Historic figures of Hampton Court Palace

The Family of Henry VIII (16th century) by British SchoolHistoric Royal Palaces

Hampton Court Palaces has been home to some of the most famous figures in British History. Some you will know and some you may not.

From Henry VIII to Sophia Duleep Singh each has played an important part in the long history of the palace.

Detail of a stained-glass window showing the figure of Cardinal Wolsey, (1845) by Thomas Willement and James BrittainHistoric Royal Palaces

Cardinal Wolsey

Thomas Wolsey was a diligent royal servant and statesman. He worked hard to translate King Henry VIII’s dreams and ambitions into reality.

Detail of a stained-glass window showing the figure of Cardinal Wolsey, (1845) by Thomas Willement and James BrittainHistoric Royal Palaces

In 1514, Wolsey leased Hampton Court and began transforming it into a magnificent Tudor Palace.

Wolsey fell from favour when he failed to deliver Henry's much desired divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon.

Portrait of Henry VIII of England (Around 1537) by Hans Holbein, the YoungerMuseo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

King Henry VIII

Henry VIII was the second Tudor monarch. His reign saw great change including the break from the Church of Rome and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

In 1526 Henry acquired Hampton Court from Cardinal Wolsey who was rapidly falling out of favour.

Portrait of Henry VIII of England (Around 1537) by Hans Holbein, the YoungerMuseo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

Hampton Court became Henry VIII’s favourite palace. He spent more time here than at any other of his residences during the second half of his reign.

His ambitious building works included new royal apartments, huge kitchens, tennis courts, and the ceiling of the Great Hall.

Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour by Remigius van Leemput (d. 1675)Historic Royal Palaces

Queen Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour was the eldest daughter of ten children of Sir John Seymour. She was raised in the family home of Wolf Hall Manor in Wiltshire.

Jane was the third queen consort of King Henry VIII. They married in 1536 following the execution of Queen Anne Boleyn.

Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour by Remigius van Leemput (d. 1675)Historic Royal Palaces

All of Henry VIII's queens stayed at Hampton Court Palace.

In 1537 Jane Seymour gave birth to the future King Edward VI in her apartments overlooking Clock Court.

Prince Edward was baptised in the royal chapel. Sadly, Queen Jane died shortly after.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) (16th century) by British SchoolHistoric Royal Palaces

Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I's long reign witnessed some of the most famous events in British History including the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) (16th century) by British SchoolHistoric Royal Palaces

Elizabeth I visited Hampton Court many times throughout her life. In 1555 she stayed as a prisoner following the unsuccessful Wyatt's Rebellion.

As Queen, Elizabeth often spent Christmas and New Years at the Palace where she received many lavish gifts.

Engraved Portrait of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) (1800/1850)British Museum

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was a playwright and poet. He is arguably the most influential writer in the English language.

Shakespeare performed with the 'King's Men' at Hampton Court in 1603. It is likely they performed A Midsummer Night's Dream.

LIFE Photo Collection

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell was a soldier and leader during the English Civil War. 

After the execution of Charles I in 1649, Cromwell eventually became Lord Protector in 1653.

Cromwell often stayed at Hampton Court Palace and helped save it from destruction.

William III and Mary II (c.1689) by Robert WhiteHistoric Royal Palaces

King William III and Queen Mary II

William III and Mary II  became joint monarchs  after the Glorious Revolution and the deposition of James II in 1689.

Soon after their accession to the English throne, William and Mary commissioned architect Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild Hampton Court.

William III and Mary II (c.1689) by Robert WhiteHistoric Royal Palaces

Wren planned to demolish the whole palace and rebuild it in a Baroque style. Fortunately, his budget would not allow it.

Wren's work at Hampton Court includes the spectacular Fountain Court, and the grand South Front. William and Mary also developed the iconic gardens.

Queen Victoria (1890) by Baron Heinrich von Angeli (1840-1925)Royal Collection Trust, UK

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was one of Britain's longest serving monarchs. Born and raised at Kensington Palace she became queen in 1837.

Hampton Court Palace was partly opened to the public during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh (1913)Museum of London

Sophia Duleep Singh

Sophia Duleep Singh was  the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh and Bamba Müller.

Princess Sophia was a long-time campaigner for Women's Suffrage and women's rights.

In 1896, Queen Victoria gave  Sophia Faraday House, then part of the Hampton Court Estate. 




Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of RussiaHistoric Royal Palaces

Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna

Eldest daughter of Tsar Alexander III of Russia and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia.

After the destruction of the monarchy in Russia, Xenia fled to Europe.

The Duchess lived at Wilderness House in the grounds of  Hampton Court Palace, where she died in 1960.

Hampton Court Palace was an important witness in the lives of these historical figures, but there are many more who lived and worked here. Find out more about key moments in the Palace's history in A Timeline of Hampton Court Palace's 500-year History.

Looking for more histories and stories? Visit hrp.org.uk to find more royal history.

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