Students walked the halls of royal power, pleasure, scandal and splendour as they paid a visit to Hampton Court Palace yesterday. The palace was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey in the reign of King Henry VIII, but as Wolsey fell from the King’s favour in the 1520s, Hampton Court was added to the King’s own collection of private residences. In the following century, William III embarked upon an ambitious renovation project, intending Hampton Court to rival the glitz and grandeur of the Palace of Versailles. This has left the palace in a pleasing state of architectural confusion, with simple Tudor styles alongside the more dramatic Baroque.
Students braved the twists and turns of the Hampton Court Maze, the oldest hedge maze in the world. Its tricky winding ways are depicted in various works of literature, including humorist Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat:
Harris kept on turning to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his cousin said he supposed it was a very big maze.
“Oh, one of the largest in Europe”, said Harris.
“Yes, it must be”, replied the cousin, “because we’ve walked a good two miles already.”
Students also saw the Great Hall built by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn, his second wife (beheaded), and the chapel in which he married Jane Seymour, his third (died). Another highlight of this curious historical treasure trove was William III’s private chocolate kitchen, which had gone undiscovered by historians until 2014. While some students took horse-drawn carriage rides around the grounds, very much in the manner of English kings and queens of old, others stumbled across the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra as they rehearsed in the gardens for the Hampton Court Palace Festival. What a treat for our own budding musicians!