Tudor Palaces of London - A Day of Talks
The Tudor monarchs are renowned for their fabulous displays of power, wealth and status and nowhere was this more evident than in their magnificent palaces. From the expansive red-brick façade of Greenwich, with its tiltyard and turreted grandstand, to the dazzling black and white walls of Whitehall, painted with fantastic beasts and extravagant sprigs of acanthus, these palaces were designed to awe and impress. Heavily decorated with heraldic devices and dynastic symbols, they were the setting for royal births, weddings and deaths, and the stage on which the dramatic events of the Tudor reigns were played out. Today, St James’s is the only Tudor palace still used as a royal residence and the Tower of London’s church – the Royal Peculiar and Chapel Royal of Saint Peter ad Vincula – built in 1520, continues to be used as the parish church for those living and working within the Tower. The glorious Hampton Court Palace provides us with a taste of the size and splendour of these Tudor palaces, but of the others only tantalising hints remain; in remnants of cellars and street names, in foundations and traces of masonry, and in paintings, sketches, letters, accounts and ambassadors’ reports.
This day of talks explores some of the palaces of Tudor London; where, how and why they were built, their facades, floorplans and decoration, and what they tell us about the Tudor monarchs and their court.
10.00am : Hampton Court Palace – Gareth Russell
Originally acquired to be his country residence, Thomas Wolsey transformed the existing manor at Hampton Court into one of the largest and most impressive houses in England; a masterpiece constructed in red brick and elaborately decorated with gothic and Italianate designs in terracotta. After Henry VIII obtained Hampton Court at the end of the 1520s, he built extensive new privy apartments for himself and his queen, and a nursery for his son and heir, Edward, who was born there in 1537. Hampton Court became a favoured royal residence in Henry VIII’s later years, second only Whitehall, and it is where he married his sixth wife, Katherine Parr, in 1543.
Gareth Russell is an historian and broadcaster. He is the author of Young and Damned and Fair: The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII, The Ship of Dreams (A Daily Telegraph Best History Book, 2019) and Do Let's Have Another Drink (A Times Book of the Year, 2022). Gareth’s latest book, published in August 2023, is The Palace: From the Tudors to the Windsors, 500 Years of History at Hampton Court. He is the host of the podcast Single Malt History and divides his time between Belfast and London.
11.00am : Palace of Whitehall – Dr Elizabeth Norton
Henry VIII appropriated York Place, the London residence of the Archbishops of York, following the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey in 1529, and expanded it into a great, sprawling palace which, at its height, was the largest in Europe. Once completed, it became the official London residence of the monarch for Henry VIII and, in turn, for each of his children. The palace’s unusual design straddled the public thoroughfare, now known as Whitehall, with the royal privy apartments on the east side of the street, beside the River Thames and extensive recreation facilities, including a large tiltyard, tennis courts, cockpit and bowling alleys, on the west side of the street, with large hunting parks beyond. It is at Whitehall that Henry VIII secretly married Anne Boleyn in 1533 and there, too, that he died in 1547.
Dr Elizabeth Norton is an historian, writer and broadcaster specialising in the queens of England and the Tudor period. She has written twelve books on the medieval and Tudor period, the most recent of which are the critically acclaimed The Lives of Tudor Women and The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. Elizabeth frequently appears on television and has worked as a historical consultant on a number of non-fiction and fiction historical films and television, including acting as a consultant and contributor on the BBC’s The Boleyns, a Scandalous Family and the 2023 film, Firebrand.
12 noon Lunch break
1.00pm : Life, Death and Worship at HM Tower of London – Alfred Hawkins
The Tower of London is one of the most important and sensitive historic sites in the world. It has been a royal palace, fortress, prison, and the home of numerous national institutions, but it is better known for its mythical status as a macabre mausoleum for traitors and the location of some of England most dramatic events. These stories of death, treason, and torture each relate in some way to the Tower’s church – the Royal Peculiar and Chapel Royal of Saint Peter ad Vincula. This though, is not the main story behind one of the Tower’s most important buildings. The Chapel’s primary purpose is as the parish church for individuals living and working within the Tower’s walls – as a place of faith, comfort and reflection. This talk will discuss new research and recent excavations to explore the history of the building so often known through the eyes of only a few internments and the creation of its current perception.
Alfred Hawkins studied history at Chichester and Southampton universities, graduating in 2017. He has worked in the heritage sector as an Archaeological Researcher and, subsequently, a Historic Building Specialist. Since 2018, Alfred has been Assistant Curator of historic buildings for Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Banqueting House Whitehall and Hillsborough Castle and has recently been appointed as Portsmouth Cathedral’s Cathedral Archaeologist.
2.00pm : Greenwich Palace – Andrew Beattie
Around the year 1500 Henry VII transformed the house originally built some sixty years previously by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester beside the River Thames at Greenwich into a splendid red-brick palace. It was a large courtyard house with its main façade, including a large five-storey tower containing the king’s privy chamber and privy closets, sited overlooking the river. Henry VIII greatly expanded Greenwich with new stables, a royal armoury and a permanent tiltyard with its own grandstand. It became his principal residence until the Palace of Whitehall was constructed in 1532. Henry VIII was born at Greenwich, as were his daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
Andrew Beattie is the author of Henry VIII: a History of his Most Important Places and Events, a new book that looks at the palaces, houses, castles and churches associated with the king. His previous books looked at the places associated with the Princes in the Tower and King Arthur. He has also written a number of books on travel and the environment, and a work of historical fiction for children (aged 9-12), The Secret in the Tower, which is set during the last days of the reign of King Richard III. Andrew is a graduate of Oxford University and lives in London where he works as an editor and archivist.
A ticket for the day allows entry to each talk and this event will take place in the Cathedral library. Books for each talk, and copies of Tudor Places magazine, will be available to purchase from either library or Cathedral shop and your ticket entitles you to 10% off in the Cathedral Shop.
The event will start at 10.00am and doors will open at 9.45am. There will be time for a Q&A session at the end of each talk.
This event is in partnership with our friends at Tudor Places, a magazine dedicated to exploring Tudor places and their stories, past and present. Find out more about Tudor Places magazine at the website.
Disclaimer: All information was correct when the listing was prepared. Any questions about the event should be directed to the event organiser.