Henry VIII's Tudor Palace Virtual Tour

Come inside the sumptuous Tudor Apartments at Hampton Court Palace

By Historic Royal Palaces

Tracy Borman, Joint Chief Curator

Hampton Court Palace (2023) by Peter KindersleyHistoric Royal Palaces

Hampton Court was Henry VIII’s pride and joy and is the most magnificent surviving Tudor palace in the world. He took it over from his disgraced minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, in the late 1520s and immediately embarked upon an ambitious programme of building.

1. Entrance to Great Hall

Each of his six wives has left their mark on the palace. Just before you enter the Great Hall, above the archway on your left you can see the pomegranate emblem of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

2. Great Hall

The centrepiece of Henry VIII’s palace was the Great Hall, designed to overawe visitors.

Detail of the Great Hall roof, Hampton Court Palace (2007)Historic Royal Palaces

It was decorated in honour of the king’s scandalous second wife, Anne Boleyn, who became queen in 1533. If you look closely, you can still see her carved falcon badges in the hammerbeam ceiling,  although they were painted black after her fall.

Although Henry ordered their intertwined initials to be taken down after her execution in 1536, two of them survived and can be spotted in the panelling on either side of the minstrel’s gallery.

3. Great Watching Chamber

As you step into the Great Watching Chamber, take a look at the closed double doors immediately to your right.

This was the most important doorway in the whole palace because it led to the king and queen’s private apartments. Only those high in favour were allowed to pass over this hallowed threshold.

It was here that in 1537, anxious courtiers waited for news of Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour. After a tortuously long labour, she gave birth to the longed-for son and heir, Edward, on 12 October but died twelve days later.

4. Processional Route

After emerging from his private apartments, the pious Henry VIII would process to the Chapel Royal, where he would attend prayers and services several times a day.

These corridors would be lined with courtiers, all petitioning him for favours as he walked by. Among the paintings that hang on the walls today, my favourite is of a young serving boy at the Tudor court, cheekily tapping on a casement window.

A Boy Looking through a Casement (early 17th century) by Flemish SchoolHistoric Royal Palaces

It’s thanks to the accounts left behind by servants such as him that we have such a vivid picture of what life was like in the Tudor court – both above and below stairs.

The Council Chamber at Hampton Court Palace (2020) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

5. Council Chamber

Here in the Council Chamber, Henry VIII and his ministers debated the most pressing issues of the day –  notably the question of who he should marry after his third wife, Jane Seymour, died.

The Council Chamber (2020) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Thanks to Thomas Cromwell, the king’s most powerful adviser, Anne of Cleves (my favourite of the six) was eventually chosen. But it proved a disastrous match: Henry famously loathed her on sight and the marriage was annulled six months later.

6. Haunted Gallery

Henry VIII had already lined up wife number five before ridding himself of Anne of Cleves. Katherine Howard was probably only a teenager when she caught the attention of the king, who was more than 30 years her senior, but utterly besotted.

Things quickly turned sour when Katherine’s scandalous past and adulterous present were brought to light. The king was told of it while at prayer in the Chapel Royal.

According to (dubious) legend, the terrified Katherine ran screaming along this corridor as she tried to reach her royal husband and beg his forgiveness. It is said that her ghost still haunts it.

7. Chapel Royal

It was here in the Chapel Royal that Henry VIII’s ‘precious jewel’, his son Edward, was christened in October 1537.

It was one of the most lavish christenings ever staged. A huge octagonal platform was built so that the hundreds of dignitaries could get a good view of the proceedings.

The Chapel has changed a bit since Henry’s day, but the magnificent blue and gold ceiling is very much as it was and you can still see the Holy Day Closet above, where we remember Henry’s marriage to his sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr.

The ceiling of the Chapel Royal by William Clement, John Hethe, and Henry BlankstonHistoric Royal Palaces

Click here to zoom in to take a look at the magnificence of the Chapel Royal ceiling up close.

Visit Hampton Court Palace to discover more about Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty.

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