11th of March 2017
Joined by Sinead Flament, Amanda Eastwood, and David Eastwood
Who’s so boring that the most remarkable thing about them is that their sleeves were green? She sounds well dry. Actually, I take that back. The man cut off folk’s heads for less.
Henry VIII gave great king: bursting with syphilis, he fought and shagged his way across Europe – gobbling up monasteries like so much suckling pig. He cut off the Catholic church, treated wives like son-shitting machines, was the lead singer of his own band, and had a personal arse-wiper. It’s the stuff one treasures as history, but shivers at when news. Hampton Court was essentially Henry’s Xanadu; a getaway from the hustle of London life. A getaway that cost him a third of his income for staff wages alone. But, isn’t that’s what money’s for?
What else money’s for is for getting into anything by Historic Royal fucking Palaces. Four adults for just shy of £100. They’re quite frank about how that money goes towards the upkeep of the building and its outreach. However, they’re not so frank about it contributing to the directors’ nose-bleed inducing salaries. Talk about the dissolution of the monasteries!
The building is a narrative-in-brick. We have power, lust, splendour, and insanity. It seems every building in England is made of brick, and this is the Vatican City of them all: twisting chimney stacks atop byzantine columns, all in a familiar netted terracotta design that reminded me as much of the back streets of Manchester as it did the Palace of Versailles. If any edifice embodies the spirit of the nation’s architectural history, it’s Hampton Court.
The day was an explosion of spring that saw a host of sprightly Daffodils dancing a golden dance about bluebells, weeping willows, and budding silver birch. Around the outdoor cafe were people drinking from flasks, talking about children, and enjoying cream teas in the anemic March sunshine. It possessed weapons grade quantities of that twee, Tory, Great British Bake Off hokum this country celebrates so much that really makes my shit itch.
In previous visits there was more in the way of entertainment: plays, music, jousting, and the like, but our day was surprisingly quiet in every regard. However, there were plenty of people standing around to answer questions alongside tours, audio guides, maps, signs, detailed descriptions, and videos. I didn’t even get lost in the maze but then, I’d expect a headless Elizabethan ghost couldn’t even get lost in the maze.
They’ve used the bean bags idea from Banqueting House that was very welcome but, instead of a beautiful Reubens, it was a tapestry. I’ll be honest, I don’t get tapestry. Lots of people do, and that’s entirely rational, but I don’t. And I’m not changing for anyone.
They don’t shy away from Henry VIII being a grade 1 listed piece of shit either, which was a welcome relief from the usual cherry-picked, apologist circle-jerk these establishments often provide.
Many of the arbitrary rooms felt just that, but they have a lot of rooms to fill. “Ooh Henry VIII’s kitchen. Look how much food he ate. Wasn’t he a big fat bastard?” Yes. Yes, he was. And the chocolate rooms served only to get my sweet-toothed girlfriend’s father worked up over nothing.
They don’t miss a trick with the merchandise, either. “Henry’s Kitchen Shop”? Do me a favour! They were flogging an embroidered Henry VIII and his six wives Christmas decoration set. Funny, I thought. £50, they offered. Fuck off, I said.
In all, it’s pretty good. It’s not cheap, and you’d need the spoils of a continental war to have the full experience, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a rather lovely day out with the in-laws. The umpteen stories available from such a palace are not held back by HRP through many channels, all worth your time. My problems are with it also seeming like a platform for retail. “Why not take your magical experience home with you for the unbelievable price of £15.99?” Nah, I’m right with my entrance fee, ice cream, guide, souvenir, bottle of water, gift for my daughter, accompanying book, and novelty sunglasses, thanks.
Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded… fine.