Having had acquired the 99-year old lease for this property and grounds, Wolsey, without dawdling away his time, knocked down the plain abode and started his grandiose project on erecting a sumptuous palace, which aimed to embody not only the features of Italian Renaissance but also to symbolise the cardinal’s might and wealth. It is worth noting that from an architectural point of view the palatial appearance of Hampton Court Palace became a sort of novelty at that time, when all the residences and estates used to have the protective attributes of castles, such as drawbridges or watchtowers. With the amount of 280 rooms to accommodate the distinguished people of that world and the staff of approximately 500 servants the Wolsey’s creation did not only give up to any of royal properties but probably even outshone it. However the influential statesman didn’t enjoy his opulent life at Hampton Court Palace for long. By 1528 he might had felt that his power and the king’s favour started to slip away from him, so he tried to sweeten Henry VIII with Hampton Court that did not help him to elude the downfall a year later anyway.
The “Bluff King Hal”, who had been hankering after his former adviser’s house for long time, rapidly pitched in for enlarging and amending Hampton Court to his own taste, such as the building of the impressive Great Hall or enlarging the kitchen to the size of 50 rooms, so they would be able to provide a quite substantial king’s court of roughly 1000 courtiers with about 1,600 meals a day. Having been a keen tapestries-collector Henry VIII commissioned an incalculable amount of the embroidered pieces of art for the palace, and Anne Boleyn, whose talent was not only that of seduction but also of needlework, was said to take part in creating some of the tapestries.
Henry VIII definitely succeeded in erasing Thomas Wolsey’s signs and putting his own marks on it - by today’s money Henry VIII spent a pretty considerable sum of £20 million for his grand design project.
But all King Henry VIII’s efforts were nearly wasted about 150 years afterwards, when William and Mary of Orange came to the power. The co-ruling monarchs found the Tudor splendour of Hampton Court of having been obsolete, therefore decided to raze it to the ground (except for the Great Hall) and erect on its site the English version of Versailles. They did not happen to see their challenging task through owing to the sudden death of 32-year old Mary II, but still managed to make a great impact on Hampton Court that was turned by Sir Christopher Wren into peculiar but strangely harmonious symbiosis of Medieval and Baroque styles.
After George II the British monarchs seemed to lose interest in the once popular royal residence. George III, who reportedly would be slapped in the face by his crowned grandfather in the chambers of the palace while having been kid, associated Hampton Court with his childhood mortification and even said: “I should not be sorry if it had burnt down”. Under his reign the place was turned into the rent-free privileged accommodation for lodgers who distinguished themselves by any great services to the sovereign and kingdom. By quirk of fate Capability Brown, the master of informal landscape gardening, was among these “grace and favour” residents. For about 20 years he had been living at Hampton Court Palace as the royal gardener, but luckily he did not put his skill into practice there and left the formality of its gardens inviolable.
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