English Literature student at Kingston University and general layabout
Published September 5th 2013
It's a bit like watching Renaissance Cribs
You know what? I'm sick of modern people. All just floating along through life, too focused on their Ipads or their Walkmans to see what's really important about life. Like beheading your wife because she fails to give you an heir, or having to go out breaking up your furniture because you just don't have enough wood to burn all these Catholics clogging up your neighbourhood. Yeah, the Tudors really did know what was what. I mean, if the Spaniards tried to take Gibraltar off Queen Elizabeth I, she would have had 30 galleons up the Manzanares before you could say 'Artificial Reef' in an offensive Spanish accent. And where better to celebrate our unwarranted nationalist fervour than in our Latino bashing ancestors greatest palace, Hampton Court.
Hampton Court Palace was built in 1514 by King Henry VIII for Cardinal Woolsey, but was passed back to the King when, wait, if you want to hear historical detail you can go visit the Palace yourself. Or go read Wikipedia like I did, since its cheaper and you can do so in your underpants whilst dipping Pringles into hummus without fear of judgement. However, whilst you may have to sacrifice that great, simple pleasure derived from eating without clothes, actually going to the Palace gives you something that words written by an unemployed history student with too much time on their hands cannot: perspective. Once actually in Hampton Court, as you find when visiting any historical site, everything gets put into a scale and scope you can register, and it brings you closer into understanding just how life felt for the people that once existed there.
Hampton Court Palace also stands as Britain's only charity for out of work actors by providing them with careers in much the same way as the Big Issue does for the homeless. One cannot feel that the owners are overly cruel to these destitute Thespians though, in dressing them up as historical figures and pretend to own all the luxury surrounding them that a career of appearing as extras in ITV period dramas and BBC history documentaries will fail to provide them. They do a fantastic job though, hamming up their roles to an enjoyable degree whilst never quite being too amusing as to detract from the interesting representation of Tudor courtly life, the poor man's Brian Blessed cast as King Henry VIII springs to mind as one of the best.
The Palace itself is a huge part of the appeal, being a magnificent building that amazes as you approach it, being adorned in the splendour that you can only achieve through the toil of thousands of peasants being forced to work their fingers to whatever their calcium deficient bodies have instead of bones. Architectural fans (you know, those people that can watch an episode of Grand Designs and not get the urge to head to Waitrose and lace the organic chicken with Antifreeze) with truly get a thrill from observing the myriad styles in the Palace, caused by its many extensions and redevelopments over the centuries. Inside is where you can truly immerse yourself in the history of the place, with nearly every room holding some item of historical worth or having had an event of some significance take place there.
Hampton Court Palace's grounds are another feature of the site, with the gardens being vast and beautiful, and it is easy to spend an hour just getting wandering the grounds. There is also a maze featured there. Be warned though, once you find the centre of the maze after half an hours searching, you are meant to then find your way back to the start and not just sneak out the disabled exit located conveniently next to there. That would make you a bad person and it is wrong; it's also easy and it saves you wandering through the whole bloody thing again. There are also horse drawn carriage rides around the buildings featuring that same jokey Cockney tour guide that seems to work at every London attraction, or is that just the drugs giving me paranoia again?
Price-wise, it is rather expensive, costing £17.60 for adults, although a little less if you order tickets online or if you are a student, pensioner etc. This is still less than many London historical sites (I'm looking at you Tower of London, you're why I can only afford to drink Frosty Jacks you expensive bastard!) and it really is a good experience. I mean, who doesn't love Tudors? Except Catholics, and Spaniards, and the French, and the Scots, and the Dutch, and people that love animals, and people against domestic abuse, and people that really like having their heads, and people that have to squeeze the aforementioned heads onto pikes.