Oatlands, and last, but not least, at Windsor, and whatever attraction these various palaces possessed, one of them must undoubtedly have been their propinquity to this lovely river and its quiet Arcadian beauty.

One of the most favoured palaces was Greenwich, from the time of Edward I. to that of Charles II. Facing the river, it had a terrace in front looking out over the stately vessels passing to and from the port of London.

At the rear of the palace was a splendid park stretching up the sides of a fairly steep hill, which showcased a beautiful view of the windings of the river and the wide stretch of the Essex marshes, reaching to the low, wooded hills of Epping.

Henry IV. dates his will from the palace in 1408. Henry V. granted it first to Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, who died there in 1417; and soon after to Humphry, Duke of Gloucester, who extended both the building and park, and called it "Placentia," or "my manor of Pleasaunce."

It must have been rightly named. He built also a high tower to command a more extensive view on the site of what is now the observatory. After his death in 1447 it again reverted to the crown.

Edward IV. stayed there very often here, and settled it on his queen, Elizabeth of York; he made extensive alterations and additions to the original structure, and here the marriage of Richard, Duke of York, and Anne Mowbray was celebrated with great splendour.

Henry VII. stayed there very often, and it was in this palace that his second son, afterwards Henry VIII., and Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset, were both born.

It was Henry VIII. who altered the river front, rebuilding it in red brick with towers and quaint oriels and gables. During his reign, Greenwich was frequently the abode of the Court, and the scene of numerous pageants and State ceremonies, when the river must have been alive with state barges and boats.

It was here he married Catherine of Arragon in 1510. Queen Mary was born here in 1515, and in the same year his sister, the Queen Dowager of France, was married here to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Anne Boleyn came from Greenwich with a grand state procession of barges to London on her way to her coronation at Westminster.

Queen Elizabeth I was born here, September 7th, 1533, and that little shadow of a king, Edward VI., died here. During the long reign of Elizabeth, it was the constant scene of Court revels, masquerades, and joustings.

Hentzner, a German traveller in 1598, gives a vivid description of Queen Elizabeth's Court at Greenwich, citing the extraordinary state and magnificence with which she surrounded herself and describing the Queen's dress and wonderful jewels, the red wig and the black teeth.

She was last here in 1600, and her successor, James I., was here in 1605. He settled the palace for life on Anne of Denmark, who started the building afterwards finished by Henrietta Maria, and called the Queen's House.

During the Commonwealth Greenwhich Palace was first settled by the House of Commons on the Lord Protector, but there being no money for repairs, in the following year it was ordered by the House that Greenwich House with its park and lands should be sold for ready money. Only some portions, however, of the land were sold, and another attempt was made to settle it on Cromwell.

At the Restoration Henry, Earl of St. Albans, was made Keeper; but in the meanwhile the old palace had gone from bad to worse, and was so decayed that Charles II. ordered its destruction, intending to build a new palace on the site. One wing of this was built, but nothing further was done in the matter either during the rest of his reign, or that of his brother James II.

In the reign of William and Mary it was decided to turn this unfinished wing of Charles's palace into a hospital for sick and disabled seamen, and a public subscription was opened, but this only realised £8000.

Sir Christopher Wren contributed his time, labour, and skill, and the building as it stands may truly be attributed to him; for Hawksmoor and others who continued it only carried out his first idea. The scheme was a magnificent one, and was supposed, so far as the hospital was concerned, to have originated with Mary.

The altered conditions of living and many other circumstances make one rather fear for the future of it. A utilitarian age finds other ways of employing charitable funds, and both Greenwich and Chelsea are voted "out of date".

But when one travels up the river and catches sight of the domes and porticoes of Wren's superb building glistening in the sunlight, with the wooded hill at its back, one can but cherish a hope that there it may remain.

Next page: Old Chelsea Hospital