5-6th July 2014
Warning: This post contains high levels of nerd.
Last summer, my Berlin Travel Buddy and I spent hours in our flat watching , The Tudors. Admittedly, this probably wasn’t the best way to spend our month in the German capital but we had ample time on our hands and a rather limited budget, so time in front of the telly did seem justified. It was here that we discovered our mutual interest in Tudor history.
Living in Kent, it seemed unbelievable to me that I had never been to Hever Castle, the once upon a time residence of Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII. It turns out that that is indeed unbelievable because I have in fact been there- I was just too young to actually remember. Since that didn’t really count, it seemed the time was right to go again. I mentioned this idea to my BTB who agreed to come with me and suggested that we also visit Hampton Court. One thing led to another and we decided to put aside a whole weekend in order to blitz it.
Saturday morning came and we met at Waterloo Station, after a brief Tube-related delay, and hopped on a train to Hampton Court. About a half hour later, we arrived. Sadly the weather was gray and cloudy but on approach we could still appreciate the beautiful palace. The ticket was not cheap- at around £16 for a student ticket- and included a voluntary donation that I felt too guilty to ask them to take off, despite my student budget already being stretched. Audio-guides came free but at first we decided not to get one. I figured it would be like a museum and there would be plenty of signs to read on the way around. It turned out that, whilst some of the exhibits were like that, not all were, so we changed our minds and grabbed a guide.
The architecture inside was just as impressive as the outside, with lots of painted ceilings and panelled walls. We also had the chance to learn about other periods of history, in addition to the Tudors, including the Stuarts and the Georgians- eras I know relatively little (aka nothing) about. There were also people employed to act out contemporary historical figures, for example Henry VIII himself and his wives. It was a nice idea but they always stayed in character which did freak me out a little bit- but they were undeniably good.
The palace was set in expansive gardens. Sadly it wasn’t really the weather to enjoy it but we tentatively tried out the maze. We have learned that, between the two of us, we have a disastrous sense of direction and it was clearly going to rain soon so we were slightly worried about the amount of time we could end up spending in there. Surprisingly however we actually made it to the centre quite quickly, having only had to turn around once.
Predictably, the rain then came down. We had a quick peek around the gardens and finished looking at the house and then set off back to Kent. We spent that night curled up on the sofa, with pizza, wine and Ben & Jerry’s, watching The Tudors (I know, nerd alert- I did warn you).
We got off to a bit of a slow start in the morning and sadly my brief sense of direction, which had arisen in the maze, evaporated and I misread one of the signs pointing towards Hever Castle and took us on an unnecessary detour. Thankfully, it didn’t last for too long and we arrived at the castle whilst it was still light.
The ticket price was only marginally cheaper than yesterday, despite the castle being a lot smaller. The gardens were incredibly picturesque and the house lovely, again with lots of paneling and carved ceilings. A lot (but not all) of the information overlapped with what we had read yesterday (understandably) but the house itself was still worth seeing and there many paintings to see and copies of letters between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. It hadn’t occurred to me that the house would obviously have changed from its original state as it changed ownership over the ages. It was slightly weird to see relatively modern furniture against the old architecture.
After about an hour, we emerged to find the sun struggling to break through. We pitched up on a bench next to the moat and sat eating our Marks and Spencers lunch, surrounded by demanding ducks. We ended up chatting there for quite a while as the air warmed up, before wandering around the gardens in the sun. We decided to try the Water Maze but en route we saw a few soaking wet children and decided it probably wasn’t for us and decided instead it was time to head home. Our Tudor Weekend was complete.