England is famously a country with a lot of history. It has been populated for millennia, and as a European focal point for much of that time, has experienced the ebb and flow of powers and cultural epochs in a very observable way. Yesterday, as part of their ongoing historical and cultural education, ORA students from Balliol College travelled to Hampton Court Palace in London to see for themselves a structure that has reflected the changing face of British politics and taste for more than five hundred years.
In the modern day, Hampton Court Palace combines its vast architecture with gardens, an immense and varied collection of artwork, and –somewhat unexpectedly—the largest grape vine in the world. In the Palace, students toured its labyrinthine interior, shimmying up and down its enormous stairs, and gazing at the great tapestries that hang above fireplaces almost larger than they are. Hampton Court has always, throughout its long history, been the home of power, from Cardinal Wolsey to Henry VIII, and then William III, who haphazardly restructured it out of an intention to rival the palace at Versailles. It shows: it is extravagantly luxurious, despite being the target of bombs in the Second World War.
Outdoors, students wandered through the tangled maze located on the palace grounds, and wondered at the equally tangled grape vine, so large that its original greenhouse had to have another built over the top of it because the vine had taken to using its iron frame as a trellis.
When they returned to Balliol in the evening, students could all agree that the day had been a wonderful one, and that the Palace was deeply impressive.