We took the train to Hampton Court Palace. At the station, there was a man in a wedding dress (we didn't ask...). The Palace has a long and interesting history. It was built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1514. Henry VIII appropriated it when the Cardinal fell out of his favor. It became an important Tudor palace. In the 17th century, William and Mary commissioned Christopher Wren to create an addition. The main entrance was quite imposing. We walked in, and almost immediately we got to watch two re-enacters as servants wash a shirt and tease the other visitors. Hampton Court Palace was just bustling with costumed historical interpreters, which made it seem very lively. We even got to meet Queen Elizabeth- the first!
We took several guided tours of different sections of the palace. We began by exploring William III's apartments, entering successively more private and elite rooms as we neared the King's bedchamber. We also saw an exhibit about the recreation of one of Queen Elizabeth I's dresses, which was particularly interesting given our background in textiles. In the Elizabethan part of the palace, we got to listen to music while Rebecca learned a simple Elizabethan dance.
The formal gardens of the palace were even more beautiful than Kew Gardens. The 300-year-old hedge maze was very well-maintained, but not as large or complex as the hedge maze at Leeds Castle, and without a similar reward for reaching the center.
We saw the “Great Vine,” which Hampton Court Palace claims is the oldest grape vine in Europe, although other countries beg to differ. It was planted in 1768 and still grows grapes. They keep the area above its roots cleared of vegetation to eliminate competition for water, minerals and nutrients.
As the finale to a wonderful day at Hampton Court Palace, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through the grounds and pretended that we were surveying our land.
With its huge Tudor kitchens, wings from several different periods in English history, extensive grounds, hedge maze, and lively historical reenactments, Hampton Court Palace was one of the most interesting places we went in England.