Friday, 11 October 2013

Hampton Court, Henry VIII and others

Last weekend of September my husband and I went to London for the weekend. It is very convenient with Eurostar from Brussels centre to London centre. We are favourable with friends who have an apartment in London where we can stay (thanks a lot R & M). On Friday evening we enjoyed some lovely tapas in a Spanish restaurant and on Saturday we went to Barbacoa one of Jamie Oliver's restaurant. I think I don't have to mention how heavenly that meal was!

Saturday we spent at Hampton Court which was absolutely fabulous. I visited it many years ago but can only remember the maze (probably because I panicked when I couldn't get out of there)! The castle has recently been renovated and the tours through the various apartments is a real treat. Furthermore, the audio guides are really great and give you exactly what you need to know to enjoy what you see.

Hampton Court is forever connected to Henry VIII who never cease to fascinate us. However, part of the castle was renovated in the Baroque stile in the end of the 17th century by William III and Mary II which adds to the fascination of the place. The gardens was renovated accordingly and are quite fantastic even on a late September day.

The BBQ!
Dinner in preparation
We started with Henry's kitchen which is a fascinated place. The amount of food that was prepared here is almost beyond imagination. 75% of the meals eaten here consisted of meat! Hmm, high blood pressure, high cholesterol... Not that people in those days thought of that, but it seems that Henry had scurvy so he should have eaten more fruits and vegetables!

The Great Hall
The great hall in Henry's apartments is something extraordinary. Here we could meet the man himself and his fourth wife Catherine Howard (not that she remained long). Where ever you go you run into characters from Henry's court.  There was also a 'Bedchamber' exhibition. It seems the English looked south to the court of Louis XIV and his 'lever'. From time to time this is where the most important decisions were made by the kings and queens. William III's travelling bed was also displaced. It would not fit into a trunk in our modern cars if I may say. A truck more likely. It was a bed that any of us would like to have fixed at home!

Henry VIII and Katherine Howard
 The Baroque apartments was grand but not much furnished.  William III's private apartment is more comfortably furnished and you can imagine him relaxing there. It seems he was not a man for grand ceremonies and he enjoyed his private space.

We also had a look at Mantegna's grand painting 'Triumphs of Ceasar' which was rather fantastic. To know more about this master piece read 'The Seventeenth Century Lady' blog on the subject

Having spent 4,5 hours around the apartments it was time for a quick lunch and then a quick stroll around the gardens. There are a lot of activities going on during the year so if you are interested check up

Having spent a day with royals I was thinking it would be interesting to read a book about the kings and queens of England from the beginning to the end. Just a little bit about everyone so you can get an idea in which order they came and who was the father/mother, son/daughter, brother/sister. Going to the WH Smith bookshop at Standstead airport I looked through the book cases. In the very end I came to history and biography books and what is hitting me? Exactly. The book I was thinking of. It turned out to be 'The Kings and Queens of England: A Biography' by David Loades. It is one of these books that is difficult to put down so in a few days I had gone through all the famous and less famous royals. I can only say that it was not easy to be a royal in the old times either. You never knew whether you would stay on the throne, be put away or even made away with, maybe ending up in the Tower? Having been visiting Hampton Court, come to think of it, you never knew what would happen if you were a wife either!

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