A self proclaimed Lucy Wolseley fangirl, I’m really looking forward to her “Secrets of the Six Wives” series that debuts January 22 on PBS. The series takes a look at the lives of the wives, who are normally overshadowed by their larger than life husband, and is a fresh take on a story that’s never not interesting.
I got to visit Hampton Court Palace, the center of this Tudor story, and it’s the kind of place that sweeps you off into your own adventure!
Part theatre and part tour, real events in history are acted out in interactive walk throughs and become a “choose your own ” scenario with costumed actors. Assorted objects are introduced as part of a mystery as you are led through the palace, and you may find yourself picking between two doors…each with a different outcome. It makes the place come alive.
Along the way you will find places where Henry and his six wives left their mark.
Catherine of Aragon: A stone arch before entering the Great Hall has a stone arch with Spanish pomegranates.
Anne Boleyn: Intertwined initials with Henry’s in the Great Hall were overlooked when he had them all removed after her execution.
Jane Seymour: After dying from childbirth complications her heart was said to be buried under the alter in the Chapel. Statues of assorted beasts at the entrance of Hampton Court represent her and Henry’s ancestry.
Anne of Cleves: She’s mentioned, but I couldn’t find anything specifically hers, although her annulment was signed at Hampton Court.
Catherine Howard: Famously broke free of her house arrest and ran down the gallery leading to the Chapel begging for mercy. Her ghost is said to haunt the area.
Catherine Parr: Married in the Royal Chapel.
If you choose not to tag along with the special tour, you can follow a handy map and just wander through yourself. Gorgeous detail and artwork are wonderfully preserved throughout each side, and the palace does a great job at bringing the place to life in unique ways I haven’t encountered at other historical sites.
Hampton Court Palace has two sides from two reigning periods. The classically Tudor styled front half is where you begin a visit, and later you reach the updated Georgian portion. This new side was intended to be an equal of Versailles, but money ran out so it was never fully destroyed.
A scratch and sniff smell map guides you through the Georgian side, and a grand game room has tables set up wth cards games and an ambient sound track of clinking glasses and murmurs of conversation. If you closed your eyes you wouldn’t know any better.
I spent the whole day there, and if you’re as into immersive places like this, then you’ll def want the whole day!
Planning Your Visit to Hampton Court Palace
If you think you’ll want to visit all of the amazing places Historic Royal Palaces operates, consider the membership, even if you’re American. Otherwise, one regular adult admission is £18.20 for Hampton Court.
There’s no place to eat inside, so pack a lunch. There were rooms for school groups to eat in, and that’s where I had my sandwich. There’s a little convenience store at the station and plenty of places to pick up food at London Waterloo if you choose that route.
I took a 30 minute train from London Waterloo, a super easy ride with trains departing every half hour. Round trip was around £14. Visiting and traveling there could not have been any easier.