This page is for the journal entries that I am required to complete during my semester with CMRS. They are centered around my experiences and observations at various historical sites in England.
Journal Entry #11 – Bath.
An 18th-Century Reconstruction of a Classical Feat
Our Field Trip to Bath Went Swimmingly!
While at Bath, we looked at a reconstructed version of the Roman Baths (surprise!). All that actually remains of the ancient Roman baths are their foundations, and the surrounding walls and structures are simply an 18th-century Georgian reconstruction. As far as I could tell, the reconstruction was quite accurate, and the archaeologists and architects were even able to figure out how high the ceiling over Bath would have been in the Roman era (it was pretty high). It seems strange, the obsession that 18th-century England had with recovering the Roman Empire. In that time, they believed Roman architecture and art to be the pinnacle of aesthetics, and so Neoclassical architecture, a reflection of classical-age architecture, was born!
The Pump Room
For the rest of my journal on Bath, I am going to talk about Jane Austen and neoclassical architecture. The Pump Room is the building next to the Roman baths which used to supply the water to the baths. Now, it is a restaurant, made famous by Jane Austen, herself! The Pump Room is a restaurant which the elite used to frequent in the 18th century, but now it is a great place for tourists to grab afternoon tea!
The Circus was the first of two housing complexes which Dr. Bolton showed us. Constructed in the 18th century, the Circus displays neoclassical architecture on the facades of the homes. On each facade were three stories, or registers, and to each register was a reticulated column (meaning it was attached to the wall), going from Doric, to Ionic, to Corinthian, in that order. Several different classical symbols, such as grapes, wine, and pottery, were carved above the doorways of the homes. At the top of the houses were balustrades with oval holes, to provide a view for the servants’ quarters. The Circus was constructed for wealthy individuals, but the wealthiest individuals lived in the Crescents.
Although the architecture of the Crescents was, in my opinion, not as aesthetically pleasing as that of the Circus, the views which the Crescents afforded were amazing. Beneath the Crescents was a great, beautiful park (seemingly, straight out of a Jane Austen novel). A wall, or ha-ha in the field gave the illusion of never-ending green space from the perspective of the residents, but was utilized in the 18th century to prevent cattle from entering the lawn above. The Crescents themselves were not as decorative as the Circus, and while also three stories high, only boasted two registers with one, long, two-story-high ionic column. The columns rested on a foundation which jutted out from the rest of the house, thus jarring the eye and (in my opinion) diminishing from the aesthetic appeal. The balustrades were different as well, and instead of ovals sported short columns. But this was the style of the time, and this is what many of the gentry found attractive. Tastes come and go, as we have seen with all of the changing architectural styles throughout this course.
Journal Entry #10 – Weapons Demonstration.
Weapons and Warfare in the 17th and 18th Centuries
Playing with Instruments of Death
The weapons demonstration was one of my favor aspects of the CMRS field trips. At the demonstration, we learned about the origin and use of several different 17th and 18th century weapons. We also watched the lecturer fire a cannon before our very eyes, which very nearly resulted in a freak accident when two people nearly crossed the line of fire. I always knew that there was strategy in warfare, but I never considered what that strategy may be. In early European warfare, it seems that the English were the most strategic.
Longbows, Pikes and Swords
Before the invention of firearms, soldiers relied on longbows, pikes, and swords in warfare. As we learned, the English were especially well-trained with longbows, and each longbowman might be trained for ten years before he set foot on the battle field. The longbows were beneficial to the English in warfare as their adversaries were accustomed to the crossbow (which relied on short-range), and to deploying pikemen to the front lines, with the idea that the long spears would succeed in holding off cavalry. The longbows were easily superior in this type of conflict. Swords were also used in the front lines of a battle, and the English generally opted for broader swords with which to slash, rather than “poke,” the enemy. As our instructor put it, it doesn’t matter if a man dies as long as he falls, and using rapiers, though guaranteed to kill a man, would not immediately debilitate him.
Early firearms were extremely unreliable. One needed to be at close range to even hope of hitting a target, and the loading of a musket took an enormous amount of time. What is worse is that musket balls were prone to falling out of musket barrels, and if a man was unlucky, his musket ball would fall to the center of the barrel and the whole thing would explode. If a musketman ran out of ammunition, he would have to attach a plug bayonet to the end of the musket, which still wouldn’t do him much good in a fight. Muskets were not regulated, and gunpowder was suspect. The benefits of musketmen were that they were not hard to train, and when integrated with pikemen, they could be quite effective.
During the demonstration, our instructor also discussed the development of cannons during the 17th and 18th centuries, before demonstrating an actual cannon fire. The early medieval cannon was generally cast of bronze in a barrel shape, but as warfare evolved, the shape of the cannon became more pipe-like. Weapons-makers were always trying to find ways to make a cannon lighter, like experimenting with materials such as leather (which did not work).
Journal Entry #9 – The Bodleian Library.
The History of One of the Greatest Libraries in the World
The Bodleian Library has one of the richest histories in all of Oxford. The library was founded in the 12th century, and in 1493 it began to receive manuscripts from Humphrey Duke of Gloucester under Henry VIII. The collection contained, according to our tour guide, a number of works on humanistic learning from the Italian Renaissance. These books were put in a library on the first floor, and, as we learned, were chained to the wall to prevent theft! The library also served as a school at this time, and the hall on the ground floor was used to teach students in theology.
After a century the library began to fall into decline, and almost the entirety of Duke Humphrey’s collection of manuscripts were “thrown away.” However, in 1582 Sir Thomas Bodley took it upon himself to restore the Bodleian library. He adopted Henry Savile’s library classification system (in which books are arranged alphabetically under faculty), and began to stock the library with books of all kinds from different places in the world. It was Bodley’s belief that the disciplines of study would expand in the future, and for this reason the Bodleian Library is the owner of such books as the only surviving copy of a Book of Chinese Examinations, according to our tour guide. Interestingly, though, Bodley was not concerned with English literature, and believed that early British drama had no place in his library. Sir Thomas Bodley was a great businessman and great with money, and he had many strange rules concerning his library. For one, he would not open the library to the public until it had a “significant” collection of books, in 1600. He also prohibited artificial light in the library, and installed a gallery above the first level of bookshelves to safely store smaller books, which could not be chained. When I think of the amount of work and effort that one man put into the library to make it as great as it is today, I am astounded. To think that the sheer size of the Bodleian Library is a direct result of one man’s lone efforts!
The Rooms of the Bodleian
There were three rooms which we explored on our tour of the Bodleian Library: the hall which was once used to examine and teach theology (and as the set for a Harry Potter Scene), the Convocation Room, and Duke Humphrey’s Library. Duke Humphrey’s Library was created by Thomas Bodley, and was the location in which he stocked his books. It was amazing walking into the library, and seeing things as they would have been centuries ago, not much changed. The Convocation Room was interesting for its setup and use. The design of the room is based on social hierarchy, such that when there is a convocation, the most important members such as Chancellor of Oxford would sit elevated at the head of the room, with his inferiors below. The room has served many purposes, and was the place in which the House of Commons under King Charles II met for parliament. The examination hall was beautiful in its architecture, and we learned that the man who designed it went overboard in his spending, and his successor was forced to cut back. To me, this seems to be a trend in architectural development, as it seems that in many of the sites we have visited, there has been an architect with a dream bigger than reality.
Journal Entries #7-8 – Rousham and Sulgrave Manor.
Sulgrave Manor – The Coupling of Nations
The Lineage of George Washington
Sulgrave Manor, the home of George Washington’s ancestors, functions today as a connection between England and the United States of America. This is why the manor waves both the American and British flag in its front yard. I was amazed to see how one tiny building could hold such diplomatic significance, but then we were reminded that Sulgrave Manor used to be much bigger than it is now. It was once the great residence of Lawrence Washington, an English gentleman and member of the Church of England who held a great amount of power in the 17th century.
Architecture and Symbols
Sulgrave is a Tudor Manor house that used to have two great wings filled with countless rooms. Now, all that remains is the center of the house and “porch,” and a reconstructed North wing from salvaged material of the house, due to a fire and years of neglect. The porch, however, is all that is needed for indicating the vast wealth Lawrence Washington. Above the main entryway are three symbols unique to Washington alone. The first is a triangle representing sheep’s wool, which conveys Washington’s trade in wool (the oil industry of the 17th century). The second is the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth I, which would have required her permission to display, thus indicating Washington’s good favor with the crown. The third is the Washington family coat of arms, awarded from the Battle of Crecy. The coat of arms displays three stars, or spurs, and two red stripes which represent rivers of blood. (It certainly was interesting to learn that the American flag is based on spurs and rivers of blood – presumably Frenchmen’s blood. It makes you wonder what other violent parts of history have been glossed over.) These three symbols were all indicative of Washington’s wealth and status in the gentry, as well as the sheer size of the original structure and the inclusion of brick chimneys (which were expensive for the time).
The Life of a Wealthy Gentleman in the 17th Century
While at Sulgrave Manor, we learned about the difference of life for wealthy individuals vs. their servants. One major factor in this is food consumption and cooking. Wealthy families did not cook for themselves, but hired servants to do the cooking for them. Wealthy families ate primarily meat, sugar products, and white bread. As such, their diets were not incredibly healthy. On the other hand, servants and other working-class families primarily ate many vegetables, granary (whole grain) bread, and little meat and fish. It was interesting to hear how lower-class families led healthier lives in the 17th century, despite their income. I suppose that is why it has been fashionable to blacken teeth in earlier society (as poor teeth quality indicated greater wealth).
Another aspect of living which interested me was the way Lawrence Washington, the head of house, would have managed his home. For one thing, we learned that he placed his bedroom in the center of the house so that all guests would have to pass through to get to their lodgings. This would require them to see the grand embroidered bedding that would have dominated the room, but it also would have allowed Washington to “protect” his family and his guests against any intruders.
While visiting Rousham, we were unfortunately unable to tour the manor house (which is still owned by the original family!). We did, however, get to wander around the gardens, which were amazing! The gardens were designed by William Kent in the early 18th century. The gardens were amazingly well-groomed, but while they were very uniform near the manor house, further away from the house the gardens seemed to grow more “wild” and “whimsical.” In addition, there were several neoclassical elements scattered throughout the gardens which added to their whimsicality.
One thing which I was surprised to see was the sheer abundance of classical-style statues scattered throughout the gardens at Rousham. The statues, which were either copies or original artworks according to Dr. Bolton, all depicted figures of classical style or mythology. One statue which particularly caught my eye was placed at the end of a long lawn overlooking the landscape from the house, and showed a lion attacking a horse. Other statues throughout the gardens were of gladiators and Roman gods. In addition the statues, there were also several neoclassical structures throughout the gardens, which I assumed besides looking beautiful functioned to shelter reflective wanderers from the rain. Besides the river, there were also numerous ponds and bodies of water which added to the natural beauty of the gardens.
Close to the House
Closer to the Rousham house, the gardens were more refined and compact. There were a great many rows of hedges, and a small garden maze. In addition, there was a vegetable and herb garden, and a long trellis arch under which to stand. There were several structures surrounding the house, including a church (with ringing bells) and a dove call (which was more populated by pigeons than doves). Strolling through the gardens would have been much of the way that men and women would have spent their leisure time in 18th-century England. In gardens as gorgeous as Kent designed, I imagine this would have satisfied any bored mind. Not to mention the sheer mystical quality that the gardens contained. We even found a heavy wooden gate sent in a thick stone wall that was reminiscent of The Secret Garden.
Journal Entries #5-6 – Magdalen and Christ Church College.
There are several things that separate Christ Church from other colleges in Oxford, history not excluded. Christ Church was constructed to be both a college and an Anglican cathedral, meant to train some of the most elite figures in English politics (such as Prime Ministers and Bishops). In fact, Christ Church is said to have produced more Prime Ministers than any college in Oxford. The college was founded in 1525 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey under King Henry VIII. It was meant to be one of Wolsey’s greatest achievements (he was eager to prove himself, especially after having risen through the ranks in Oxford), but he fell out of favor with the king before he was able to complete his project. Henry VIII subsequently never completed Christ Church to Wolsey’s expectations, but even so, the college remains among the most beautiful in Oxford.
The architecture of Christ Church is split into two styles: the Tudor style built under Thomas Wolsey, and the Georgian style of the quad built in the 1710s. The architecture of the quad is Neoclassical (evocative of classical architecture) and Palladian (as the facades of the buildings are in parallel). The library, built in the 1750s, is neoclassical as well. It is interesting to see what the separation of architectural styles indicates of Christ Church. The expansion of the college in the 18th century and the additional architecture may imply a resurgence of impact that the college held in the 18th century. Perhaps this can be explained by potential negative popularity that the college received after the execution of Charles II.
Elizabeth I and King Charles II
During the 1640s and the English Civil War, the University of Oxford was notoriously Royalist. So during the war, Charles II and his family sought refuge in Oxford, taking up residence in Christ Church. However, as we know, the Parliamentarians won the civil war, and Charles II was executed. We never discussed how this outcome affected the reputation of Christ Church, but given its history of success, we perhaps can assume that the reputation was not too adversely affected.
Briefly stepping back in time, I wanted to mention briefly the impact that Elizabeth I had on Christ Church. During her time, she became its patron, installing a portrait of herself on the balcony. She did this to connect herself to Henry VIII. It is interesting to see how diligently Elizabeth I had to work to protect her reputation as queen. Being a woman and the daughter of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth naturally would have been subjected to skepticism. But due to the fact that she lived for so long and ruled so cunningly, Elizabeth’s challengers never prevailed.
Of course, I had to say something about this. Finding out that Christ Church was a location for the filming of Harry Potter was simply amazing. What can I say? I grew up with Harry Potter: he belongs to my generation. And it just goes to show that the directors had good taste, filming the movies in beautiful Christ Church. 😉
Magdalen College is unique in its foundation as well. It was founded for the pursuit of “Godliness and learning,” and was an accessible institution meant to train teachers and ministry. Magdalen College was founded in 1458 on the sight of a leper hospital, and remained like a “glorified hospital” until the end of the 15th century. It was founded by William Waynflete: a man who, like Wolsey, gained social mobility through the church. Waynflete was given the benefit of the the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen after being ordained in 1426 and becoming a school teacher in 1430. It is incredible to see how some of the greatest sites and architecture in Oxford came from men who started out with no great power. Men like William Waynflete set examples for men like Thomas Wolsey, making social mobility a very real and attainable aspect of English society.
The college is centered around St. Mary Magdalen, and a statue of Mary Magdelen stands over the doorway. New buildings were constructed for Magdalen College in 1733, in Georgian architectural style. As our instructor pointed out, the facade of the newest building is made of two separate materials because, like Wolsey’s Christ Church, it was believed that Madgalen College would be expanded, but never was. Therefore, a new set of stone was used to close the unfinished building.
Magdalen College Chapel
Unlike Christ Church, which never gained a chapel after Wolsey’s fall (the cathedral at Christ Church functions as its chapel, instead), Magdalen College has a chapel within its walls, of monastic foundations. Although Henry VIII destroyed much of the Roman Catholic buildings within England during the Protestant Reformation, Magdalen College’s chapel escaped this fate. While the reason for this is uncertain, it is clear that Magdalen College was favored by many of the townspeople in Oxford. When the college was nearly shut down, for example, the townspeople rallied in its defense. Within the Magdalen College chapel, there is a 17th-century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, as well as a unique set of stained-glass windows. The chapel contains an organ which for a time had been removed to Hampton Court by Oliver Cromwell.
Journal Entry #4 – Greenwich.
The Prime Meridian
When visiting Greenwich, the site of the Prime Meridian, I was amazed by its architectural beauty, as well as the deep history which surrounded the site. The Old Royal Naval college, initially intended to be a hospital for wounded sailors, boasts some of the most beautiful (and in many ways, cost-effective) architecture in Greenwich. The buildings, designed by Christopher Wren, hearken back to classical architecture, and rely on symmetry for their aesthetic appeal. We learned that the weather vanes (one on each building) are covered in 200 pieces of gold leaf each! It may seem excessive, especially considering how much gold it takes to cover one small weather vane. However, we learned that the interior of the buildings, while just as elaborate, were decorated in a rather cost-effective way.
Inside the Painted Hall
Completed in 1708, the painted hall was originally meant to be the dining hall for the wounded sailors at the hospital at Greenwich. However, it was decided that the hall was too grand to be used as a simple mess hall. The elaborate ceiling and walls were painted by Sir James Thornhill, who used trompe l’oeil to create the illusion of in intricate wall carvings made of gold. The ceiling and back wall depict a great amount of imagery relating to England’s maritime achievements (heavens vs. the seas), as well as the kings and queens who commissioned the artwork. William and Mary rest in the center of the ceiling painting, while the back wall depicts King George I and his family. The painter himself is also shown in the painting of the back wall.
Worship at the Chapel
Like the painted hall, the chapel at the Old Royal Naval college was designed by Christopher Wren, painted in the trompe l’oeil style. The interior of the chapel portrays classical elements, but what is more interesting is that the stucco work echoes seaweed and sea shells. Even in a place of worship, the architects wanted to represent the relationship that England had with seafaring. The reason for this is simple: in the 17th and 18th centuries, England had the greatest navy in Europe. It allowed the country to win wars and remain a great military power. Like any nation, England wanted to boast this achievement, and so its pride manifested in the architecture of Greenwich.
The Queen’s House
Commissioned in 1616, the Queen’s House was said to have been a gift to Queen Anne of Denmark by King James I as an apology for yelling at her (after she accidentally shot one of his favorite hunting dogs). Now, the House holds some of England’s best maritime paintings, as well as a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen’s House was said to have been the first building in England to have been deliberately constructed in the classical style, which makes me wonder how significantly it must have affected succeeding architecture (especially that of the Georgian period).
The Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum
Hannah and I visited the Royal Observatory separately from the group, so that we could see the point of the Prime Meridian (0º longitude). It is amazing to me that such a measurement could place England (at least theoretically) at the center of the world. It makes sense, however, when you consider the power and scientific prowess that England held at the time when the Prime Meridian was established.
The National Maritime museum was another means of indicating the power in seafaring that England held during the 17th and 18th centuries. What especially held my attention were the figureheads: a display of pride and affiliation for the ships of 18th century England.
Journal Entry #3 – Museum of the History of Science.
The Exploration of Everything.
Between the 17th and 18th century was a great period of scientific exploration within England. As our tour guide pointed out, it was a time when scholars questioned and studied every detail of the natural world. No scholar confined himself to one discipline, but rather, learned all that he could in every field. The Museum of the History of Science, once the old Ashmolean building, is a great testament to this scientific exploration. After examining the inventions, artifacts, and the chemical laboratory within the building, I was amazed by the scientific progress of this time period.
Putting Science to Use
As our tour guide pointed out, “science” is a term which would not have been used to describe the practice in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men would have used such terms as “mathematical” when describing scientific instruments. In order to understand the world, scientists would work together, sharing information and technology. Immigrants from other countries would bring new scientific skills and technologies into England, further expanding scientific knowledge.
There were several different areas of science which we covered in our tour, including astronomy, chemistry, and geography. New discoveries were constantly being made in astronomy. James Cook (1728-1779), for example, was responsible for measuring the transit of Venus using a quadrant. Geography, including the mapping of longitude and latitude, was constantly being updated in the 17th and 18th centuries as well. John Senex (1678-1740) was quintessential to geography and map-making in the 18th century, and produced some of the best globe maps of his time period. Mapping longitude and latitude was especially important for travel, and as our tour guide pointed out, a clock was also necessary for longitudinal travel, so that one could determine his time zone.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, it was popular for gentlemanly scholars to collect scientific instruments and other natural curiosities. These objects, called naturalia (natural objects) and artificialia (man-made objects) helped the men who owned them to gain a better understanding of the natural world. Collected items ranged from fossils, to mythical objects such as “unicorn horn,” to practical instruments like a clog almanac. Actual man-made, scientific instruments were few in quantity, as they were made on-order for the gentlemen and scholars who requested them. The objects were meant to be the centerpieces of conversation, and were also a way for the gentlemen who owned them to show off their wealth. Gentlemen, that is, as it seems that women were not so much involved in scientific pursuits in this time period. This doesn’t surprise me, but I started to wonder, just how were women able to stick their feet into the doors of science?
The Chemical Lab
The chemical laboratory was one part of the tour which I found particularly interesting. The lab is located in the basement of the Museum of the History of Science, and was in use in the 18th century. As our tour guide put it, it was “where science happened.” One object which to me was especially interested was a human head with holes drilled into it. According to our tour guide, the holes were drilled while the person was still alive, presumably to cure a mental illness. New bone tissue had begun to grow where the holes had been, suggesting that the person had lived for some time after the procedure. The head was used for teaching in early times, which is especially cool because human dissection, as a moral and religious issue, was largely prohibited up until the 16th century.
Journal Entry #2 – Stratford-upon-Avon.
Imagining the Life of William Shakespeare.
Back in January, I visited Stratford-upon-Avon with Celine and Hannah. Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace and final resting place of the 17th-century playwright William Shakespeare. While in Stratford, we toured several historical sites, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Nash’s House, New Place, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and Shakespeare’s Grave. Through our exploration, I was able to imagine Shakespeare’s life as he lived it centuries ago, as well as the lives of those who succeeded him.
Shakespeare was born into a wealthy family. As we learned from our visit, his father was a successful glover. The mark of Shakespeare’s family’s wealth could be seen primarily in the height of the ceiling, under which any man could stand comfortably. As we learned, high ceilings were a mark of great wealth, as the higher the ceiling, the more house that would need to be heated. Intricate wall hangings were another indication of a family’s wealth, and we learned that Shakespeare’s father would have had them hung throughout the house. In addition, we learned that Shakespeare and his siblings had the privilege of sleeping in beds in their youth. In Shakespeare’s time, it was common for children of less wealthy families to sleep on the floor. The apprentices of Shakespeare’s father, in fact, slept on the floor of a loft above the family quarters.
In his lifetime, Shakespeare was more than just a playwright. He was apparently a great businessman. He married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway at the age of 18 – considered to be underage for marriage in his time. He required his father’s permission to marry, but apparently, Anne Hathaway was a great catch! Though eight years his senior, Anne Hathaway was wealthy, and added greatly to Shakespeare’s fortune. In addition, when Shakespeare inherited his birthplace in later years, he was not in need of it, and so converted it into a pub and inn called Swan and Maidenhead. The business became a success, and was a great contribution to Stratford-upon-Avon, supplying jobs and traffic to the town.
It’s amazing to see how pivotal Shakespeare’s birthplace has become to the literary world. Charles Dickens was said to have spent hours at a time in the room where Shakespeare was born – it gave him inspiration. The original window to the room still remains, now behind a glass case. It bears the signatures of centuries of pilgrims to the site, including the Victorian actor Henry Irving.
The grave of William Shakespeare is housed in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon. Because of Shakespeare’s wealth and influence at the time of his death, he was buried in a prestigious space before the high altar of Holy Trinity Church. Before my visit, I had no idea of Shakespeare’s notoriety in life. I had always assumed that he only became an important figure after his death and the circulation of his work. But to the townspeople of Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare was an important man.
Nash’s House, New Place, and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Nash’s House and Hall’s Croft were homes within the town that were occupied by Shakespeare’s predecessors. Nash’s House was occupied by Shakespeare’s daughter and her husband. The house stands next to the ruins of New Place, said to be the last residence of William Shakespeare. A garden now grows in place of New Place.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage was the place where Anne Hathaway lived before her marriage to William Shakespeare. The two never lived in the house together, but Anne Hathaway’s predecessors occupied the home for many subsequent centuries. The cottage, which in Anne Hathaway’s time consisted of only two rooms, was built in the Tudor style.
Journal Entry #1 – Hampton Court Palace.
Imagining the Life of Henry VIII.
We visited Hampton Court Palace on Sunday, January 12th. From the little information we received before departing, I knew that the Palace had been constructed by King Henry VIII: a figure most recognizable from television and movies as the tyrannical king who beheaded Anne Boleyn. But Henry VIII was so much more than the king media portrays him to be: he was the founder of the Church of England, and an innovator of change in his lifetime. I was astounded by how closely Hampton Court Palace reflects this.
Background: Lectured Material
Architecture. Hampton Court Palace was originally constructed by Henry VIII for his close confidant, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. But when Wolsey fell out of favor with the king, the royal family assumed occupancy of the palace, demolishing Wolsey’s quarters and constructing an addition to the property. Because of this, Hampton Court Palace consists of two entirely different styles of architecture. The first style, exhibited at the front of the palace, is Tudor Style. While the red brick is unique to the palace and not necessarily indicative of Tudor architecture, other structural elements pinpoint the Tudor period. These elements include the symmetry of the face of the building, the influence of Roman architecture in arches and stylistic details, and, most notably, the ornately-decorated chimneys throughout the roof of the palace.
The second of style architecture, Baroque, is noticeable in the back of the palace. This section of Hampton Court was actually constructed after Henry VIII’s time, but in my opinion, the divide of the palace provides a good visual interpretation of King Henry VIII’s divide from the Roman Catholic Church in his time.
The Lifestyle of Henry VIII. What I found most interesting from our trip to Hampton Court Palace was learning about the lifestyle of King Henry VIII in regards to the way that he kept his court. During Henry VIII’s reign, Hampton Court Palace was a hub for the social elite. At any given time, the king housed up to 600 guests under his roof. They arrived via the River Thames (the expressway of their time) and stayed in quarters separate from the king. They dined together in the great hall, frequented the gardens behind the palace, and communed in the courtyard where the king supposedly constructed a “fountain that flowed with wine.”
The Great Hall. Here is where I imagined the king’s court to come to life. The king, Henry VIII, seated himself at the head table in the hall, while his guests dined below. There were amazing facts written on the table cloths of each table describing court life, entertainment, music, and food consumption. The 600 court members went through momentous amounts of food each day, all prepared in the palace kitchens for the course of two meals. The king’s favored and more important guests were seated closer to his table, and they were offered more options during their meals. The king himself could choose just about anything he liked, as long as it was available.
The Great Hall at Hampton Court palace was also elaborately decorated. Gorgeous tapestries blanketed the walls, and the ceiling depicted beautifully intricate “eavesdroppers” – decorative elements that also conveyed a “message” to the courtiers.
When we visited the Great Hall, I tried to envision what it must have looked like from the king’s perspective. How thrilling it must have been to look upon the whole of that beautiful hall, and see it teeming with hundreds of your favorite people!
If only King Henry VIII were alive today. Sometimes it’s easy to think that kings and queens soared above the bounds of mundane, everyday life, but the fact remains that they were human, too. Exquisitely human, yes, with the “divine right” to rule, wage wars, and live lavishly. But still, they lived.